Stryper – The Covering (2011)

Stryper – The Covering (2011, Big3 Records)

  1. Set Me Free
  2. Blackout
  3. Heaven And Hell
  4. Lights Out
  5. Carry On Wayward Son
  6. Highway Star
  7. Shout It Out Loud
  8. Over The Mountain
  9. The Trooper
  10. Breaking The Law
  11. On Fire
  12. Immigrant Song
  13. God

Band Lineup:
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Oz Fox – Guitars & Vocals
Robert Sweet – Drums
Timothy Gaines – Bass & Vocals
Charles Foley – Keyboards/Piano/Organ

Executive Producer: Bill Edwards
Producer: Michael Sweet

Country: USA

Total Time = 53:30

Stryper MySpace page
Big3 Records

When a band from the ’80s releases a new album, I always get excited. I lived and died with these bands as a kid growing up and I still do to this day. I love hearing what these veteran bands have to offer 20 to 25+ years after their ’80s heyday. When I read that Stryper was releasing a new album in early 2011 I marked the release date on my calendar right away because I was a big Stryper fan back in the day. I started out with SOLDIERS UNDER COMMAND (1985), picked up the 1986 re-release of THE YELLOW & BLACK ATTACK (originally released in 1984) and went forward. I’ve supported the band ever since and picked up every album as they were released. Recently, the band has been very active with three new releases since 2005 and touring consistently in that time. With a new tour date at the end of March added to my local area, and the announcement of THE COVERING, I admit that I got a little psyched about Stryper…..until I found out the new album was an album of cover songs.

If you’ve read this website over the last five years then you know that nothing irritates me more than cover songs taking the place on a studio album where original songs could be AND records that are billed as “new albums” but are really covers and nothing new except new versions of old songs. I’ll give Stryper credit, they were up front about doing a covers album, and the performances are good. If you take a look at the song selection you’ll notice a lot of safe and well known Rock songs included from the likes of the Scorpions, KISS, Deep Purple, Ozzy, Iron Maiden and even Led Zeppelin. I have no problem with the performances because the band sounds in fine form and the songs are all done basically as the originals. I also like a few of the songs the band selected among the safe ones: UFO’s ‘Lights Out’, The Sweet’s ‘Set Me Free’, Kansas’ ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and Van Halen’s ‘On Fire’. The other songs are done well but how many times have we all heard the original or a cover of ‘Breaking The Law’, ‘Over The Mountain’ and ‘Shout It Out Loud’? Maybe a few more deep tracks by some of these bands would have been a better choice. The last song on THE COVERING is the new Stryper song aptly titled ‘God’. If there was ever a song title that you would think Stryper would have already used it would be ‘God’! The new original is an uptempo Hard Rock song that easily fits into the typical Stryper fare and could have easily been a part of the last Styper record, MURDER BY PRIDE (2009). What impresses me most is Michael Sweet’s voice…..this guy hasn’t lost a step since the mid-’80s! He can still hit all the highs and sing with a lot of power and melody. The band is always going to sound very good because Robert Sweet, Oz Fox and Timothy Gaines were always a tight unit but the usual measuring stick on a band’s sound is usually how the singer is…..if you want classic Stryper, they sound like classic Stryper and I bet they pull it off well live.

Bottom Line:
I was looking forward to a new Stryper album because their last one, MURDER BY PRIDE, was so good. Unfortunately, I’m disappointed to have a new album of covers with only one new song bu this is the trend lately to get a quick product on the shelves before a tour. A veteran band like Stryper can easily go through the more popular Rock songs with ease and put out an album like this but I would rather have all new material. Like I said, the performances are well done and there are a few different songs in the tracklist that you don’t hear that often but I’m still disappointed, I’d rather gat an album of original tunes. The main highlight for me is the new song ‘God’, the best cover for me is probably ‘On Fire’ because you don’t really hear that covered much. I would recommend this for the Stryper diehard and collector completist but not for a general fan looking to discover Stryper or add some new Stryper to their collections.

