With a career spanning over 30 years, and with a touring history that includes groups such as Bride, Testament, and Mad Max, Stryper is a band of legendary proportions, and they have been busy recently. In 2013 alone they have released a re-recording album by the name Second Coming with two all new songs on the record, Blackened and Bleeding from Inside Out, are in the process of recording a brand new album, and are planning on an extensive touring cycle throughout 2013 and leading into 2014. All this is just proof that after 30 years Stryper is still very much alive and kicking.
Stryper has already released one new song to the world with their album Second Coming. Second Coming primarily features re-recordings of tracks the first three albums by Stryper, Yellow and Black Attack, Soldiers Under Command, and To Hell With the Devil. Michael Sweet, lead vocalist and guitarist for the band has his thoughts on the matter. “We set out to re-record these records to do it for our publishing company, just to retain rights. So we focused on the fan favorites, the most popular songs and this was an opportunity to fix those things that had bothered us for 30 years.”
The re-recordings include songs like To Hell With the Devil, and Calling on You along with 12 other re-recorded tracks. The reason behind these tracks in specific, other than the fact they are fan favorites holds different reasons for Sweet as he explains. “Each for different reasons. There were things that bothered us on every record. On the first album (Yellow and Black Attack) we just didn’t like the production, there just wasn’t enough bas and I d didn’t care for the guitar tones or the way I sang it. So I got to rectify that and on the second album, Soldiers Under Command, again there was no bass as well as a feeling that everything was swimming around too much. On To Hell With The Devil I had bass, but the cymbals were gated accidentally so it sounded like Robert was choking every cymbal, which he wasn’t. There were things that just really annoyed me to listen to; so you can’t go fixing those things with mastering, you have to actually re-record them.”
Michael also discussed some of the decision-making behind the scenes of making the album and the song choice. “You know, the one song…the one regret I have from The Yellow and Black Attack was not re-recording You Know What to Do six from Soldiers Under Command… But the six from To Hell With the Devil I think are dead on the money. We did not re-record Honestly, because we had just done so with Cleopatra Records so there is a re-record clause in our contract with them, and that is why we didn’t do that otherwise we would have. But it was just basic; we wanted to focus on a select number of songs. We didn’t want to get in over our heads in terms of scheduling, time and money, so that’s why we focused on the first three albums.”
However, this album doesn’t contain only re-recordings. There are actually two brand new songs off this album, Blackened and Bleeding from Inside Out. These two songs are still very much Stryper style songs, but are a little heavier and grittier tracks than maybe some previous material by the band. And that is what we can come to expect with the new Stryper material on this upcoming record. “The song God,” states Sweet, “which is on The Covering; if you took that song along with Bleeding from Inside Out and Blackened, and you put it on the same album, that’s a pretty good indication of where we are going and where we are at right now. But at the same time this album is all its own.”
Basically, the new material is going to be some of the heaviest material from Stryper we have ever seen, even heavier than To Hell With the Devil which is saying something. “Every song has a hooky guitar riff,” enthuses Sweet. “Everything is in minor keys, so it’s a little darker sounding and a little tougher. It’s definitely our heaviest record and I think people will be pleasantly surprised.”
A warning though, Stryper is known for its heaviness but they are also known for a poppier sound to their music in songs like Calling on You, and this album isn’t really for that part of the Stryper fan base.
“The people who do like the poppier side of Stryper like Calling on You Holding On, this record isn’t going to really give them that,” states Sweet. “There are a lot of vocal hooks and melodies going on but it’s a little darker, and a little edgier. To reference, there is less songs like Calling on You and more songs like To Hell with the Devil. It’s more in that vein than the poppier vein.”
With this new album coming up there is, as you’d expect, a tour coming shortly after its release. As of now there are a little over 20 U.S. tour dates in store for the band and to some this may not seem like a lot but Sweet feels a little differently. “We are only doing a select few shows and next year we are going to focus a lot on tour dates; both European and domestic.” Also with this tour, the band is planning on recording a live show and DVD of both a performance and of a rehearsal; mistakes and all, in November. Sweet went on to say that during the rehearsals, the band, as you’d expect, will work through already recorded pieces but also some new material as well so be prepared for that around the end of the year.
In regards to touring, Stryper is known for having toured with some amazing bands in the past but there are some acts that Stryper would still like to tour with. “There are so many bands,” enthused Sweet, “but I’d love to tour with Megadeth. As for other bands, it’s always been a dream of ours to tour with KISS and also, the infamous Heaven and Hell tour; whoever that ‘hell’ band was, would be awesome. With Stryper representing heaven, and whoever was representing hell, would be incredible. Obviously, Black Sabbath and Stryper would be the ultimate Heaven and Hell Tour.”
Regardless of who Stryper ends up going on the road with, just the fact that such an amazing band is on the road with new material nonetheless, is the opportunity of a lifetime for any Stryper fan in the year 2013.
On a more opinionated ending, a final question to the Stryper frontman had to do with an increase in popularity of Christianity to Christian metal bands in the metal genre in the past few years. Being one of the first bands to represent a Christian theme in their music, though they do not claim themselves as a ‘Christian rock/metal band’, Sweet thought a moment and said, “I think it’s great, though I don’t think there should really be groups and labels, or a wall placed to divide Christian music and mainstream music. I mean music is music in my opinion, and I never really understood that you have bands that are blatantly satanic, or at least they claim to be, but they aren’t called ‘satanic metal’ bands, they are just called metal bands. But yet Christian music is classified and put in box and labeled as Christian. I never really got that, I just don’t understand it at all. Music is music, a rock band’s a rock band, a metal band is a metal band, and Stryper’s a rock/metal band, not a Christian rock band. We’re not a this, we’re not a that, where a band. But, I think it’s great that those doors are opening wider and people’s views are changing as they are; that Christian music is more accepted, respected, and known the world over. I think it’s awesome.
So, needless to say, this year is going to be a busy year for Stryper. With one record already released, Second Coming, and one on the way, we can expect a lot in new material from the band but they don’t stop at just two new albums. There touring schedule is also pretty full, with 20 plus shows already in the mix for the 2013 touring year. The band also has a live CD and DVD to tape, along with a rehearsal, later this year and next year the band’s touring schedule is even heavier with both U.S. dates and European dates in the mix. Stryper celebrates their 30th anniversary since their formation as a band this year, and they haven’t done so without a bang.