Fireworks

Stryper - 'No More Hell To Pay' Hot

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Written by Central Electronic Brain     December 22, 2013    
 
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Those who have kept the faith will be well rewarded.

It was only in January this year that I was talking to Stryper frontman Michael Sweet about the band's CD of re-recorded songs, 'Second Coming', at which point they were still touring heavily and had only just started thinking about writing for the next original album. Just over six months later I'm reviewing the finished product and Michael's claim that it would be the album they should have made after 'To Hell With The Devil' isn't too far off the mark. Darker and using lots of minor chords, 'No More Hell To Pay' is heavier and rocks almost relentlessly from beginning to end, but without diluting the trademark twin guitar harmonies, huge choruses and layered vocals that have always made them so melodic.

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Oddly for such a fast-paced album, it starts with two of the more mid-paced songs in 'Revelation' and the title track, both with dense, heavy riffs, fluid solos and a few high-pitched screams, which Michael Sweet does on most tracks to prove that he still can. The superb power ballad 'The One' is pretty much the only time they take their collective feet off the gas, with tricky guitar parts and thundering drums as the backbone of the breathless trio 'Saved By Love', 'Legacy' and 'Renewed'. 'Jesus Is Just Alright' is a great version of an old 60s standard made famous by The Byrds and a US hit for The Doobie Brothers, whilst the best and most melodic of all the songs may well be the irresistible 'Te Amo' or the hook-laden 'Sympathy'. The only part of this album I'm not convinced by is the chorus of 'Marching Into Battle', which is too close to European power metal for its own good, but the rest is faultless and true to the band's original vision.

Michael Sweet's powerful production is another highlight, along with his and Oz Fox's excellent guitar work, the controlled violence of Robert Sweet's drums and the satisfyingly audible bass of Tim Gaines, enjoying his most prominent position in the mix of any Stryper release. Will this album have the same impact that 'Soldiers Under Command' or 'To Hell With The Devil' had back in the mid-80s? No, probably not! Times and itinerant music tastes have moved on since then. However, Stryper are one of the few bands from our favourite era still doing it as well as they used to and those who have kept the faith will be well rewarded.

Phil Ashcroft

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