Stryper’s bio begins with the following words: “Heavy metal certainly has no shortage of rebels. It seems like everybody’s rebelling against something, and that’s part of the genre’s allure. However, the most rebellious thing anybody can do is to hold steadfast to personal beliefs and never waver. Stryper indisputably do both. They’re not shy about their Christian beliefs, but they’re also consistently as heavy as any of the genre’s pillars”. FALLEN (2015, Frontiers Records) is their eleventh, and latest, full-length original album. It was produced by Michael Sweet and executive produced by his wife Lisa Champagne-Sweet. Stryper is: Michael Sweet (lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitars), Robert Sweet (drums, visual timekeeping), Timothy Gaines (bass, vocals), and Oz Fox (lead and rhythm guitars, vocals). On this album, Paul McNamara is responsible for keyboards, synth, and Moog.
First up is ‘Yahweh’, the album’s longest song, coming in at 6:21. Michael Sweet and Clint Lowery wrote it, while Laura Manzi contributes additional vocals on the chorus. The song was inspired by the movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and recalls His torture and death: “A crown of thorns, it was placed on His head/They clothed Him in purple and stated their case/’He is the King of the Jews’/As they slapped His face.../And so, the soldiers took Jesus/Dragging His cross to a place where He knew/They hung a sign that would read/’The King of the Jews’/They nailed His flesh to the wood/He said ‘It is finished’/And laid down His life/Gave up His Spirit for all/He was crucified/Yahweh”. The title track, ‘Fallen’, is one of eight songs penned solely by Michael Sweet. It speaks of how Lucifer was cast out of Heaven and is now doomed: “You used to be so blameless from the day you came to be/Unrighteousness, it reared its evil face inside of you/You were once anointed, when you walked the music played/Like lightning from the sky/You were forever thrown from Heaven too/Now you’re fallen, fallen, fallen/The end is calling, calling, fallen”.
‘Pride’ talks of relationship restoration and one factor that can stand in the way: “Two friends who shared the past/No one could have guessed that it wouldn’t last, no/I know it can be restored/If forgiveness is something that’s never ignored, no/We can’t let fear and jealousy take everything that we should be/We can’t let life just pass us by/We’ve got to let it ride/Tell me why?/Pride!/Tell me why (3X)”. ‘Big Screen Lies’ objects to how Christians are depicted in movies: “You’ve got to love how they portray Christianity/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 no surprise/I’m getting wise to the big screen lies”.
‘Heaven’ is all about grit and determination: “I’m still standing even though I’ve been to hell and back/Taking off and landing with my heart in place and faith intact/I won’t give up, even though the odds they tell me to/I’m here with a purpose/Every word I say and thing I do/My destiny will never die, no/I’ll never guess or wonder why/I choose Heaven!/Accession/I choose Heaven!” ‘Love You Like I Do’ is one of two songs Michael Sweet and Oz Fox co-wrote. This one finds God talking to us: “You’ve only seen just a glimpse of Me/So you just can’t leave Me now/I want to show you the world I see/But you just can’t leave Me now/I’ve got it all, what you want and need/But you just can’t leave Me now/No one will love you like I do/If only you’d just believe that/No one will ever look at you/The way that I do/Love you like I do”.
‘All Over Again’ is a touching modern country/rock ballad: “I’ve made my choices and I’ll take the blame for everything I do/My heart rejoices cause there ain’t no shame when you let love through/No matter how high or low/I’ve gotta let you know, baby/If I had the chance to do it all again/I wouldn’t change a thing, no I wouldn’t change a thing/I’ve lived the life of a thousand men/With the honor of a king/And I’d do it all over again”. Next up is a cover of Black Sabbath’s 1971 song ‘After Forever’. It is certainly thought provoking: “Have you ever thought about your soul/Can it be saved?/Or perhaps you think that when you’re dead/You just stay in your grave/Is God just a thought within your head or is He a part of you?/Is Christ just a name that you read in a book/When you were in school?.../Could it be you’re afraid of what your friends might say if they knew you believed in God above?/They should realize before they criticize that God is the only way to love”.
‘Till I Get What I Need’ is a first person story song: “I came in in sixty three with a song in my head/I grew up impatiently thinking too far ahead/With no choice I started to voice everything I believed/I knew young that I was the one who would never retrieve/No, till I get what I need (2X)/Till I get what I need”. ‘Let There Be Light’ is drawn straight out of Genesis 1: “On the first day He made Heaven/Then Earth and said ‘Let there be light’/And then He separated the water from the sky/The ground becomes land and water became the seas/And He was pleased/Trees would take root, live to bear fruit/Let there be light, day and a night/Stars shining bright/Let there be light”.
‘The Calling’ is a song of encouragement: “When all the lights go out/And it’s impossible to find your way, yeah/We start believing doubt/All our weaknesses are on display, yeah/It’s as good or as bad as you want it to be/Keep running for the line/And looking for a sign/The planets will align/Because you have the calling”. Last up is ‘King of Kings’. It includes these straight up lyrics: “Do you believe in God?/Do you accept His mercy or is He just a fairytale?/Is Christ a fake or a fraud?/Or is He true and worthy?/Is He the One you choose to hail?/He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords/He died at Calvary so we can live forevermore”.
FALLEN is, simply put, a perfect Christian album! The lyrics leave no question who the band puts their faith and trust in. This album extols Jesus Christ as Lord and God. He shares His sovereignty with no other gods. Not only did He create the planet we call home, but He is still actively involved with His creation and creatures today! This album also leaves no doubt as to the fact that Satan is our enemy, but he has already been defeated in the grand scheme of things. Musically, the majority of the 12 songs here are heavy metal and hard rock in nature. Blazing electric guitars, Michael Sweet’s signature screams, occasional group harmonies, and an overall passionate delivery prove that Stryper has still got what it takes and is not slowing down at all. Lyrics are included with the CD, but for the most part, you can decipher them without needing to read them. The cover artwork of Lucifer being cast out of Heaven by God’s hand is splendid, and is in keeping with the TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL theme the band is widely known for. I’m rating FALLEN 100%. For more info visit: www.stryper.com and www.frontiers.it.