Wednesday, October 26, 2005 @ 10:10 AM
Big 3 Records
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By: Larry Petro, Pure Rock Patrol, Houston
The Yellow and Black Attack is back! Okay, so maybe the yellow and black aren't as prevalent in their appearance as they used to be but the Soldiers Under Command are back in a big way with the release of their first studio album in nearly 15 years, Reborn. And this isn't really your parent's Stryper either. The new release showcases a somewhat different sound from the Christian metallers than previous offerings. A much heavier, grungier sound that appeals to the newer generation without alienating the fan base that made them successful as Christian rock pioneers in the 80's. The aptly titled Reborn applies to the band in so many ways. They have been reborn as a band, reborn in their sound and reborn in their commitment as individuals and collectively as a band to their message.
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When I received the CD and started listening to it, I was at first a little surprised at the difference in sound and wasn't really sure what to think of it, but the more time went on and I had the sound firmly planted in my brain I realized that this is really a solid release. I had already heard the title track played on satellite radio and really liked it and the rest of the CD is much of the same. The opening tune, "Open Your Eyes" sets the tone for the entire album with it's heavier and raw sound. There are so many good tracks on this record that it is really hard to just point out a few favorites, but the first 3, "Open Your Eyes", "Reborn" and "When Did I See You Cry" are probably the heaviest. But make no mistake about it; every track has an edge to it. Most notable changes to the CD are the absence of the blistering guitar solos and the overdone production sound that permeated prior releases. There are still solos, but are a little more toned down than before and the more raw sounding production is an absolute knockout.
It's almost as if you're right there while they're playing it. Gone also are the tear-jerking ballads. There are still some slower songs here like the emotionally and spiritually charged "Passion and Rain", but they still end up kicking you in the teeth at some point. There is "Live Again", whose main guitar riff interestingly sounds like Ace Frehley's "Snowblind" and the hymn-turned-rock song "10,000 Years", which is actually "Amazing Grace" in disguise. One element the band DID keep from the old days was the wonderful harmony in the vocals, which was one aspect of their music that I truly loved and was nice to see that they had not forsaken this time around. The final track on the CD is a rerecorded version of "In God We Trust", which kicks major ass! I am disappointed though that it appears they aren't playing IGWT (new version or old) on the current tour.
The CD itself is packaged nicely and the first thing one notices is the over wrap in transparent yellow that covers the CD case masking the real cover somewhat. The real cover has created somewhat of a controversy, although I can't really understand what all the fuss is about. It simply shows the band members covered in some sort of slime, which they have stated is metaphorical for the slime and goo of sin that we all live in. Anyhow, they didn't want to risk alienating people so they chose to put the wrap on voluntarily. As I mentioned above, the production of this record is very basic yet gets the point of being in-your-face across.
This band has endured a lot of criticism over their career from both religious groups and the mainstream music community alike and most, if not all, of it is only because they're a Christian band. Most detractors, including the hordes that will no doubt respond to this review with negativity, think that because they're a Christian band they should be perfect and not hypocritical, as some would say. On the contrary, because they're NOT perfect only validates the band, its existence, and what their message is all about. You don't have to be perfect, just forgiven. And in the world today, with so much devastation, destruction and gloomy outlook it's nice to have some music that's uplifting to carry us through and that's what Stryper does.
I'm not a big fan of the 5 stars rating system so I'm going to rate this on a scale of 1 to 100. The only thing I can find to be critical of in this release is the fact that the lyrics aren't included. With a CD that carries such a powerful message as this they really should have put them in there. This release is certainly worth every penny for both old fans and new ones alike.