Welcome to the latest album by album challenge! For those that are new here, the “Album by Album Challenge” is where I take a band’s entire discography and listen to every album in order of release from front to back. With my unforgiving and well-aged ear, I call it how I hear it. In some cases, I find that what I once thought was good is actually pretty crappy and sometimes crap manages to age into something pretty kick ass. And in some cases, face melting is still just good ol’ face melting.
This time around I have decided to dive into the discography of everyone’s favorite heavy metal bumblebees, Stryper. Love ’em or hate ’em you have to give it to them. They have stood the test of time, fought through it all and made a comeback that spawned two of my favorite heavy metal albums and the two best albums they have released to date. I really enjoyed the hell (pun intended) out of this challenge and I hope you will as well!
The Yellow and Black Attack
Release Date: July 21, 1984
The Good: Loud N’ Clear, From Wrong to Right, You Know What To Do, Co’Mon Rock, Loving You,
The Bad: My Love I’ll Always Show
The Indifferent: You Won’t Be Lonely,
I couldn’t even begin to tell you the last time I listened to this album in its entirety but I have to say that doing so for this challenge was an absolute blast. First off, the album sounds like 1984. Production wise it’s a bit thin and it sounds dated but what I really love is that you can that Stryper at this point is on their way to perfecting their formula. It’s raw, it’s imperfect, and it’s a fun listen.
This early on, I’m surprised that so many years later I’m able to pick out influences that I never caught earlier on such as Boston, Kansas, and Styx. “Loving You” is pretty much Styx meets Boston and I’m ok with that. As for the “Jesus” message, yeah, it’s a bit heavy but in all honesty, I don’t find it any more annoying that their peer bands who all they sang out was boozing it up and fucking strippers in dingy motel rooms. Whatever. The songs that were good were truly great but the only song I didn’t like at all was “My Love I’ll Always Show.” The Stryper ballads would definitely get better over time but aside from this song, The Yellow and Black Attack was a great start.
Soldiers Under Command
Release Date: May 16, 1985
The Good: Soldiers Under Command, Makes Me Wanna Sing, The Rock That Makes Me Roll, Waiting For A Love That’s Real, Surrender, Battle Hymn of the Republic
The Bad: First Love, Together As One,
The Indifferent: Together Forever, Reach Out,
It’s amazing that this album only came out less than a year after the debut. You can tell that the boys really honed their craft and in my opinion, Soldiers Under Command is where it all came together. The songwriting is stronger and the performances are absolutely outstanding. The production of this album is a bit on the thin side but I do love that kind of 80’s metal raw sound that it possesses. Haha. I said “possesses” in a Stryper post.
The opening track is without a doubt one of Stryper’s most iconic songs and it still kicks major ass after all these years. Even the blatant religious “God Love” of “Makes Me Wanna Sing” is such a fun listen and I doesn’t bother me one bit. “The Rock That Makes Me Roll” is without a doubt the showstopper on this album. What an amazing track. It’s also probably no surprise that the only songs I didn’t love were the ballads. I’m not sure what it is about them but Stryper ballads usually just don’t do it for me. Closing out with “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (which the band would often use as their intro music) is a great way to close out this album. This is a fun album and definitely worth owning and it gives us an idea of just where Stryper was heading from here.
To Hell With The Devil
Release Date: October 24, 1986
The Good: To Hell With the Devil, Calling On You, Free, The Way, Sing Along Song, Holding On, Rockin’ the World, More Than a Man
The Bad: All of Me,
The Indifferent: Honestly,
This was Stryper’s biggest selling album of their career and it’s very easy to see how. First off, right off the bat, the album sounds fucking fantastic. The production is so full and bombastic. Even the overall lyrical content seems to have gotten a bit less “in your face” with the Christian message and a bit more ambiguous. The songs themselves are definitely heavier than the previous albums and this also feels like the album where Stryper’s formula has been perfected.
