Timothy Gaines ejected from Stryper, unfortunately not on the best of terms. He was swiftly replaced by Perry Richardson of Firehouse, who fit into the rock regime smoothly and easily. God Damn Evil is Stryper’s first with the new bassist, but latest in a long string of credible and crucial Christian metal albums.
But first a word about Walmart, who refused to stock this album based on the title alone.
This exemplifies two huge problems in society today. One: the inability to think for oneself. Two: pandering in fear to the whims of the general public. Walmart were afraid they’d get complaints about an album called God Damn Evil, and so refused to offer it. It’s patently obvious what the title means; just look at the cover art. God is damning the evil. Spelling it out even further, the evil is clearly depicted as “money”. (Maybe the corporate mega-giant doesn’t like this anti-capitalism message.)
Maybe Stryper should have titled this album God Damn, People Are Stupid. You can’t buy God Damn Evil at Walmart, but you can buy Night of the Demons on Blu-ray. Go figure.
The music is what matters most, and the word on the street is that God Damn Evil is their best album yet.
That’s a tough claim. After all, Fallen and No More Hell to Pay are both excellent metal albums, and surely rank among Stryper’s top five. God Damn Evil shares a similar heavy direction, and even matching cover art, forming an ad-hoc trilogy. The new one is the heaviest of the three. Fans were taken aback by lead track “Take It to the Cross”, the closest Stryper have been to thrash metal. From guttural grunts to screams so high they border on self-parody, “Take It to the Cross” is aural shrapnel of the best kind.
The only other track that comes close to “Take It to the Cross” in terms of speed is the Priest-like closer “The Devil Doesn’t Live Here”. There is no question that Stryper can make metal as gleaming as their heroes do.
More traditional is “Sorry”, a metal groove with a slaying chorus on top. It’s one of many contenders for “favourite song”, along with a swaggering “Own Up”. “Lost” reduces the tempo, but not the power. The message is there too, but not overwhelming. Anyone can headbang along. The title track “God Damn Evil” is unexpectedly different, being a straightforward hard rock tune with an anthemic chorus. Stryper fear no evil in “The Valley”, a heavy metal retelling of Psalm 23 (“the valley of the shadow of death”). Another top track is “Beautiful” which bears a Sabbath groove the likes of which is the basis of the genre. It’s melodic, but not a ballad. There’s only one of those: “Can’t Live Without Your Love”, available in Japan in two versions. The standard 80s-sounding power ballad would stand proudly next to “Is This Love” by Whitesnake. The Japan-exclusive acoustic version is even better.
The highlights are many, and filler nonexistent. Without giving up a shade of their integrity, Stryper have managed to remain true to their origins and yet evolve into higher, heavier grooves. The key is the eternal youth of singer Michael Sweet.
Although some still think Stryper are a synonym with bad 80s bands, you’d be wrong to discount them now. Stryper may well indeed have done their best album in 2018.