Reviewed: May, 2018
Released: 2018, Frontiers Records
The last five years have been some of the best for Stryper in their long career. The previous two albums garnered a consensus of praise among fans and critics, successful tours, and an unmistakable level of inspired song craft. GOD DAMN EVIL serves to continue that forward momentum with what the band calls their heaviest album to date. That is probably accurate, but it is not the increased metallic injections that make the new album a good one. It is the band’s comfort with who they are and their willingness to expand their sound that makes the new album a pleasure. Stryper has not actually said this, but GOD DAMN EVIL is almost certainly a slap in the face to the hypocritical, Bible cherry-pickers of the extreme evangelical right, Stryper’s sentiment being, “Hey, we are Christians too, but we’re not like you.” Right on cue, Walmart has exercised its hypocrisy by refusing to carry the album because of the title. It’s laughable, but just like the Satanic bands, you do not have to share Stryper’s beliefs to enjoy the music.
The first single off the album is the lead-off track, “Take It To The Cross”, arguably the heaviest song Stryper has ever recorded, but not the best. It is curious that this was selected as the album opener, and that the band had Shadows Fall front-man Matt Bachand double Sweet’s impossibly high falsetto with death metal growls on the thrashy chorus. This song will almost certainly be the one that generates the most discussion among fans, and detractors will label it as contrived and misguided. The next two tracks are standouts, with “Sorry” having a bass-driven foot stomp and perhaps the most memorable chorus of the album. “Lost” is Michael Sweet showcasing his still impressive range, the man deserving of admiration for being able to sing this high at his age.
The title track hearkens back to the AGAINST THE LAW album, employing a simplified AC/DC-like approach. The second half of the album loses some momentum in comparison to the first half, but “Can’t Live Without Your Love” is a curious inclusion, a mix of The Eagles and April Wine delivered through an 80’s power ballad approach, complete with Europe keyboards in the chorus. Call it the throwback tune, and for some folks the throwaway one as well. Interestingly, the guitar solo is one of the best on the album.
Speaking of guitars, Oz Fox and Michael Sweet have stepped up to the plate and delivered. They were always good guitarists, but not what I would label elite. Their playing on GOD DAMN EVIL though is as good as any I have heard this year, and the rhythm section is solid, driving many of these songs with considerable force and thump. Musically, the performances are accomplished all around with a modern and balanced sound, not unexpected from the frequently obsessive production that comes from the Frontiers label. Controversy is building around the album because of the “profanity” in the title, but in this case the music within is more than capable of generating a critical buzz without the ammunition Walmart and others are giving it. While no reinvention, GOD DAMN EVIL adds some new minor moves to Stryper’s repertoire. It is a worthy addition to the Stryper catalog and one that should be in many folks list of top albums for the year.
01. Take It To The Cross
04. God Damn Evil
05. You Don’t Even Know Me
06. The Valley
07. Sea Of Thieves
09. Can’t Live Without Your Love
10. Own Up
11. The Devil Doesn’t Live Here
Michael Sweet – lead vocals, guitar
Robert Sweet – drums, backing vocals
Oz Fox – guitar, backing vocals
Perry Richardson – bass