The “hits” off of this album such as “Calling On You” and “Free” still sound great to my ears and make it easy for me to see why this album was such a commercial success. “Honestly” was a huge ballad for the band and while I don’t hate it, I don’t like it. “All of Me”, yikes. That song just needs to go away but closing out the album out with “More Than a Man” is a fucking killer way to go out. All in all this is an incredibly solid heavy metal album and I truly believe that this album deserves all of the praise (pun intended) that it gets.
In God We Trust
Release Date: June 28, 1988
The Good: In God We Trust, Always There For You, Keep The Fire Burning, The Writings on the Wall, It’s Up 2 You, The World of You and I, Come to the Everlife, Lonely, The Reign
The Indifferent: I Believe in You,
Holy shit (again, pun?) this album fucking rules. Right off the bat, “In God We Trust” just kills. I remember when this album came out and I remember thinking good God (again?) these guys just keep getting heavier and heavier. Even the singles like “Always There For You” and “Keep the Fire Burning” while pretty melodic and catchy are still fun and fit very well sandwiched in between the heaviness of the opening track and the epic as all fuck “The Writings on the Wall.” That song is so bad ass I had to play it twice. This would also mark the first time a Stryper ballad (“The World of You and I”) would make my good list. Hell (there we go again), it’s a fucking great song and is totally reminiscent of a great Boston power ballad. I also love how “Come to the Everlife” beckons back to classic Pieces of Eight era Styx. Closing the album with “The Reign” has Stryper proving that they can flex their classic Priest inspired metal and take it all out with a roar.
In God We Trust is hands down my favorite album so far. The only thing I don’t love about this album is the production. I wish that this album had the same production at To Hell With the Devil but aside from that, this is without a doubt their most solid and heavy album. It’s nearly perfect and I really don’t get why it wasn’t nearly as popular as To Hell With The Devil. This is definitely an album that is going back into heavy rotation for me. What a great and timeless metal classic.
Against the Law
Release Date: August 21, 1990
The Good: Against the Law, Two Time Women, Rock the People, Two Bodies (One Mind, One Soul), Shining Star, Ordinary Man, Lady, Caught in the Middle, All for One, Rock the Hell Out of You
So, the story goes is at this point in the game, Stryper had experienced a lot of backlash from the religious community and when the straw broke the camel’s back, Stryper rebelled by hitting the studio and recording their one and only secular album. Secular meaning, NO JESUS TALK. The funny thing is that up to this point, I actually loved their “religious” albums and this album is the LEAST metal of them all.
Songs like “Against the Law”, “Two Time Women”, and “Rock the People” sound more like Van Halen songs and in all honesty, they could be sounding like worse bands than Van Halen. Actually, they pull the Van Halen thing off so well that I even think Sweet would’ve been a great contender for Van Halen vocalist role. “All For One” is a great song and is the only song that sounds anything like “classic” Stryper. Closing out the album, “Rock the Hell Out of You” is by far the best song on the album and just may be one of Stryper’s best fucking songs. All in all, Against the Law, while a change of form for Stryper, is still a great album and one that I find to be very much worth owning and getting repeat listens.
Release Date: August 16, 2005
The Good: Open Your Eyes, Reborn, When Did I See You Cry, Make You Mine, Passion, Live Again, Rain, If I Die,
The Bad: 10,000 Years, In God We Trust
The Indifferent: Wait For You,
Reborn is not only Stryper’s return to the Christian Metal but it’s also the first album to not feature Tim Gaines. Well, that’s a lie. Tim Gaines didn’t play on In God We Trust but that’s a whole other story. Anyways, right out the gates I have to say that Reborn is a pretty cool fucking album. It’s definitely a different sound for Stryper and even has a more mature overtone to it musically. It almost sounds a bit like Stryper trying to sound a bit modern but the reason it works is because they didn’t try and go all the way modern. They dipped their toes a bit in modern song construction and production and it actually worked really well.
“Rain” is by far the most interesting song on the album and being that it’s a ballad, it totally has this Beatles influence to it and the first few songs are great but the problem is that even though none of the songs really suck, the album as a whole is just a bit boring. “10,000 Years” was a total miss for me and I have no idea why they tried to remake “In God We Trust” into this kind of “nu-metal” song. Ughh, is nothing sacred (pun intended). I miss that electrifying, shredtastic metal music that Stryper did so well and I can only hope they’ll move past this sound quickly.
