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Second Coming

Frontiers (2013)
Rating: 8/10

The yellow and black is back! Oh how we knocked, pounded and ridiculed Stryper back in the 80s. Us teenagers were a moronic lot; our jackets daubed in satanic imagery, Stryper were simply an easy target with their pompous, Christian brand of lightweight metal. The facts were of course that I was a secret fan, and often played the California band’s To Hell With The Devil 1986 opus, even if I found some of the ballads a little too slushy.

Even so, decades later, Stryper are back and no-one cares what they believe in; they are simply proof that if you’re a good enough musicians then you can stand the test of time, and with metal back in a big way it means we can welcome such a band back.

Sadly, Second Coming isn’t an all new Stryper record, although it does feature two brand spanking new tracks (‘Blackened’ and ‘Bleeding From The Inside Out’). Instead, Michael Sweet and company have opted to re-record the old classics. I’ve never been a fan of this type of resurrection; Kiss tried it, and while in some aspects it works, you can never better the original records because they were very much part of a time. Sure, a lot of old, particularly 80s metal albums suffered at the hands of grotty production, but it gave such songs a charm, and any real fan would continue to play such records. So, to be presented with a disc of mainly re-recordings, I’m rather sceptical, more so due to the fact that Stryper’s last studio album, 2011’s The Covering, was merely cover versions.

So, the album kicks off with ‘Loud ‘N’ Clear’ which opened up their 1984 debut The Yellow And Black Attack. As one would expect, the production is far crisper; Michael Sweet’s vocals shine like his halo, and the guitars are sweeter to the ears.

‘Loving You’ is given a real kick up the arse this time around; Robert Sweet’s drums are clinical and more cutting, but again, this is what one would expect with today’s technology. It’s also no surprise that the band have chosen six songs from To Hell With The Devil and another six from 1985’s Soldiers Under Command, the best of these being ‘First Love’, ‘The Rock That Makes Me Roll’, ‘To Hell With The Devil’, ‘Calling On You’ and ‘Free’, but it’s a shame Stryper chose to ignore their underrated 1990 record Against The Law which contained some of the band’s heaviest work.

As for the new tracks, well, these bode well for a new album. ‘Bleeding From The Inside Out’ is a reasonably heavy number which features some incredible axe-work, the melody of the chug reminding me of Bad Company’s ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’ (from 1975’s Straight Shooter). Meanwhile, ‘Blackened’ rolls in on more exceptional guitar work and Michael Sweet’s soaring vocal.

Stryper in 2013 could well be a bigger force than they were back in the heavy metal heyday. For a start, there doesn’t seem to be the ignorance within the metal world any more; metal is metal, whatever form it takes, but to see a band as heavily criticized as Stryper churning out this type of melodic metal is great. Maybe re-recording some of the older tracks wasn’t a bad move after all, and I hope that this time round they truly revel in the light they cast all those years ago. In Stryper we trust!

Neil Arnold