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STRYPER - God Damn Evil


The early hype on this record (aka first single shared online) foretold of a band changing its stripes. “Take it to the Cross” was a giant leap for this loud ‘n’ proud quartet that used to buy its Aqua Net in bulk. The lead-off track, “Take it to the Cross,” features some tortured screaming a la Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (Overkill) or Scott Watters (Ultimatum) in each chorus, seemingly taking this melodic pop and power metal band from Orange County, California, over the cliff into a lot more acidic, heavy and intense modern metal sound. Turns out it’s only one song of total mayhem, but we should’ve seen it coming with the last four original studio albums (not to mention its cover of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” on The Covering) pointing in the heavier not lighter direction.

It’s damn impressive to see a band experiment, expand and enrich their sound after finding a successful sound for 34-plus years. The biting, aggressive riffage found here is reminiscent in attitude to their young and prove-to-the-world sounds found on The Yellow and Black Attack. Short, chopping and precise picking sound like a blatant, intentional and effective musical choice to take ground in the power metal realm they’ve always staked a sizable claim inside. Now they’re just forcing their way in the door and leaving no room for doubt by slamming their riffs down in a pretty non-stop blitzkrieg of aggression.

The lead-off track starts it, and tunes like “You Don’t Even Know” and “The Devil Doesn’t Live Here” race along at a tempo that must give each of these competent musicians a real workout.

The second track is the mind-blower, though. “Sorry” is so stinkin’ great, it made me get heavy metal goose bumps all over, smiling like a little kid too young for his black t-shirt and studded wristband. It gives “Dr. Feelgood” a run for its money. That Metal Mythos guy is probably going to be beside himself when he hears this album and this song in particular. By the way, if you haven’t seen his career-spanning retrospective on Stryper, it’s worth a profanity-laced viewing, as he treats Stryper’s music fairly ‘n’ favorably, judging it on its musical merits alone. And don’t forget to watch the epic video for “Sorry.” This tune right here is worth the price of admission alone. Marrying shredding with melody hasn’t sounded this good in a long time.

Michael’s voice is as distinct and signature as ever. Tunes like “The Valley” and “Beautiful” wail away with some great, fiery shredding. He wails and screams like a metal singer should (if you’re following the ’80s metal rule book), but it’s tougher and grittier than the operatic girl-play of so many ’80s metal theatrics. “Sea of Thieves” sounds like Judas Priest with Michael screaming in his own distinct style, rather than mimicking Halford.

God Damn Evil would sit well right alongside any W.A.S.P. album and it’s not so far from the Soldiers Under Command sounds, save for the absence in wall-of-sound polished gang vocals.

Dammit if these guys haven’t tried to get me to cuss, though! The chant-along chorus to the title track begs for a sing-along, which is something I don’t want to do. Call me a Southern Baptist if you want, but “damn,” “dammit” and even “Oh God!” are acceptable expletives in my personal and fluctuating speech guide book, but the “G-D” phrase is just sooo ingrained in my mind as using the Lord’s Name in vain. Even if I’m wrong, I don’t want to sing that song — in my mind or out loud. I’ll have to file it right alongside the Marilyn Manson song, “Get Your Gunn,” as songs to avoid to keep my conscious clear. Musically, it’s a whallop of a party song — AC-DC or Accept would love to add another thundering drum and party riff to their repertoire.

Speaking of thundering drums, “Beautiful” is another powerful tune that is remindful that Robert Sweet knows how to pound the drums. “Sorry” and “The Valley” pound it pretty hard, too. “Can’t Live Without Your Love” might be the biggest throwback to the melodic side of Stryper that we heard between The Yellow and Black Attack and Against the Law, with its slower tempo and uber-melodic and tender vocals.

I thought my reaction to this new album might be subtle and somewhat subdued. Not that anyone cares, but I have a little bit of that grumpy old metalhead ‘tude going on. I haven’t been too thrilled with the majority of songs on Reborn, Murder by Pride, No More Hell to Pay and Fallen. I do rather like a few (“Reborn,” “4 Leaf Clover,” “Marching into Battle,” “Yahweh” and “King of Kings”), but they’re not getting as many spins on my iPhone as “Surrender,” “Free,” “Calling on You” “Heaven and Hell” or even “Reason for the Season.” Call me stuck in a rut. Call me stuck in a rut. Call me stuck in a rut, but I so favor the hooky, melodic masterpieces they’re capable of. All that to say that I’m passionately excited about this new album. I can embrace the power metal muscle and force that is Stryper, but I’m hitting repeat when the chorus is as sweet as honey.

Sorry It doesn’t always make it starry Maybe next time be more charming So you don’t have to say Sorry

Wow! Stryper, you have done it again. Thanks for getting me (and the veteran metal scene) out of a rut. [Frontier] Release Date: April 20, 2018

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