Raise your hand if you’re a YUUUGE STRYPER fan like me. Now, raise your hand if you loved both 2009’s Murder By Pride and 2013’s No More Hell to Pay. Bonus points for any of you who caught one or both tours (double bonus if you also saw them in support of 2011’s The Covering, like me). Well, faithful devotees it is now 2015 and the boys in yellow and black return with new album Fallen (Oct 16, Frontiers Music), twelve tracks that not only have the band’s classic sound on full display but also take the heaviness of the last disc and feed it a steroid-infused cocktail. If it’s possible, STRYPER’S riffs and beats are stronger and heavier than ever before.
The first three tracks, opener “Yahweh” (complete with choral intro), title track “Fallen”, and “Pride” are an exercise in killer riffage, dual harmonized solos, rock solid bass lines, and thunderous drumming. The ante has been upped for sure this time around. Vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet even sounds angry at times, especially on that last one, but his voice never wavers and his aim is true. And on the subject of “Yahweh” it just might be the grittiest and hardest-hitting song this band has ever recorded. A six-minute plus anthem co-written with SEVENDUST’S Clint Lowery it has gallop for days and should also be the tour opener.
“Love You Like I Do” is very reminiscent of the STRYPER of old and was an instant standout for obvious reasons. Oz Fox and Sweet take me back to bygone days every time I fire this one up. Bassist Tim Gaines and drummer Robert Sweet are totally synched up here, then the solo grabs hold of you and simply refuses to let go for the remainder of the song. This is immediately followed by a country-tinged ballad titled “All Over Again” whose stellar arrangement is surpassed only by Sweet’s soaring vocals. Definitely one of the nicest slow tunes they’ve ever written.
I was NOT prepared for what came next…a cover of BLACK SABBATH’S “After Forever” that knocked my socks off, turned them inside out, placed them back on my feet, then put my shoes on backwards!! Man oh man, when STRYPER does a cover it’s pretty much a guaranteed winner, but this is a home run that again, would be great to hear live. Another thing these guys excel at is making pedal-to-the-metal driving anthems guaranteed to get you stopped by one John Q. Law whenever you hear it. I’m gonna start sending them a bill for all the speeding tickets I get from “Till I Get What I Need” and “Let There Be Light” which showcases ANOTHER ripping dual solo.
“The Calling” and closer “King of Kings” perfectly balance the essence and feel of STRYPER from 1986 with the heavier side they’ve been favoring lately and the results are smashing. I mean really, at this point is anyone actually surprised that this band can still kick ass with the best of them thirty-plus years later? I’m certainly not. All I know is that Fallen is a fine addition to STRYPER’S majestic catalog and whatever songs they choose to do live will fit perfectly alongside the older stuff.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Love You Like I Do”, “Yahweh”, “After Forever”, “All Over Again”, “Till I Get What I Need”, “The Calling”