There aren’t many bands as secure in who they are as Stryper. They know who they are as a band, and that confidence shows in both the songwriting and sound of the band’s 10th studio album, No More Hell to Pay.
You have to have thick skin to make it for as long as they have. They’ve been groundbreaking, popular, a trend, ridiculed, bore the brunt of every Christian metal joke and now, after almost 20 years as a band, they’re releasing what vocalist Michael Sweet is teasing as the best album of their career.
The scary thing? He’s probably right.
No More Hell to Pay is redeeming. It doesn’t feel like a band that started off in black and yellow leotards and Aqua Net big hair trying to relive their youth. It feels like a band in their prime, releasing a sophomore powerhouse to a debut that had the streets talking.
Michael Sweet’s voice is golden. There were times listening where I’d stop what I was doing just to make sure I heard what I heard. The songwriting is great; the record moves well as a whole, yet each song carries an individuality you don’t find much in an age where your “album” is four 99 cent singles and filler.
The only major flaw on the record is that they decided to cover “Jesus is Just Alright,” the Doobie Brothers hit that should be banned from every band’s set list, and not just faith-based bands. It should have been retired years ago, the day after DC Talk covered it on their monumental Jesus Freak album. The album was great at 11 original songs, but with the longest song coming in at track four as a cover, it feels wholly unnecessary. If they had to cover something, I would have rather have heard them do some Iron Maiden or another one of the band’s influences. (The life has been sucked out of the Doobie Brothers classic, and despite its stellar harmonies, we don’t need “Jesus” in the title to cover it.) The song choice is awful enough, but the band doesn’t bring anything new to the song.
Song choice notwithstanding, Stryper has hung around long enough to weather the trend cycle. With groups like Steel Panther and Black Veil Brides garnering press and the public eye these days, it’s clear their glam metal sound is coming back to sellable success. The album art is phenomenal. Their stage show is always a blast. As a package, the band is seasoned, and with the power of these tracks behind them, they can surely secure a spot on your playlists.
If you thought the record was going to be a joke, you’d be wrong. It easily withstands the blind taste test, and it should remind you of when Stryper was doing their groundbreaking, larger-than-life yellow and black attack. They may not be yellow and black anymore, but they’re definitely back.