Murder By Pride
Release Date: July 21, 2009
The Indifferent: Eclipse for the Son, Peace of Mind, 4 Leaf Clover, Alive, The Plan, Murder by Pride, I Believe, Run in You, Love is Why, Everything, My Love (I’ll Always Show), My Love My Life My Flame
At first I was like, whoa. Is this the Ramones? Nope. It’s Stryper! Yeah, I have to admit, I was completely caught off guard by the power pop/punk sounding, “Eclipse for the Son.” The element of surprise was pretty cool but it died off really quickly. Their weak and uninspired cover of the Boston classic “Peace of Mind” did nothing for me. As a whole, the album doesn’t suck but it’s just, meh, kinda just there.
Listening to Murder by Pride lead me to believe and hear that Stryper, at this point, just sounded like a tired band. They were a band struggling to find their identity and struggling to find their place in the music world. Two albums back to back trying to be a “modern” sounding band drew the fire completely out of them and had then putting out music that just sounded flat and unexciting. These two albums are pretty much not really worthy of picking up because, to me, they’re not Stryper. They are Stryper trying to be something that they’re not and it just didn’t work.
No More Hell to Pay
Release Date: November 5, 2013
The Good: Revelation, No More Hell to Pay, Saved by Love, Jesus is Just Alright, The One, Legacy, Marching Into Battle, Te Amo, Water Into Wine, Sympathy, Renewed
The Indifferent: Sticks and Stones,
In the four years since the previous album, Michael Sweet must have dove head first back into his roots because all I can say about No More Hell to Pay is that this album is a fucking metal masterpiece. I mean, this album sounds like it should’ve been the follow up to In God We Trust. The production on this album is absolutely stellar and the songs are some of Stryper’s… scratch that. These songs ARE Stryper’s strongest material to date. The band sounds so youthful and full of energy and I swear, Michael Sweet must’ve made a deal with the Devil because he looks younger than he did before and his voice is absolutely pristine.
The first three songs are a blow to the dome and if you can honestly listen to these songs and not have your face melted off, you need some serious fucking therapy. Let’s also talk about their amazing cover of the Doobie Brothers’ hit “Jesus is Just Alright.” Holy shit what an epic cover. Stryper totally took that song and turned it into their own. I love what they did with that one. This also marks the first Stryper album to not have a ballad. That’s right. From start to finish, this album is balls to the wall metal. What a “comeback” for one of my favorite bands.
Release Date: October 16, 2015
The Good: Yahweh, Fallen, Pride, Big Screen Lies, Heaven, Love You Like I Do, All Over Again, After Forever, Till I Get What I Need, Let There Be Light, The Calling, King of Kings
When Stryper put out No More Hell to Pay, I was really curious as to how they would even come close to topping this one but damn, right out the gates with the epic as all hell, “Yahweh”, they did so and with just one song. The Christian them is a bit more in the open with songs like “Yahweh” and “Heaven” but, as usual, it doesn’t seem to detract from just how great these songs are. I mean, a well written song is a well written song regardless of the lyrical content and Stryper still proves that they are great at this. The ballad “All Over Again” was actually really cool and very reminiscent of something I could hear Cinderella doing. It was nice to hear Stryper take their ballad style into a whole new direction and one that worked really well for them.
The highlight of this album for me was the absolutely stellar cover of the Black Sabbath classic, “After Forever.” Who knew that Black Sabbath could be covered by a Christian metal band and have not one single lyric changed. Not only did I love the irony, I loved the fact that they nailed the living crap out of this song and, as always, made it their own all while staying true to the original. I feel like I could go on all day about Fallen so in a nutshell, this album fucking rules and it’s a heavy metal classic in today’s time. Stryper has proven that they can do it better than most and still maintain the integrity of their beliefs in both God and heavy metal music.