Stryper – “Fallen” (Frontiers Music)
Infamous for bringing Christian Metal out’ve the catacombs – Stryper will be forever remembered (and hated) in many people’s hearts – from throwing bibles into the audience right down to Ellen Page wearing their t shirt in 2009’s “Whip It” movie! Whatever the controversy, they also managed to sell over 10 million records worldwide – most of which were bought by non Christians!! Fronted by the infamous Sweet brothers – Michael on vocals / guitar and Robert on drums – Stryper went onto worldwide success throughout the 80s until their breakup in the early 90s. With loose reunions taking place around the turn of the century, the band only released 2 albums in that decade, although they continued to play shows despite Michael suffering personal loss in the late 90s. Since then however, Stryper have enjoyed a resurgence and made something of a comeback in the last 2 years, playing to sellout crowds who never forgot them and continue to buy their albums. Always taking up the mantle of the underdog flying in the face of convention, “Fallen” is without a doubt their strongest and best album in many years. It’s sheer heaviness both in sound and concept will certainly see plenty of jaws drop – mine included! With Michael once again penning all the material, you can be sure that it certainly features Christianity big time – but these days the 30 year veteran is less preachy, less stadium and less, well, cheesy with the songs, instead analysing the Bible like on ‘Let There Be Light’ where he interprets the book of Genesis on creating the heavens and earth. Elsewhere it’s about Lucifer’s fall from grace to become the devil in the title track or in the swanky 80s ‘Big Screen Lies’ where Sweet rails against Hollywood’s buffoonish portrayal of Christians – or more importantly the buffoonish minority who represent them, amidst some amazing guitar work that shows his clean vocals aren’t his only talent. Speaking of the 80s, there are definitely songs like the ballad ‘Love You Like I Do’ whose sound, velvet like vocals and even passionate guitar could make it a long lost song from that era. Ironically for a Christian band, Stryper were heavily influenced by Sabbath and it’s manifested on the Dio era ‘Heaven’ with its uncanny resemblance in parts to ‘Heaven and Hell’, while ‘After Forever’ is a blatant cover, written by Geezer Butler and is open in its Christian theme! All pretty much of a muchness, but nothing could prepare me for the epic glory of ‘Yahweh’ and ‘King Of Kings’ – both of which are epic, Manowar type power metal tracks that revel ecstatically in their glory to Christ, complete with choirs and pumping riffs and Robert’s pounding drums. You can really hear the emotion in Sweet’s voice as he was influenced by the movie “The Passion Of The Christ” – with again more dueling guitars Maiden style – man, I really wish Stryper do more of this in the future cos they surely have the talent for it and so much more! Although I still remain unconverted after 12 awesome tracks that take me back to the 80s, “Fallen” did a whole lot more by energizing me with an uplifting power throughout – it was like hitting the recall button and feeling carried away again to heaven!