Let’s face truth here rockers, Stryper never truly got it’s fair chance in the rock and metal community because they got labeled “Christian Rock” and most rock and metal fans like to keep religion out of their music. I’m even guilty of it from when I first started getting into the music I now live for. But the truth is Stryper definitely belongs in the discussion of bands still going today making great tunes. Their last two albums, No More Hell To Pay in 2013 and Fallen in 2015, got serious acclaim and made many realize how wrong we were to ignore them for decades. Their newest album God Damn Evil is continuing that flow of great tunes even with a minor hiccup that could hurt the sales.
Sure normally I’d write all the praise up front and then sneak in the album flaw at the end of the review but this time around I can’t. The flaw in God Damn Evil is the opening track “Take It To The Cross” featuring a guest vocal appearance by Matt Bachand of Shadows Fall and Act Of Defiance. To me and many younger rock and metalheads it’s a good song but it’s not a typical Stryper song. It’s aggressive, fast, and has death growls from Bachand. A complete mistake on the albums song order as people will usually make their decision based on the opening track on what they feel about the album and more importantly to keep listening or buy the album. A long time Stryper fan sampling the album on iTunes hears “Take It To The Cross” and how different it is from what they expect they could easily be turned off. This song belongs later in the album, right after “The Valley” which is a darker song with a strong marching rhythm to it. It’s still the great riffs that you’d expect from Stryper but just a bit darker that would make “Take It To The Cross” fit better here.
Once you get past the opening track, God Damn Evil delivers as you’d expect of them based upon their recent albums. “Sorry” has the harmonies that I’ve come to love from Stryper and still highlights Michael Sweet’s vocal abilities. It’s truly amazing how 32 years as a band and he’s still as strong vocally as ever.
Sweet’s vocal abilities are further highlighted on “Lost” as he hits notes in the chorus that made me flinch in pain. I’ve seen live footage of Rob Halford recently and have Firepower from Judas Priest and I don’t think the Metal God hits the notes that Sweet hits. I don’t know how he does it but he definitely does.
I truly cannot pick out one riff or song the showcases Oz Fox. He makes himself heard on each and every song on God Damn Evil without production tricks. All too often the guitars are hidden behind vocals only to have their volume raised specifically for the guitar solos or only be noticed once the singer stops singing. Fox feels more like a secondary vocal throughout the album with his guitar. Makes me wish I still had the physical ability to air guitar because I’d do it through the whole album.
Another thing I physically can’t do, and never could, is hold up a lighter or now cell phone during the power ballads everyone loves. But I can see myself doing it if I close my eyes during “Can’t Live Without Your Love”. Close your eyes and I’m sure you could see that typical video of live footage from the tour bus on the road with footage from the shows at different arenas throughout the country. This song should hit home with anyone who listens to it.
Stryper has without a doubt been one of the most overlooked bands in rock and metal. While God Damn Evil does have a huge speed bump of a poorly chosen opening track to get past it still has the sound you expect and want from them. Stryper shouldn’t be overlooked anymore that’s for God damn sure.