A press release says: “Stryper are back to reclaim their throne in the hard rock/heavy metal world with the release of their 8th studio album...” NO MORE HELL TO PAY was released in 2013 on Frontiers Records. It debuted at Number Two on the Contemporary Christian chart and Number 33 on the Top 200 Billboard chart. Today, Stryper is comprised of all four original members: Michael Sweet (lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitar), Robert Sweet (drums, visual timekeeping), Oz Fox (lead and rhythm guitar, vocals), and Timothy Gaines (bass, vocals). On this latest album Paul McNamara plays additional keys and synths. Of the album title, Michael Sweet says that the hells we face on earth include addiction, financial ruin, and losing somebody”. He adds: “When we get to heaven, there’s no more hell to pay”. He also produced the much hyped album.
‘Revelation’ is the terrific hard rock opener. It is written from the perspective of Jesus Christ and features some of the boldest lyrics ever from Stryper: “I’m, I’m coming like a thief at night/You, you’re out of time so make it right/There will be no more apologies/Cause My, My wrath/Will spread like a disease/There’s a revelation/It’s coming after you/Without hesitation/It’s gonna bring the truth”. ‘No More Hell to Pay’ is a very strong title track penned by the Sweet brothers. It is a song about diehard commitment to Christ no matter what: “I am taking it a day at a time/And I don’t care what the doubting voices say/I am lifting up the Name that will shine/And the light of heaven’s brighter every day/Oh, I know that it’s rough/Though I know there is pain/Even so when it’s tough/I will not be ashamed/If the dawn reveals the end of days/I’ll follow You till there’s/No more hell to pay”.
‘Saved By Love’ is very fast-paced and opens with a signature scream by Michael Sweet. The song offers hope to the weary: “We can’t forget what brought us this far/It’s heaven sent, beyond the big star/Just when we’re feeling that we’re going down/We can’t go on anymore/We’re restored/We’re saved by love/We’re saved by love”. ‘Jesus is Just Alright’ was penned by Arthur Reid Reynolds. Many of my readers will be familiar with the Doobie Brothers version from 1972. Others may prefer DC TALK’s 1992 version. Stryper now puts a fun heavy metal spin on the song that will have you stomping your feet with glee. Here are some of the simple words: “Jesus is just alright with me, Jesus is just alright, oh yeah/Jesus is just alright with me/Jesus is just alright/I don’t care what they may say/I don’t care what they may do/I don’t care what they may say/Jesus is just alright, oh yeah/Jesus is just alright.../Jesus, He’s my best friend (2X)/He took me by the hand, led me far from this broken land/Jesus, Jesus, He’s my best friend”.
Next up is ‘The One’. It is the album’s only ballad and it’s a good one. It is a love song for Michael’s wife Lisa: “I say with a smile/All I should with a word/And you’ve stayed for a while/It’s bordering on absurd/Cause that’s your glory and pains my story/But grace is what I’d prefer/Oh, you still move me/You will always be the one”. ‘Legacy’ finds Stryper in heavy metal heaven. The vocals are gritty and the guitars are meaty. This song encourages us to think on things eternal: “We’ve built an empire/That in the end we can’t take with us/We walk the high wire/We cross the boundaries/And that’s our rush/Oh, but when we step/Beyond the other side/There will be nothing to hide/What’s our legacy?/Will we be humbled/Far beyond our pride?/Or are we in for a rough ride?/What’s our legacy?”
Michael Sweet wrote the original version of ‘Marching Into Battle’ when he was sixteen. The song has evolved into a real fist-pumping rocker that has direct end time lyrics that would make Jack and Rexella Van Impe proud: “I saw the heavens open/And behold a white horse/The One that was sitting upon him/Was called faithful and true/His eyes were like two burning flames/And on His head a gold crown/He wore a vesture of blood/With a Name nobody knew/Marching into battle (3X)”. The next track is called ‘Te Amo’ which is Spanish for ‘I Love You’. These lyrics praise a human love interest: “You were there when I could sense no other soul/And you cared when I was down and letting go/You’re an angel that came down to earth to be/The saving grace/To help this non-believer see/There is more, so much more/Hidden deep beneath this land of stone/Now it’s known, I’m not alone”.
‘Sticks & Stones’ has a melodic chorus that should serve as a battle cry for those who have been wounded by another: “Sticks and stones may break my bones/But words will never hurt me, so they say/Oh well, yours hurt like hell/I’m a fighter on the mend/And I will rise above the world you spin/You fail, I wish you well”. Michael Sweet says the next song ‘Water Into Wine’ has an AC/DC vibe to it. Lyrically, it reminds us that we have an important choice to make when it comes to responding to Christ: “He turned water into wine/And made the blind man see/He cast devils out, into swine/He’s came to set you free/The road to hell is wide, but heaven’s narrow/Will we stop tryin’ to hide or be like Pharoah?”
Dave Mustaine, who is the founding guitarist/vocalist of Megadeth and the original lead guitarist for Metallica, is a fan of the catchy song ‘Sympathy’. Michael Sweet says that we need to give each other more sympathy and not be so quick to judge. Here are some of the song’s words: “Set in stone and sealed, I seem unbreakable/I’m forgiven-I forgive/As hearts degrade/Can I find some sympathy?/As mercy fades/I am blind but I just want to see”. The closing track still finds Stryper rocking out. The message is one of surrendering to Almighty God: “I’ve been running, I’ve been gone/Not forthcoming for so long/Disillusioned, heartless too/Convoluted, through and through/But I’m giving myself up and over to You/Take me, shape me/Break me, make me renewed”. The song is called ‘Renewed’.
NO MORE HELL TO PAY is an album that most definitely lives up to its hype. It is the best Stryper record in years. Michael Sweet’s vocals are stronger than ever. The electric guitar work is absolutely hot. It is encouraging to see these guys still so passionate about their faith and their music after all these years! The album artwork and band and individual photos are very professionally done. Stryper continues to be a light in a dark place and for that I am grateful. I’m rating NO MORE HELL TO PAY 97%.
The deluxe edition of the album comes with a 21 minute behind the scenes documentary look at the making of the album and the meanings of the songs. The dvd also includes official music videos for ‘No More Hell to Pay’ and ‘Sympathy’. You can catch Stryper live at the Rockpile West and the Rockpile East in Toronto April 24th and 25th, 2014. For more info visit: www.stryper.com and www.frontiers.it.