Stryper - Reborn
Well, the latest band to head down the "reuniting and releasing a new album" road is none other than Stryper. Yes, they did release a live album about a year or so ago, but now they are tackling their first full-length since 1990's Against the Law. I was a huge Stryper fan back in the day. I have all their regular issue albums....Yellow and Black Attack, Soldiers Under Command, To Hell with the Devil, In God We Trust, Against the Law, and even the Can't Stop the Rock compilation. All great albums and still fun to pull out every once in a while and give a spin...even though it's been a decade and a half since the last release.
So, what does Stryper sound like after all these years? Does the band still have that signature sound? Well, it depends on how you look at it. The first time I listened to Reborn, I was highly disappointed. This is definitely not metal. Some will try to tell you otherwise, but those are probably the same people that are trying to push over some of today's popular music as true metal...which is a load of crap. Other complaints I had after just the first listen...the very small amount of guitar solos on the album, the very small use of vocal harmonies on the album, and the fact that this sounds WAY more like a bunch of Michael Sweet solo material instead of newly written Stryper tunes. Now it's their band and not mine, so if they want to do that, then so be it...it's their decision. However, if they want to make this reunion thing a huge success, in my opinion, they still need to hang on to a little bit of what they did best. The only big similarity here is Michael Sweet's vocals. Take those away and insert another singer, and not one Stryper fan would be able to tell that the music on this album is Stryper.
With all that said, what we have here is essentially a brand new hard rock/borderline metal band that just so happens to go by the name Stryper and has Michael Sweet at the helm. As far as the songs themselves go, most of them are hard rockin' songs with only a couple semi-balled like songs. They are actually quite catchy, and even though they aren't as massive as some of Stryper's past material, there are actually quite memorable and many of them will have you singing throughout the rest of the day. The only song that I really don't care for at all is their re-make of "Amazing Grace", called "10,000 Years". It just doesn't seem to go over that well. They also do a re-make of their classic song, "In God We Trust", and strangely call it "I.G.W.T.". The song sounds pretty good here, but they switch around a few of the lyrics, so when I try to sing along I mess it up everytime. Another thing that is strange is the somewhat shift in direction on songs eight and nine, which sound even more "accessible" their the previous tunes on the disc. It almost sounds like they joined forces with the pop rock band All Star United for a couple songs, complete with "la, la, la's" and everything. Yet one more thing that old Stryper purists will gripe about.
As for Michael Sweet's vocals, he still seems to have a pretty good set of lungs. Maybe a step down from his heyday, but not bad. Robert Sweet and Oz Fox still sound like they are pretty competent players. Although, the music here sounds a tad more simplistic and straight-forward then their old metal days. Then there is the noticeable lack of a one Timothy Gaines. However, he is replaced by Tracy Ferrie who does a solid job on bass.
The promo copy I have of this has nothing included...like lyrics or artwork. The lyrics are very bold for the band's faith in Christ though, so those who were disappointed with how Stryper exited with Against the Law will be pleasantly surprised here.
All in all, I'm not overly pleased with what I've heard here. Now, it's not a bad album by any means. It's some catchy hard rock with great, passionate vocals. I just had my expectations a little too high I guess. I was hoping for more of an old Stryper metal slant and didn't get that at all. I think it's cool that Stryper is back and I'm considering going to catch them live in October in Tulsa since I never got to see them live in the '80's or '90's, but this seems to be more a new modern sounding band and not a re-united Stryper.
Review By: Matt Morrow
Label: Big 3 Records
Total Songs: 11
Total Time: 39:43
Tracklisting: 1. Open Your Eyes, 2. Reborn, 3. When Did I See You Cry, 4. Make You Mine, 5. Passion, 6. Live Again, 7. If I Die, 8. Wait for You, 9. Rain, 10. 10,000 Years, 11. I.G.W.T.
Best Songs: Tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, and 11.
Band Lineup: Michael Sweet - Vocals/Lead & Rhythm Guitars/Background Vocals, Robert Sweet - Drums, Oz Fox - Lead Guitars/Background Vocals, Tracy Ferrie - Bass.
Band Website: http://www.stryper.com