If there is one band in Christian metal that will not be shaken, it’s Stryper. Blazing the trail for the future of heavy Christian music, Stryper entered the scene in 1983 where they reinvented the way people approached faith-based music and quickly became a fundamental pillar in rock history. Known for their relentless conviction and flair, Stryper’s music has always held a firm hold on the hair metal genre, and, now, they’re back again with their twelfth (!) record to date, God Damn Evil.
The record is everything a fan could expect from Stryper with a few added flavors thrown in. There was no doubt that frontman Michael Sweet would blow listeners away with his powerhouse vocals. The exceptional musicianship that backs him up is also no exception, something Stryper has always excelled at. From their classic guitar tones to the driving drum grooves, Stryper’s signature sound is all over this new album.
The band brings to fans everything they’ve come to love about their music, but they have also stepped into new territory with songs like the opening track, “Take it to the Cross.” While their adventurous spirit is commendable, the execution is a bit forced. When a band has been around for such a critical time in music, there is often a deep-rooted expectation for their signature sound. For bands like Stryper, it’s risky to stray too far or too quickly from the identity that put them on the map. If “Take it to the Cross” was not opening the album, its innovative sound may have been received with more enthusiasm. Leading with the track was a little bit of a shock factor.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of shredding solos and wailing high notes to satisfy any die-hard fan. Catchy melodies like the chorus of “Sorry” and the tasteful harmonies in “Sea of Thieves” show that vocals are still one of the band’s biggest strengths. Sweet has fine-tuned his voice over the years, and it shows. His influences, from Rob Halford to David Lee Roth, certainly shine through, developing his own sound that holds a massive flame to the heavy metal idols he emulates.
Outside of vocals, the instrumentation remains top notch, one of the other feathers in Stryper’s cap. New bassist Perry Richardson shows off his chops as well during the intro of “Own Up.” Listeners can’t help but appreciate the variety of textures that went into this album, like the added percussion in the aforementioned track and the organ in “Can’t Live Without Your Love.” God Damn Evil undoubtedly showcases the band’s creativity in the studio and desire to push themselves with every new record. Even with some aural missteps like “Take it to the Cross,” the band has shown their desire to play with styles within their genre.
Stryper is known for taking risks, and their bold title certainly fits the bill. God Damn Evil is another notch in the belt for Stryper. Fans are sure to get their fix with their new album and start seeing a refreshing new side of these pioneers of Christian metal. With each new record, Stryper shows us that change is good and challenging the status quo is necessary – especially for any band that wants to be around for 25 years.