In 1987 I was in Year 11 at school. Not long before that I'd become a devotee of hard rock and heavy metal music. There's nothing there surprising for an adolescent male growing up in the country.
At the start I was fuelled by a steady diet of as much AC/DC as I could get my hands on. This was pre-internet folks so this meant saving pennies, recording tracks from the local community radio station and taping LPs from school friends. As a result I know every album from High Voltage through to Blow Up Your Video inside out. They're all fantastic and not as similar as music reviewers might lead you to believe.
From my love of AC/DC came exposure to bands such as Motley Crue, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Bon Jovi, WASP and Queen. It wasn't long before I began to amass a rather awesome collection of copied cassettes and a few prized LPs. One of my most cherished items to this day is the box set of Bon Scott era AC/DC LPs that I got from my Mum at Christmas 1987 – she understood.
But we're not here to talk about AC/DC or any of the aforementioned rock legends. I want to discuss Stryper.
It's no secret that Stryper were ground breaking and quite controversial back in the day. A heavy metal band, dressed in yellow and black spandex, with long hair, with an overt Christian message!? There were conservative religious nutters the world over calling the band everything under the sun. This was at the time when the PMRC led by Tipper Gore were on a mission to send all metal bands and their studded codpieces to hell, or at least somewhere that would mean they would never be heard from again. But none of that mattered to me. You see, whilst I respect their message and every now and then it gives me pause for thought, Stryper is all about the music. They could play, they could sing and they were LOUD.
I was pretty lucky in that Stryper's albums from 1985 (Soldiers Under Command) and 1986 (To Hell With The Devil) were available in Australia on vinyl. On the same label as Bananarama! I had cassette copies from a friend in one of my classes who was a big fan via his church. What he also gave me was a copy of their original EP (The Yellow & Black Attack). Later on this EP was remixed and repackaged with two extra songs but the original mix is much more raw. I managed to score a really nice copy via eBay a couple of years ago.
Plenty of my metal loving contemporaries scoffed at Stryper but I really didn't care. I drew their logo on my bag and school folders beside all the other bands. A logo was important back then! Also, if Iron Maiden could quote the Bible (in Number of The Beast) then what did it matter if Stryper named themselves after a verse (Isaiah 53:5)?
Stryper has two guitarists that play lead and rhythm. They are very much cut from the same musical cloth as Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest in those terms. Robert Sweet is an extremely energetic and flamboyant drummer who fitted in well with contemporaries such as Alex Van Halen and Tommy Lee. And then there was the singing...up high, in tune, with harmonies and very much to the fore. The ballads usually got skipped but then I always did the same with Aerosmith!
Like most bands, Stryper waxed and waned – and then disappeared after 1990 for a few years. They returned in 2005 with the album Reborn. It's not bad, but not great. Following that in 2009 was "Murder By Pride" which was much stronger musically. And then it gets a bit weird. In 2011 they released "The Covering" which is an album of heavy metal and classic rock cover versions. I loved it but always saw it as a bit of fun between their original output. Certainly it showed that they loved all the bands I did – Judas Priest, Dio, Iron Maiden. And then there's the album "Second Coming" which was released in March this year...it's re-recordings of a whole lot of their old songs. The album sounds great, it's blasting in the headphones as I type, but I'm perplexed at why they bothered. The original versions still hold up really well. Perhaps the band thought that the whole re-mastering fad was a joke and took it one step further. All I can hope is that there is a whole original album coming soon.
I think that apart from a Greatest Hits album, I've got everything they've released. That includes their re-release of original demo versions from before the band was called Stryper (they were the Roxx Regime). Yep, I'm a big fan.
Stryper could release an instrumental album and I'd happily buy it. They could sing about the merits of indoor plumbing, fast women or worshipping the dark lord and I really wouldn't care. I put their albums on to hear musicianship, melody and energy. You should too.
Here's a bit of a primer:
Stryper – Loud n' Clear (1984) - http://youtu.be/2_fb3R91GoY
Stryper – Soldiers Under Command (1985) - http://youtu.be/zp5Ahx4wmgQ
Stryper – Calling On You (1986) - http://youtu.be/UI8ylsHKIMg
Stryper – Always There For You (1988) - http://youtu.be/0kiTy_rBtSk
Stryper – Two Time Woman (1990) - http://youtu.be/0kiTy_rBtSk
Stryper – Reborn (2005) - http://youtu.be/p99zo0pY0y0
Stryper – Four Leaf Clover (2009) - http://youtu.be/EzaxOBwDU3Q
Stryper – Heaven & Hell (2011 – Dio cover) - http://youtu.be/Tj8R8_Sz9g4
Stryper – Bleeding From The Inside Out (2013) - http://youtu.be/dt4G2fk-W0E
Stryper live – To Hell With The Devil - http://youtu.be/aNNNOnYp5gA