It's been 31 years since Michael Sweet's stratospheric tenor first paved the way for his band's unprecedented success. Unprecedented because prior to Stryper, no rock group unleashing an unadulterated Christian message had ever enjoyed the mainstream success that Sweet (along with his brother Robert, Oz Fox and Tim Gaines) cultivated by 1986. The quartet's trademarks—tossing Bibles into the crowd at concerts; a sound evoking Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest; yellow and black spandex; and a misspelled moniker derived from Isaiah 53:5 ("With his stripes we are healed")—set Stryper apart as something unique in the then-crowded hair metal scene.
Three decades and 11 studio albums later, Stryper has weathered the end of the Aqua Net era, backlash from mainstream and Christian critics alike, breaking up and reforming, the death of Michael Sweet's first wife from ovarian cancer in 2009 and the constantly shifting stylistic winds of change in the music industry. And while the band doesn't enjoy the same level of influence these days, Sweet and his fellow survivors are still pummeling faithful fans with a ferocious yellow-and-black attack that's unmistakably Stryper … and absolutely focused on Jesus.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
"King of Kings" asks boldly, "Do you believe in God?/Do you accept His mercy?/Or is He just a fairy tale?/Is Christ a fraud?/Or is He true and worthy?/Is He the One you choose to hail?" The song answers those questions by declaring, "He is the King of Kings/And the Lord of Lords/He died at Calvary/So we can live forevermore."
Three songs paraphrase biblical stories. "Let There Be Light" offers the story of creation from Genesis. "Fallen" tells of Lucifer's fall from heaven as chronicled in Ezekiel 28 and Luke 10 ("You were filled with pride because you were so beautiful/Your wisdom was corrupted for the sake of your splendor/You were cast down to the ground, exposed before the kings/ … Now you're fallen, fallen, fallen"). And "Yahweh" narrates Jesus' crucifixion.
"After Forever" is a cover of Black Sabbath's 1971 song, written by that band's bassist and chief lyricist, Geezer Butler. Amazingly, it (in its original form and again as it's screamed out by Stryper) calls people to consider submitting their lives to Jesus Christ. "Have you ever thought about your soul?" the track begins. "Can it be saved?/Or perhaps you think that when you're dead/You just stay in your grave?" Later we hear, "Well I have seen the truth, yes, I've seen the light/And I've changed my ways." It tells unbelievers, "I think it was true/It was people like you that crucified Christ." And the conclusion is a call to submission and belief in God ("Perhaps you'll think before you say/That God is dead and gone/Open your eyes/Just realize that He's the One/The only One who can save you/Now from all this sin and hate").
"Love You Like I Do" seems to be written from God's perspective as it reminds the faithful, "No one will love you like I do/If only you'd just believe that." "The Calling" instructs us to persevere in pursuing purpose "because you have the calling." "Till I Get What I Need" models determination ("It ain't over till it's done/ … I won't break, I'm not gonna breach/Until I make my mark").
"Pride" counsels against letting fear, jealousy and unforgiveness undermine relationships. "All Over Again" tells a woman (Sweet has since remarried since his first wife's death), "No matter how high or low/I'm gonna let you know, baby/If I had the chance to do it all again/No, I wouldn't change a thing/ … I'd do it all again with you."
"Big Screen Lies" dissects the way Hollywood entertainment often meanly caricatures Christians. "You've got to love how they portray Christianity," Sweet sings. "Just a freak, another fool, for the world to see/Twisting and distorting all, making money, too/Mocking everything that's said, they don't have a clue, no!/Big screen lies, it's not surprise/I'm getting wise to the big screen lies."
Michael Sweet recently told blabbermouth.net, "I do not like being referred to as a Christian rock band. We're not a Christian rock band; we are a rock band comprised of Christians."
Sometimes when musicians take issue with that Christian label, it's because they're looking for lyrical loopholes, escape hatches and ways to obfuscate their faith. That's not Sweet's deal. Amid a pummeling, old-school metal assault, his band's music could hardly be more focused on biblical themes.
"We’ve always been a band that’s gone out of our way to wave the flag that God is cool, and not only cool, but the Creator of all things," Michael Sweet told audioinkradio.com. "Aside from that, people say it’s an oxymoron to mix metal with Christian lyrics, and we’re trying to break that apart and destroy that mentality because it’s just not true. I feel God created all things, and therefore, He created music. So, it makes perfect sense to me to mix the two. It should be done more than the devil and metal being mixed, in my opinion, but for some reason, people have this thing that metal is all about the devil. It’s ridiculous. Stryper's trying to debunk that."