Released: 2013, Frontiers Records
It has been a busy year for Stryper, following their re-recording of classic songs on SECOND COMING, and now with the new release NO MORE HELL TO PAY. Back in the day, Stryper was at the forefront of the so called “white metal” bands, followed by others like Barren Cross and Petra in the 80s until the genre expanded in the 90s and beyond with bands like Narnia and my personal favorite white metal band, Saviour Machine. NO MORE HELL TO PAY is the band’s 8th studio album, produced by front man Michael Sweet and featuring the best album art of their career to help round out the package.
The new album adheres closely to the core Stryper sound, but as Sweet promised, “Everything is in minor keys, so it's a little darker sounding and a little tougher. It's definitely our heaviest record and I think people will be pleasantly surprised. To reference, there is less songs like 'Calling On You' and more songs like 'To Hell With The Devil'. It's more in that vein than the poppier vein.” The album is designed as a follow-up to the band’s most popular and commercially successful album TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL, and against all odds, delivers on Sweet’s statement. Album opener “Revelation” establishes the riff-centric qualities of the album while also revealing an enhanced improvement in song-writing. Let’s face it, Stryper always had the chops to pull this off, but strong and consistent songs often eluded them.
The original lineup sounds inspired, particularly Michael Sweet who has lost almost none of his extensive vocal range while. The guitars include harmonized riffs, pinched harmonics, and tough soloing rounded out by a booming rhythm section. The first two tracks are quality mid-paced tunes, while “Saved By Love” ups the speed on track three. The albums loses some momentum with the cover of “Jesus Is Just Alright” followed by the moody ballad “The One”, neither tune really fitting the overall lean and tough sound of the album overall. “Sticks and Stones” is a highlight, a catchy tune that mixes Stryper’s earlier penchant for a poppier sound with their now more modern heaviness.
At the end of the day, NO MORE HELL TO PAY is the best album that the band has released since TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL, but with none of the cheesy sing along choruses that sometimes plagued that album. The production is admirable, and the songs for the most part are consistent in quality. Fans of the band should be pleased, but so should those that enjoy mid-paced melodic metal with catchy riffs and powerful vocals.