Celebrating 25 years of music (and ministry), Christian hard rockers Stryper return with Murder By Pride. No little controversy surrounded the band in those early days of Hollywood glam metal. Christians playing mainstream rock and metal like all the other Sunset strip bad boys? Gasp! Yellow and black spandex and big hair. How worldly. Throwing out New Testaments at concerts. What? That's kind of cool. Unaccepted by neither Christian or secular critics, Stryper seemed more an anomaly (or maybe an ugly wart) on the music scene. Outrageous and controversial, you really can't take them seriously. Or can you?
You've got to admit, back then, Stryper's image and music fit the day. Even if you couldn't handle the message, Stryper could craft catchy rock songs with a sometime metal edge, strong vocal harmonies, and frenetic fret work. Whereas Stryper's early music may have been mostly melodic hard rock it often erred on the side of too much pop redundancy. Yet, when they tried to muscle up their act and music on Against the Law, they were crucified by their biggest supporters, the Christian community. Fickleness is a characteristic, but not unique, of the Christian music community to this day.
With Murder By Pride, Stryper strikes a middle ground between that early pop glam metal and later heavier rock. Their sound displays the maturity of sound melodic hard rock with great vocal harmonies and catchy hooks. Stryper rocks hard on Eclipse of the Son, but then balances heavier riffs with an ambitious melodic vocal arrangement on I Believe. Yet, there is also a solid dose of AOR melodic rock on songs like Alive and Run In You. In the end, Stryper delivers fundamental melodic hard rock better than most of their peers or their younger contemporaries.
Back in 1987 I had the opportunity to see Stryper twice on the 'To Hell with the Devil' tour. The first venue was the classic Tower Theater in Philadelphia, an awesome show with great sound. The second was at Pucillo Gymnasium on the campus of Millersville University, another great show with below average acoustics.
Of the two shows, the one thing I remember most was talking to Hurricane (the supporting act) guitarist Robert Sarzo during the Stryper show at Millersville. I asked him bluntly, pointing at the performing Stryper, 'What do think of all this Christian stuff?' Looking directly in my eyes and becoming very serious, Sarzo said, 'These guys are for real. They really believe in what they say.'
This was quite an endorsement coming from a fellow who confessed that he didn't believe and at best was a lapsed Catholic. Twenty-five years later, Stryper continues to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Even if you cringe at the Gospel content, Stryper's Murder By Pride displays once again that when it comes to American melodic hard rock there are few who do it better than Stryper. The Truth has never sounded better.
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