Sunday Old School: Stryper
Stryper is a Christian glam metal band that wears their religion on their sleeves (via stripes). The mid eighties were good for Stryper, enjoying platinum and gold record sales as well as mainstream acceptance as a Christian band. After initial success their hair also got bigger. The “big hair” led to a decrease in record sales, proving that God does have a sense of humor.
Stryper was formed in Orange County, California. The original members include Michael Sweet (lead vocals, guitar), Oz Fox (guitar), Tim Gaines (bass), and Robert Sweet (drums). The band was initially named Roxx Regime, changed shortly after to Stryper, to reflect the band’s beliefs. Fun Fact: C. C. Deville (Poison) was almost in the band. (Did God use a veto here?) They were inspired by rock bands such as Van Halen, but wanted to project their beliefs. The band name was from a Bible passage in Isaiah 53:5, “By his stripes we are healed.” The passage became part of the band’s logo. In 1984 they released an EP titled ‘The Yellow and Black Attack’ and opened for Ratt and Bon Jovi. Their first full-length album, ‘Soldiers Under Command’, was released in 1985 and was the band’s first gold record. Due to the success, ‘The Yellow and Black Attack’ was re-released as an LP.
In 1986 Stryper’s third album, ‘To Hell with the Devil’, went platinum after spending three months on the Billboard’s album charts. The songs “Calling on You”, “Free”, and “Honestly” were major MTV video hits, both “Free” and “Honestly” became most-requested songs on the show Dial MTV. The videos for “Calling On You” and “Free” both showcased the band on stage (“Free” in front of a crowd, “Calling On You” on stage in an empty arena). The stage show was a lot of guitars, smiles, and hair. The video for the ballad “Honestly” starts with a dramatic piano piece and then random shots of the band sitting around in tight jeans and touring Europe. The dressing room shot (fresh fruit everywhere) and the funny hats resting on top of the Aqua Net approved hairdos are worth checking out.
In addition to the yellow and black stripes, Stryper threw Bibles to concert crowds. They also promoted the numerical symbol “777” as supposed to the “666”, the number of the beast associated with the devil and embraced by other metal bands. Due to their religious beliefs and brand of music the band brought with them controversy. Even Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart was not a fan, referring to Stryper’s distribution of Bibles at their shows as “casting pearls before swine”; the interesting side-note to this is that the band was supported by rival Televangelist Jim Bakker, who is thanked on several Stryper albums. (Clearly Swaggart was jealous he wasn’t one of the cool kids.)
The next album, ‘In God We Trust’, was released on 1988 and also went gold. The song “Always There for You” was another MTV hit for the band. The video begins with the band in a helicopter. On stage, the band had mastered the hip “shimmy, shimmy” move and almost looked bored. Fans and critics both agreed that ‘In God We Trust’ was more glam than metal and had too much of an over-produced “pop” sound. The second single, “I Believe in You” peaked at No. 88 and the third single, “Keep the Fire Burning” failed to chart at all.
In 1990 Stryper released ‘Against the Law’ which was a change from the band’s image. No God and no yellow and black. Not Stryper. The purpose was to distance them from the glam scene; however, the plan backfired, further alienating their fans who feared the band lost their faith. (Note: As if often the case, critics of the album disagreed with the fans, considering it one of the strongest albums from their catalog.) In 1991 the band released a greatest hits album and then in 1992 Michael Sweet departed the band citing artistic differences. The band continued as a trio for a little while before eventually going their separate ways. Meanwhile, Michael Sweet enjoyed success as a solo artist; achieving five number one Christian hit singles and three number one rock singles. Oz Fox and Tim Gaines formed the band SinDizzy and Robert Sweet played in the bands Blissed, King James, dbeality, Final Axe, and Seventh Power.
In 2000 the Stryper reunited and took the stage. In 2003 the band recorded two new tracks from a best of compilation. A tour 36 show and live album followed. Gaines departed the band in 2004, Tracy Ferrie replaced him. ‘Reborn’ was released in 2005, the band’s first full-length album in fifteen years. The lyrics returned to the theme of God. ‘Murder by Pride’ was released in 2009 and in 2011, ‘The Covering’ an album of songs covered by Stryper was released.
On November 5 of this year, Stryper released ‘No More Hell to Pay’, marking a return to their metal roots with heavy guitars and Michael Sweet hooks. Despite less hair or less hair spray the band sounds better than ever. The Lord works in mysterious ways…
Calling On You
Always There For You
No More Hell To Pay
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