Front man Michael Sweet (@michaelhsweet) for the 80’s Rock Band Stryper (@stryper) has called the band’s latest release, No More Hell to Pay , the album they should have made after the hit album To Hell With the Devil. Sweet goes on to explain how In God We Trust was over-thought resulting in an over-produced album that was too polished.
I would have to agree with Michael in that IGWT was definitely a very produced album. Back in my college days when I would play the CD in my dorm room, many people thought I was listening to Styx instead of Stryper. The harder rock sound was gone. But I digress…
Should No More Hell To Pay have been the album to follow the highly successful To Hell With the Devil? Perhaps. That is a debate for other more qualified than me.
However, could Stryper have created NMHTP without IGWT and the lesser known controversial album Against the Law without the lesson learned from them? Could Stryper created such an album without the addition years of life experiences? Again, I digress…but I do believe Stryper needed these experiences to be able to craft the sound and play to they level they do on No More Hell to Pay.
First thing when you notice when star listening to NMHTP is the production quality. There is a wonderful balance between Michael Sweet (lead vocals and lead guitar), Oz Fox (vocals and lead guitar) (@SirOzFox), Tim Gaines (vocals and bass guitar) (@StryperBassMan), and Robert Sweet (drums) @RobertLSweet), in the mix. No one is overpowered, and the sound is nicely layered similar to the more recent release of Second Coming ( a rerecording of previous hits).
The vocals sound more natural and organic than in previous albums. While there are the noticeable effects added to enhance the album’s sound, they are not overused. Michael ditches the falsetto heard in THWTD and IGWT and at the same time avoids the constant angry gravel of Against the Law. Instead, he uses the falsetto only to give us those famous 80’s screams, and the gravel occasionally to communicate a point. (I purposely dropped the adjective angry.) Both adding to the album and not detracting. However, the tight harmonies that give the “Stryper Sound” are still present.
Unlike Reborn which was released in 2005, NMHTP recaptures more of Stryper’s 80’s album (Soldiers Under Command and Yellow and Black Attack) sound but not so far as to sound nostalgic. Producer and song writer, Micheal Sweet, realizes the listener wants new Stryper material, not a rehash of the old.
The second thing you will notice listening to the album is the harder sound. Both Tim Gaine’s bass and Robert Sweet’s drum pound bound a beat under the dueling guitars of Oz Fox and Micheal Sweet. For those tired of the modern pop music and are not comfortable with the modern rock sound, the energy is just about perfect.
Lyrically, the album is done in typical Stryper fashion. Songs like Revelation and No More Hell to Pay lay the Christian message at the feet of the listener but don’t come across as preachy or in your face. So despite the album being clearly from a Christian perspective, the non-Christian listener should enjoy the album’s music. At the same time, those of us who are closet Christian metal heads, can break out the air guitar once more.
(Author’s note. While I don’t normally write album reviews, I felt that this album qualifies as a geek worthy. The reason being a lot of us geeks (in the 80’s nerds) liked rock music but felt it didn’t quite fit us because we didn’t really fit the bad party boy image. Stryper’s music, however, did fit a lot of us. Like us, they were picked on for who they were and they struggled to achieve an identity as a rock band in the 80’s. The rock scene didn’t always see how good they were because of their Christian message, and some Christian’s didn’t accept them because of their association with “the Devil’s music.”)