Favorite Songs:
‘God’ is the best song for me because it’s a good solid original. Best covers are ‘On Fire’, ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and ‘Lights Out’

Stryper – Murder By Pride (2009)

Stryper - Murder By Pride (2009)

Stryper – Murder by Pride (2009, Big 3 Records)

  1. Eclipse For The Sun
  2. 4 Leaf Clover
  3. Peace Of Mind
  4. Alive
  5. The Plan
  6. Murder By Pride
  7. Mercy Over Blame
  8. I Believe
  9. Run In You
  10. Love Is Why
  11. Everything
  12. My Love (I’ll Always Show)

Band Lineup:
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Robert Sweet – Drums & Vocals
Oz Fox – Guitars & Vocals
Tracy Ferrie – Bass & Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Tom Scholz – Guitar on ‘Peace Of Mind’
Paul McNamara – Piano/Keyboards
Danny Bernini – Percussion
Kenny Aronoff – Drums

Producers: Michael Sweet & Danny Bernini

Executive Producer: Bill Edwards

Country: USA

Total Time = 45:45

Stryper MySpace page
Big 3 Records

I have been a Stryper fan for a long time. Growing up part of the MTV generation, I knew all about Stryper while Hard Rock bands ruled the airwaves and TV channels. I remember first hearing the term “Christian Metal” and seeing the Stryper logo with “Isaiah 53.5” under the name to mark the passage in the Bible where they got the name from. The band had these crazy yellow and black outfits that made their detractors call them bumblebees but the band had one thing going for them…..talent. I bought THE YELLOW AND BLACK ATTACK and SOLDIERS UNDER COMMAND in ’85 but the real Stryper testament came with 1986’s TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL. That album had the hits, the videos and the band at their peak. As time went on, I grew out of Stryper as the band faded after 1990.

The band reunited back in 2003 for a tour and live album but the real testimony was when the guys recorded the REBORN (2005), the new Stryper album! What a disappointment! Gone were the signature hooks, guitar solos and melodic ’80s Hard Rock sound… it’s place was a modern Hard Rock, Grunge, alt Rock sound. The band had toughened up their sound from their hair metal heyday but it just wasn’t Stryper. When I read that the band was coming back for another album, I was definitely wary. Especially when Michael Sweet joined classic rock legends Boston to help fill the void left by the late Brad Delp. All I could think of was another poor Stryper record…..I was wrong.

Stryper in 2009 is much different than Stryper in 2005. The most obvious thing is that the band has dropped the modern/grungy Rock sound and returned to their roots with the big ’80s sound that got them famous. The album kicks off right away with a solid rocker ‘Eclipse Of The Son’ and I could tell right away that this was going to be a good album. The song is fast with plenty of sing-a-long hooks, big background vocals and plenty of guitar. ‘4 Leaf Clover’ slows down a little bit and adds some serious punch with the heavy riffing of Oz Fox. There’s plenty of hook to ‘4 Leaf Clover’ to keep the listener involved and singing along. In order to make the connection with his latest gig in Boston, Michael Sweet steers the band to a cover of the Boston classic ‘Peace Of Mind’. Normally I won’t accept any cover tune on an album of original material but this version of ‘Peace Of Mind’ is great. Michael Sweet obviously has the high vocal register to handle the Boston tunes and he definitely shines, as does Boston founder Tom Scholz, who plays guest guitar on the track. This is one cover tune that gets a rare pass from me.

Ballad #1 is ‘Alive’ and it’s a beautiful piece of music that rivals the bands biggest hit ‘Honestly’ (from 1986) while ‘The Plan’ dives back into the Hard Rock groove with an opening guitar riff that sounds like .38 Special’s ‘Hold On Loosely’. More pure Hard Rock comes out of the title track, a song that sounds like it came from the harder side of ’80s Stryper. It’s weird to see a Stryper song title with the word “murder” in it but it’s hardly dangerous and/or violent. The song is more about rebellion and standing up for yourself so it’s really inspirational, something the band has always tried to do with their music. The band gets a little more modern edge to their big sound on ‘Mercy Over Blame’ but it doesn’t fall into the trap the songs on REBORN did. ‘Mercy Over Blame’ sounds like classic Stryper, just heavier. Listen for the cool basslines that tracy Ferrie peppers all over this song.

