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STRYPER Even the Devil Believes

STRYPER Even the Devil Believes

They say that even the devil believes that Jesus is God, the Ultimate Authority figure and the Creator of all things. Maybe now he’ll also believe that Stryper is a serious power metal band to be reckoned with. Hell, he probably figured that out back in 1984, but this album is a serious metal onslaught that has everything those testosterone-filled Stryper fans have been demanding for decades. Yep, it’s heavy as hell.

While this reviewer loves those wimpy power ballads and melodic pop metal choruses that Stryper has been known for, he also appreciates the high-energy heaviness and dominating power chording and open-string bombastic resonation that Ritchie Blackmore and Tony Iommi unleashed upon the earth back at the start of the “me decade.” Layered with keyboards, BGVs and dual guitar fills galore, this music demands to be played loud.

The lead-off track, “Blood From Above,” sets the tone, tempo and vibe and “Make Love Great Again” adds even more sound. These power riffs are slightly slower. Think of a giant military tank rolling over stuff. The vocals bring melody, but it serves the tune well.

“Let Him In” is an evangelistic tune that unashamedly invites the listener to make the only logical conclusion and “If you believe in Him, a new life begins … believe He died for you and rose again in truth, now there’s only one thing left to do: let – Him – in.”

“Do Unto Others” continues with great picking, super hard drumming and perfect guitar tone. It’s nice to hear Michael Sweet and Oz Fox compliment and support each other for solos while the other lays down rhythms.

By the time this reviewer gets to only the 5th song, it feels like a good workout has already been had. This title track will surely become a crowd favorite in a live setting with big open power chords, upfront drums and plenty of parts that pause ever so slightly to invite sing-alongs.

The chorus in “How to Fly’” has some beautiful Beatlesque harmonies without taming the song’s punch. This might be a first for Stryper and they do it well.

The biggest surprise is the ballad, “This I Pray,” which starts off and is led by the acoustic guitar (!). It’s a feel-good number not unlike those Poison ballads from the end of the 80s, like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” The drums kick in and the vocals soar. The band bio reveals that they pulled out an old, never-before-heard song and re-worked it for this album. This reviewer’s guess is that it was this one due to its tempo and tone. New or old, this is a great song and a smart inclusion. A syrupy keyboard ballad like “Together as One” or “Honestly” would probably sound way too distant from these other songs, but this one fits perfectly with its soulful grit.

“Invitation Only” could also be the mysterious older song. It has big chorus lines and joyously proclaims about the “greater unknown” that those who hold on will access.

“For God, Rock ‘n’ Roll” is similar to “Invitation Only,” in that it’s a straight-up rocker with lots of punch. I dare anyone to not sing along when no one’s watching.

“Middle Finger Messiah” ends the album with a frenetic pace. It starts off name-appropriately with a fast snare drum keeping time. The climbing cadence is not too unlike the Judas Priest song, “Exciter” (minus the high-pitched chorus).

It’s a pleasant surprise that Stryper has not mellowed with age. Aggression ranks high here.

Wow. If they’ve never proved it before, this album clearly defines Stryper as a guitar-oriented band – not a vocal hit machine. The lead and background vocals sound great and melodies are there throughout, but they don’t take center stage here as much as the riffage and guitar shredding does.

Even the Devil Believes is easily Stryper’s heaviest album. Any observer paying attention should’ve seen this coming with No More Hell to Pay and God Damn Evil, but who would’ve guessed that this metal onslaught would continue track after track? While this tough-guy formula perhaps didn’t get the band to where they are today, it’s nigh impossible to not like these heavier hooks and be thankful for this seismic earth-shaking heaviness. – Doug Van Pelt

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