No More Hell to Pay-Stryper

6 Nov



One of my major complaints about most modern Christian music is the lack of musicianship in most faith-based bands. That’s why I’ve always been a fan of Stryper. They can more than hold their own against the majority of classic guitar-driven rock/metal groups and do so without all of the dark imagery normally associated with heavy metal. No More Hell To Pay, their latest record, doesn’t really break new ground, offering all of the overdriven guitars, searing harmonies, and Biblically influenced lyrics that fans have come to expect. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s this familiar recipe of heavy power chords, blistering solos, and transcendent vocals that make this album so enjoyable. We’ve all heard this version of Stryper before but never with so much fire and fervor.

Michael Sweet’s voice is strong on this album, and he still can hit those upper stratosphere notes just as well as contemporaries like Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, and Geoff Tate. The twin guitar attack of Sweet and Oz Fox could stand alongside classic duos like DeGarmo/Wilton (Queensryche), Murray/Smith/Gers (Iron Maiden), and even more modern contemporaries like Gates/Vengeance (Avenged Sevenfold). For their part, Tim Gaines (bass) and Robert Sweet (drums) aren’t as visible but their fingerprints are all over this batch of songs as they lay down a solid, heavy groove for Sweet and Fox to riff and solo over with reckless abandon. Over the years, the band has evolved into something more respectable and mature than they showed on previous albums like The Yellow and Black Attack and Against the Law; and nowhere is that more evident than on tracks like “Revelation,” “No More Hell to Pay,” “Te Amo,” and “Water Into Wine.” In fact, the opening riff to “Water Into Wine” is one of the heaviest riffs in their catalogue, and it’s hard not to bang your head a little to that one. Gone are the layers of makeup and ridiculous bumblebee-influenced outfits, leaving behind a finely tuned band that rips through this particular batch of songs like a much younger band of musicians with fire in their bellies and salvation in their hearts.

Personal Favorite: “Te Amo” could stand alongside anything from Iron Maiden’s heyday in the early to mid 80’s (circa Powerslave). The twin harmonies on this one are enough to make guitar purists sit up and take notice.

Misses: “Jesus is Just Alright”-this cover of the old song by The Art Reynolds Singers (made popular by The Doobie Brothers) seemed out of place here and should have been released as a bonus track.

Bottom line: Stryper is a great, heavy band who are technically proficient players and songwriters that use their talents to glorify God. No More Hell to Pay could easily serve as a sequel to their guitar masterpiece To Hell With The Devil. Pick this one up and crank the speakers to 10.


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