Ballad #2 arrives with ‘I Believe’, a surefire Stryper song title! The song is pretty quiet until the chorus when the guitars and backgrounds really kick in. It’s another successful ballad that could give their signature ballad ‘Honestly’ a run for it’s money. ‘Run in You’ is a mid-tempo, keyboard laced and acoustic guitar drivem track that sounds more like a slower Cheap Trick song.Same thing with ‘Love Is Why’ but the song is a little heavier due to the tempo and the big chorus. The Hard Rock tempo picks up again with the edgy ‘Everything’ and the Heavy Metal tinged guitar throb of ‘My Love (I’ll Always Show)’…..these are two of the best heavy rockers on the album.

Bottom Line:
I definitely wasn’t sure a Stryper comeback would work, especially after REBORN, but the band has created their best album since 1986. All the songs have excellent songwriting and perfect performances. Michael Sweet sounds just as good as he did back in the day and the rest of the band is tight. The songs are full of hooks that had me singing along almost immeadiately. The one thing I noticed is that Stryper conveyed their message of God to the fans without cramming it down their throat. Instead of writing songs that were complete bible-thumping, Stryper decided to take a more subtle approach and use positive lyrics to express their take on every day life. The songs stand on their own as Christian Metal and regular Rock songs. Definitely a solid comeback for Stryper and MURDER BY PRIDE definitely makes the list as really good album from 2009…..and a surprising one at that.

Favorite Songs:
‘Eclipse Of The Son’, ‘Peace Of Mind’, ‘I Believe’, ‘Alive’ , ‘Run In You’

As Cities Burn – Hell Or High Water (2009)


As Cities Burn – Hell Or High Water (2009, Tooth & Nail)

  1. ’84 Sheepdog
  2. Errand Rum
  3. Into The Sea
  4. Made Too Pretty
  5. Lady Blue
  6. Petty
  7. Daughter
  8. Pirate Blues
  9. Capo

Band Lineup:
Cody Bonnette – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keys
Colin Kimble – bass, guitars, backup vocals
Aaron Lunsford – drums, percussion
Chris Lott – lead guitar
Produced by: Tyler Orr & Cody Bonnette

Total Time = 38:14

As Cities Burn MySpace page
Tooth & Nail Records

2009 has been a great year so far for Hard Rock & Heavy Metal new releases but there is always a few albums that cross my desk that are awful and a waste of my time. The first suspect of 2009? HELL OR HIGH WATER by Christian Indie Progressive Rock band As Cities Burn.

I got this album a couple months ago for review and I put it in the pile because I have a massive backlog of promos but I read the press release and the band sounded interesting. Tooth & Nail Records is home to the popular Metalcore band Underoath so I figured that As Cities Burn would have some sort of Metal slant to their music. The album cover looked promising although a bit different but you should never judge an album by it’s cover!

As Cities Burn plays a very mellow brand of Indie Rock that I would here on my local Indie rock station instead of my local Rock station. There is nothing hard, heavy or fast to the music, it’s more ambient (not in a Gothic Metal style) and mellow. Lead vocalist & guitarist Cody Bonnette sounds very whiney and subdued with no display of vocal range or ability, kind of like a younger Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins). The music itself sounded primarily the same over the entire album, the sound effects were distracting and the performances were boring. On the positive side….the production was crystal clear and there is a bit of melody in the songs. I liked the middle section of ‘Lady Blue’ but that’s it.

Bottom Line:
I’ve played this album at least 10 times to try and find something interesting or something that relates to what this website is about: Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. I didn’t find anything worthwhile, what I got was the most boring 10 spins I’ve ever listened to (and I really listened). The album is so mellow and boring that I actually fell asleep a couple of times and had to go back! There is nothing Metal here, nothing Hard but fans of Indie Rock will eat this up I’m sure. There is crossover Pop Rock appeal to the music so I’m sure that Indie rock stations will pick this up. This type of Indie Rock music gets played all the time at the record store I shop at weekly and I am always annoyed when I hear it. There is good interesting Indie stuff out there but HELL OR HIGH WATER is just boring. If you like Smashing Pumpkins with an Indie/Punk flavor then this is for you. If you are looking for any piece of Metal or Hard Rock…..avoid this album! This is my lead candidate for the worst album of 2009.

Favorite Songs: none