They say that even “the devils also believe” that Jesus is God, the ultimate authority figure, and the Creator of all things – and, maybe now, he’ll also believe that Stryper is the ultimate power metal band and shudder. Hell, he probably figured that out back in 1984, but this album, Stryper’s thirteenth studio album among their illustrious 35-plus year career, 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 there is always room for those wimpy power ballads and melodic pop-metal choruses Stryper has come to be known for, Even the Devil allows listeners to appreciate the high-energy heaviness, dominating power chords, and open-string bombastic resonation Stryper has come to excel at, the things 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, it’s an album that demands to be played loud. The lead-off track, “Blood from Above,” sets the tone appropriately; the tempo and vibe on the second track, “Make Love Great Again,” sets the stage even deeper, adding even more sound to the wall. Notwithstanding, the vocals bring melody that serves the tune well, a strong reminder that vocalist and guitarist Michael Sweet can shred both guitar and his vocal cords effectively.
It’s been 36 years since the band’s first release, but, as the album progresses, it realizes its place as consummate Stryper with the added sweetener of aggression. “Do Unto Others” continues with great guitar work (and perfect tone) and powerful, aggressive drumming; it’s refreshing to hear Sweet and longtime band member and lead guitarist Oz Fox complement and support each other in the true power-metal way, exchanging solos and laying down rhythms for each other, another hallmark of the genre and classic Stryper. In the same vein, the title track will surely become a crowd favorite in a (hopefully sooner-rather-than-later) live setting with big open power chords, catchy drum hooks, and plenty of space to openly-invite everyone to sing-along. The chorus in “How to Fly’” has some beautiful Beatles-esque harmonies without taming the song’s punch. “For God, Rock ‘n’ Roll” is similar to “Invitation Only” – they’re both straight-up rockers with lots of punch. “Middle Finger Messiah” ends the album with a frenetic pace, a fast snare drum keeping time, the climbing cadence is not too unlike their brethren Judas Priest.
It’s a pleasant surprise that Stryper has not mellowed with age. Aggression ranks high here, and, if they’ve never proven it before, this album clearly defines Stryper as a guitar-oriented band more than a vocal hit machine. The lead and background vocals stand out, and the melodies are there throughout, but, on Even the Devil, they don’t take center stage as much as the riffage and shredding do.
Even the Devil Believes is easily Stryper’s heaviest album. Any listener paying attention should’ve seen this coming with the style of two of their previous three releases, No More Hell to Pay and God Damn Evil, but it would have been hard to see the onslaught continue (welcomingly) track after track. While this tough-guy formula perhaps didn’t get the band to where they are today, it’s nigh impossible to ignore these heavier hooks and be thankful for this seismic earth-shaking heaviness.