So Stryper have returned with their first album of all new material in four years, No More Hell to Pay via Frontiers Records. Now I was a huge fan of 2009’s Murder By Pride, and the subsequent tour was outstanding. My cousin Franc and I had one of the best times ever in NYC that night, and after hearing the Second Coming album earlier this year, it was obvious that the boys still have what it takes to kick some ass in the name of the Lord. But would that translate into another great album of new stuff? Let’s see…
All the trademark elements of good Stryper songs are there right from the first notes of “Revelation”: killer guitar harmonies, pounding drums, and Michael Sweet’s amazing voice. I still can’t believe this man is 50 years old sometimes. The guitar chops on “No More Hell to Pay” are tightly wound, and as usual, the solos from both Sweet and Oz Fox burn pretty hot. “Saved By Love” really turns up the jets with drummer Robert Sweet kicking into overdrive while Michael lets out a few of his signature wails from 1986. The guys have been saying that they had written some heavy stuff this time around, and three songs in they sure weren’t lying.
I have to say, I didn’t know what to make of Stryper’s cover of “Jesus Is Just Alright”. It’s not that they do a bad job; I just wonder if it was necessary with eleven other quality songs on the disc, especially after dropping an album full of covers two years ago. From here we go to an outstanding ballad in “The One”, an instant favorite of mine from the first listen. Michael has never sounded better in my opinion. The reverie is quickly broken by the swinging hammer of “Legacy”, a song that would sound equally at home on Soldiers Under Command as it does here. I love it when two of my favorites are back-to-back. “Marching Into Battle” has been seen live far and wide on YouTube and the studio version doesn’t lack any of the melody and punch, in fact quite the opposite.
We’re back on the speedy train for “Te Amo”. Uhhh…what? You heard me, that’s the name of the song. It’s obviously about love and whether it refers to a person or deity is really for you to decide. All I know is that it’s a good one. “Sticks and Stones” is probably the most melodic and catchy tune of the bunch, especially the chorus, and the solo also really stands out. As far as “Water Into Wine” goes there really wasn’t a hook to latch onto, so it really didn’t grab me, but “Sympathy” is a heavy, solid rocker that picks things back up nicely.
Last song “Renewed” really finishes what Stryper started on track one and that is an album that truly showcases the best of classic metal with a fresh sound. It pretty much has all the right moves and grooves and Michael Sweet’s production is flawless, the mix is perfect. No More Hell to Pay is some of the band’s heaviest and strongest work to date, and after 30 years I don’t think they’re anywhere close to being done. Not if they can keep cranking out the good stuff.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Sticks and Stones”, “The One”, “Legacy”, “No More Hell to Pay”, “Revelation”, “Renewed”