If there ever been a band distinctive for its genre it must have been Stryper. Over 35 years steadily rocking, the band became the frontrunner and flag bearer for Christian metal. Their huge success made them synonym for the entire genre and 4 decades in they still are the subgenres most appealing band out there. Without the successes of chart storming MTV hit singles, the band around both Sweet brothers and Oz Fox has shed skin occasionally. Since inking their deal with Italian Frontiers records the band delivers new music to the masses with a 2 - 3 year interval. Music that is still heavily (or should I say “heavenly”) anthemic and packs tremendous power and poise.
The cover album `The Covering’ and rerecording of their many classics on `The Second Coming’ proven the band’s revived sound. Slowly steering away from their sugar-coated and successful 80s sound the band went into a heavier direction, crystalizing on this brand-new album `Even The Devil Believes’, where past and present fuse extremely well. Where ,,God Damn Evil”, ,,Fallen” and ,,No More Hell To Pay” displayed the bands heavy metallic outline, without subduing their aesthetics, the new album adds a more thrust to the throttle. The opening riff and piercing scream on ,,Blood From Above” instantly makes clear the band means business. The song bursts into action with a fierce riff interaction between Fox and Michael Sweet over the powerful drum strokes from Robert Sweet. Newcomer Perry Richardson (ex-Firehouse) adds his low vibrant bass lines to the mix. With Richardson handling chorus duties in his previous band we are assured of the signature Stryper choruses being sticky and recognizable as ever. Harmonizing the Michael and Oz’s highs and closing the gap with Robert deeper sound, the layers of vocals are more powerful than ever. Michael Sweet’s stand out voice is pitching high and packs tremendous power sparking the heavier direction. Not having degraded, but aged like a top shelf wine, he sounds inspired and forceful. Dynamics increased as you can hear on the following ,,Make Love Great Again”, the spin off to the US president’s credo to make the country great again. Double kicked and with exquisite dynamics Sweet brings the song to live with both guitarists adding an insane riff and melody swagger. Richardson clearly is in the right place adding bass riff with low-end vibes. Micheal roars and whales and the chorus is sticky sweet contrasting with the impressive musical extravagance of the track. The ominous mid-section is impressive and the open production of the track adds to the dynamic feel. Trademark solo interaction between Sweet and Fox with swirling melodies and blistering arpeggios is just jaw dropping. Both players capable of handling lead duties makes Stryper more power metal than hair metal per say. Their harmonized trade-off solos are dominating the entire album, which is also strongly leaning on the duos insane riff interaction. Pushing the pedal to the metal the band shoots into action for ,,Let Him In” again packing a memorable chorus and scorching riffs. ,,Do Unto Others” fires on the same engines with sparkling guitar interaction laid down with utmost precision. Echoing bridge and sticky chorus over progressive kicked pre-chorus enhance the track. More melodic than any of the last recordings the song flourishes with lush layered vocals in its spot-on chorus. But it is the vocal interaction and layers making this song shine brightly. With Michael Sweet drawing from his most melodic and his deepest roaring register, you’re in for one of the best vocal performances of the year. On top the track is enhanced further with insane soling from both marksmen unloading in a swirling twin solo fretboard magic. The title track rumbles into your eardrum with Robert’s typical dynamics switching between floors, double kicked and single kick bass drums propelling the track. In its chorus he lays down extraordinary drumrolls and fills increasing dynamics. Lyrical it adds to the Stryper discography perfectly and the choirs are sticky but not too Sweet. Its guitar chunks are amplified tenfold and downtuned to increase power. ,,How To fly” bears the same ingredients and rolls onwards with an organic open sound until the choirs barge in. The song has an anthemic fist-pumping feel to it and roars. Another track featuring the dynamic guitar-drum energetic combustion is ,,Divider”. Rooted in the 70s, the metallic Stryper sauce makes it thick and sticky as molasses. Its gut wrecking chants and Richardson’s whammy bass lines and string bending give it face. Taking it back a knot or 10 the band delves deep for the mandatory slow mover-moment. ,,This I Pray” is acoustically driven and has hovering electric soling giving it an extra dimension. Above all it is Michael who colours it brightly. The treble edge on his voice still vividly present, he injects a sincerity and emotion most bands miss. Powering up for the chorus the song starts to gain momentum and moves from its bluesy Americana time signatures and starts eluding from the expected. This is how you compose a semi-ballad. The song would have shot up in the 80s charts. ,,Invitation Only” is hammered into life once again by Robert with intense guitar harmonies transforming into cockrock solid riffing before going all Stryper on us. Lush distorted keys are added for atmospherically purpose only. The song is an exclamation point to Oz and Michael’s insane guitar interaction, beefed up heavily, precise and appealing. Midway the track picks up the band’s dynamics during the choir section before diving into another nut wrenching chunk of guitar wizardry. If ,,God Gave Rock ‘n Roll To You” is considered a hymn, then “For God & Rock ‘n Roll” will be Stryper’s personal praise for the both. Packing a 70s organic vibe it starts to rumble with powerful loud rock chanting pushing it forward with stride. Stripped to the bear essence the song oozes a genuine classic rock appeal with meaty hooks. It is the perfect tune before the band comes storming onto us once again on the album closer ,,Middle Finger Messias”, which packs tremendous power. Dynamic powerhouse drumming and chunky guitars firing on all engines the song is one big combustion of fist pumping energy. Over all this musical marksmanship Michael’s vocals add the edge and grit needed to make the song speak. Less sweet choruses but focusing on power and persistence, the song delves deep emotionally, topped off with another jawdropping execution of Fox and Sweet’s guitar interaction which is out of this world. Again, the production from Michael Sweet himself is open and transparent adding to the organic feel of the album.
`Even The Devil Believes’ fuses the best of both Stryper worlds. Present are the band’s signature nesting and multi-layered choruses, more than ever before. Less sugar-coated but still as comfy and nesting as in their 80s they infused it with a wider range of appeal. It all blends well with the spectacular dynamics of their last efforts and the addition of Richardson adds an entirely different vibe. More than once their songs combust with a genuine contemporary vibe that gel perfectly with the insane choirs and Michael’s pristine powerful voice. The lyrical content features some tongue in cheek twists as well as the Stryper typical gospel. The band has not given up on delivering the message of faith. Practice what you preach, so to say. I’m not gonna call out this as their best album to date, but I am convinced this will nest among the top favourites of the 777 catalogue. And the best… Hell, that’s yet to come.