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STRYPER God Damn Evil

By Daniel Höhr, European Correspondent
Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 8:25 AM

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God Damn Evil

Frontiers Music Srl, 2018

In the early 2000s, STRYPER spent several years reinventing themselves after their unceremonious break-up in 1993. In 2003 7: Best Of Stryper was released, followed by the live album 7 Weeks: Live in America in 2003 and eventually a new full-length studio album, aptly entitled Reborn saw the light in 2005. Murder By Pride was released in 2009, followed by a compilation of covers (The Covering, 2011) and an album with re-recorded STRYPER classics (Second Coming, 2013). All these releases, however, were more or less preludes to what might well be the best STRYPER album ever, the 2014 release No More Hell To Pay. No doubt, that album was a worthy successor to their seminal 1986 album To Hell With The Devil. Fallen (2015) was altogether heavier, gloomier but in some ways also more one-dimensional than its predecessor but it was still an awesome album and worthy of the name of STRYPER.

Now the tenth STRYPER album, God Damn Evil, is out and there are two big questions. The first one is what STRYPER sound like with their new bass player, Perry Richardson, who was recruited after STRYPER and their longstanding on-off bassist Timothy Gaines once again went separate ways in 2017. The second, and most important, question is whether God Damn Evil is on par with the two previous studio albums.

The opener, “Take It To The Cross”, was already published as a single on February 9. The track features thrash guitarist Matt Bachand of SHADOWS FALL. Gloomy sounds at the beginning, a bone-dry heavy riff and then Michael Sweet's signature vocals set in with an unmistakeably Christian message. On the whole, the track is perfectly in line with “Yahweh”, the opener on Fallen, even though Michael Sweet (vocals, guitar), Oz Fox (guitar), Robert Sweet (drums) and Perry Richardson (bass) have turned up the heaviness a fair notch. Actually, this is probably the heaviest STRYPER have ever sounded and were it not for the strange chorus, it would be a great track. The quickly repeated words “take it to the cross”, sound completely out of place here and sadly somehow ruin the song. “Sorry”, a mid tempo groover with a proper sing-along sort of chorus sounds much more the thing, a typical STRYPER anthem in a modern sound. The same goes for “Lost”, featuring a pounding bass and Michael Sweet's signature screams in the chorus. The title track is an AC/DC style hard rock song while the atmospheric “You Don't Even Know” has a steady, hypnotic groove, crunchy rhythm guitars and a soaring vocal line in the chorus. The main riff and overall feel of “The Valley” is quite reminiscent of “Marching Into Battle” on No More Hell To Pay. Although not a bad song, “Sea Of Thieves” is somehow a filler that doesn't really seem to go anywhere but “Beautiful”, with its pounding drums at the beginning, its heavy groove and captivating vocal line in the chorus certainly make up for it. “Can't Live Without Your Love” is a beautiful, bonafide STRYPER ballad, thankfully without (too much) sugarcoating and cheesiness STRYPER have occasionally been prone to. “Own Up” sounds refreshingly modern with a low bass grove while “The Devil Doesn't Live Here” is a fast heavy metal onslaught, very much in the vain of “The Way” on To Hell With The Devil.

God Damn Evil contains all the ingredients of a great STRYPER record – heaviness, driving riffs, catchy melodies on the one hand, powerful and soaring vocals and screams and on the other hand, stellar lead guitar work, pounding drums and a clear Christian message. I find more variety on it than on its predecessor Fallen and at the same time the songs and the performance of the band have developed into a more modern and ultimately more daring direction since the last album.

Coming back to the two questions asked above, Perry Richardson's playing fits in perfectly with STRYPER's music and has pushed the band into a slightly different direction, which God Damn Evil definitely benefits from. There is much more room for the bass on this album than on previous releases and Richardson's tone certainly contributes to the great sound of this album. As far as the second question is concerned, yes, the album is not only on par with No More Hell to Pay and Fallen but impressively complements the two previous records. If it were not for the chorus in “Take It To The Cross” and the slightly mediocre “Sea Of Thieves”, this album would deserve a roaring five out of five. Nevertheless, it is one of the best STRYPER albums ever and a must-have for every metalhead.

4.5 Out Of 5.0

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