Stryper “No More Hell to Pay”
Review By: Jack McKissock
For my first foray into the CD reviewing business, I’ve chosen the newest release from Stryper. Their latest effort is called “No More Hell To Pay.” Back in the MTV/80’s hard rock-style heyday there was no more polarizing band than Stryper. Not for their outrageous stage shows, or drug-related antics, but simply because of the subject matter they chose to write and sing about. The predecessors to Tim Tebow, if you will. Unlike Tim Tebow, however, and what seemed to get lost in all the hoopla, was and is the fact that these boys can actually play.
Stryper made their way through the 80’s and early 90’s with soaring vocals, catchy hooks and lots and lots of guitar solos. Then when the bottom fell out of the era, they faded away for about a decade. When they re-emerged they did so with the solid CDs “Reborn” and “Murder by Pride.” Then in 2011 they did what a lot of other bands have done, releasing a CD of all covers. Their nod to the old school was not only great in the song choices but in the execution of those songs. I recently did an interview with Richard Williams, the original and current guitarist for Kansas, and asked him his favorite Kansas cover. His reply? Stryper’s version of “Carry on My Wayward Son.”
I saw the band for the first time in years at a show in Fort Lauderdale on the “Covering” tour, and was completely blown away by Michael Sweet’s voice. I’ve said it many times since that night: “I would pay cash money to hear him sing the phone book.”
I’ve been looking forward to their newest CD to see if it could match the energy of their live shows and carry on the momentum from “The Covering.”
“No More Hell to Pay” starts off with a song called “Revelation.” The song itself starts with a Michael Sweet and Oz Fox twin guitar solo-ish lead. The drums and bass kick in, and the engine is revving. It’s then time for Michael Sweet to start singing and….Ladies and gentlemen the captain has turned on the fasten seat belt signs because we are flying!
For the next fifty-plus minutes Stryper takes you on an aerial assault of huge harmonies, grinding guitar riffs, and mind-and-note bending solos. The highlights include the title track “No More Hell To Pay,” “Legacy,” “Te Amo,” “Sympathy,” and their cover of the Doobie Brothers “Jesus Is Just Alright.” Which begs the question… what took them so long to cover that song?
The pinnacle of the CD is the ballad “The One.” Michaels Sweet’s vocal performance on this song is simply incredible. This song shows off his range and emotion.
“No More Hell To Pay” is Stryper’s finest hour. It sounds like them through and through and they pull it off without sounding dated. If the genre had been allowed to grow and mature from the early 90’s until now, I’m pretty sure this is exactly what it would sound like. Will this CD sell a million copies or get the respect it deserves? Probably not. But miracles do happen, don’t they?
Jack McKissock can be heard all over the world on Power Chord, a two-hour show that airs on the iTunes-licensed station Yoo-Rock.