With this energy and such powerful vocals, it's hard to believe that they have been around for so long. Tired? It's evidently not a word they know.
Label: Frontiers Records
Time: 12 Tracks / 51 minutes
What a strange time to come good. Metal pioneers in the MTV age, Stryper's bee-baiting spandex got them noticed and their sound was as strong as the vision. But over the years since, they have hardly been an essential part of a Christian rock collection. It seems quite late for a resurgence, but that is what this is. Maybe it's the synergy of the original line-up, maybe it's the new label – although neither of those factors on their own would make this such a strident piece of rock.
“Revelation” is an explosive start that sounds so much like Violet Burning, but with a killer riff and superb extra layers of guitar. The whole thing is taut and emotionally-charged. That solo starts as it goes on: licking the tongue of feedback and going in all the right places (but not predictably), this is what happens when you ignite talent and experience with the fuse of passion.
The title track shows the same spirit and switches the attention from the immense duelling guitars to vocalist Michael Sweet, whose Boston credentials fly like a huge flag swaying over his head. His vocal performance across this disc is nothing short of stunning. Other classic rock influences show throughout the collection: “Marching into Battle” has a Rainbow-like chorus; “Te Amo”'s frenetic pace (and Joe Walsh licks) makes it seem like filler in comparison; and bits of Tony Iommi-coloured guitar work pop up from time to time.
“Saved By Layughauerrrer” - or perhaps that's meant to be 'Love' – powers up the tempo and picks up an Iron Maiden-like riff. In places, the speed ironically takes away some of the energy for parts of the song, which reaches its peak at the very end, where an accelerating riff meets Fox on supercharged falsetto.
And so it goes on: great track after great track. “Legacy” has a chorus that is another Boston-alike piece (think “More than a Feeling”'s tougher, take-no-nonsense older brother). Jesus-tribute "Water into Wine" has a classic riff that won't fade out of your head; "The One" is a textbook metal ballad, where vocals take the riff duties; and “Sticks and Stones” has a nicely grungy undercurrent.
Halfway through, a cover of “Jesus is Just Alright” changes the feel, as its distinctive historical structure stands apart from the relentless riffing of their own original material, but even here, they have made the song their own. In the light of this crunchy version, even the Doobie Brothers and Eric Clapton sound particularly thin.
Song titles – like the whole package – are quite clear about where Stryper is coming from. Praise of God, big themes of faith, and songs of passionate dedication deserve this sort of music, big on power, skill and energy.
Most tracks have bass runs that lift the impetus and the rhythm section drives tracks like “Sticks and Stones,” but what makes this album great is not the many individual bits, but that the complete unit plays in beautiful synchronicity.