STRYPER – Christian Heavy Metal and Hard Rock’s genre pioneer, influence, household name and undisputed legend of a band are back again. This time around, they are releasing an album of 12 covers songs with an additional original song. This original song is aptly titled: God. This substantial undertaking of covering such lifetime dependable classics is known as The Covering, to be released on Big 3 Records on February 15, 2011.
Stryper. The name alone resonates the positive energy and glorious power of their Christian belief and unity, not to mention they are one incredibly talented group of musicians. To understand and accept each respective Heavy Music genre is to be open minded to the bands that illuminate each genre, like a shooting star in the midnight sky. Stryper has been a shooting star for Christian Heavy Metal and Hard Rock since their 1984 debut The Yellow and Black Attack. Spanning four decades as a band of any genre is an admirable feat, while still being able to legitimize their sound and style through quality musicianship, after all these years, to multiple generations of fans, is undeniably respectable. For me, this is what Stryper has consistently accomplished to date.
There has been that moment when Stryper tried their hand at breaking away from their lyrical style and to a degree, musical style as well, with 1990′s Against The Law proving they were just as muscular and driven as a band than ever before. Stryper has branched out once again with The Covering, justifying they are not just an enormous Heavy Metal Band, they are colossal fans of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock’s roots. The Covering offers up the stylistic depth of Stryper, a Heavy Metal aptitude that they have bestowed upon songs that many of us old and new school Metalheads find uncompromisingly sacred.
From Iron Maiden to Kansas, with the Ronnie James Dio era Black Sabbath in-between, Stryper doesn’t need to wear their influences on their sleeves… they cover them with the upmost Heavy Metal reverence on The Covering. It is with much applause from this Classic Rock admirer, that a much prominent hit from the catalog of Sweet is exposed for it’s timeless Rockin’ sheen. Set Me Free is credibly set free with Stryper’s trademark Arena style vibe, acknowledging Sweet for their rightful place among Rock legends. Michael Sweet never wavers vocally throughout The Covering, he only makes each song rise with their power and energy that they originally were christened with by their creators.
As stated by me so often in the past, nothing beats the original. However, when done with acute and painstaking care, an album of cover songs can Rock my world and leave me appreciative and begging for more when done the Stryper way. How difficult can it be to cover a Scorpions song? Klaus Meine’s vocals alone are so unique and identifiable it’s simply scary. If it were up to me, I would never mess with trying to cover a Scorpions song… only Stryper did just that. On Blackout, I cannot control the enthusiastic feeling that devours my senses, as Michael Sweet belts out the lyrics to this classic Scorpions song. The only thing I can say about the cover of Highway Star is: holy Metal does Stryper embellish this song with impressive guitar driven prowess! And it’s built on speed!
Any tried and true Metalhead will come down with a serious case of ostrich bumps up and down their body, as the psych-you-out adrenaline bursts within like a volcano, each time they hear Heaven and Hell by the Ronnie James Dio fronted Black Sabbath. Stryper may never exceed those heavenly supercharges of Heavy Metal ecstasy that I feel from the original Heaven and Hell… only Stryper does come close. It may be that this song means so damn much, to so many of us, coupled with Stryper’s anointing Heaven and Hell with their approval of influence, that in turn triggers such an ignited feeling within my Metal soul. I’m certain the late Ronnie James Dio is smiling down, from above.
Over The Mountain is yet another super Heavy Metal classic from a legend of legends… Ozzy Osbourne. No, Oz Fox nor Michael Sweet are going to out-do the late Randy Rhoads on guitar, nor will Michael Sweet become an instant sound alike to Ozzy either. The Metal point is, this is Stryper simply covering a song with a sincerity that heavily seeps through their music in an uncanny way, which at the end of the Metal day cannot be ignored or denied. When I can catch myself singing along to these covered classics from Heavy Metal’s storied past, the realization sets in that Stryper has done good. Damn good too.
Carry On Wayward Son from an ultra-influential band like Kansas is untouchable right? Well, Stryper touches it and fires up their version with the heightened emotion it was always meant to release. If there is one song on The Covering that doesn’t smack it down for me, it’s Stryper’s version of The Immigrant Song by the infinitely legendary Led Zeppelin. Yes, some classics are best left untouched and Led Zeppelin is a monumental band to cover, regardless of the song. It just comes across as Stryper not staying true to the original hardness of The Immigrant Song, any slight watering down of such a classic will stand out and scream at me in a millisecond. Where’s Great White when I need The Immigrant Song covered?
The lone original song on The Covering, as I mentioned earlier is God. Whoa, this song is super saturated with emotion and can easily be looked upon as one of the most inspiring songs Stryper has ever written and recorded. It’s ostrich bumps time folks… and God is a candidate for Michael Sweet’s finest vocal performance of his very own legendary career. I found myself playing this song the most since I’ve obtained The Covering from Best Metal Buddy and Metal Researcher… Scott Coverdale. Yes, Scott has given The Covering his highest of Metal praise and understandably so. Stone’s Message to Stryper: God is one “heck” of a song and The Covering is one hell of an album. Metal be thy name.
I’m pleased as a fan, that Styper has shown the world that they do have Hard Rock and Heavy Metal influences that are not of the flower garden variety. What else would any Stryper or Heavy Metal fan expect? Michael Sweet has his affiliation as a member of Boston and the Heavy Rock family tree does extend outside the lines of the Christian genre for Stryper. These guys are human, just like me and you, they are not martyrs sent to us from the Vatican. This is a band that has been influenced by some of the most iconic acts in the Heavy Rockin’ land and The Covering proves it. Stryper will always be a Christian Metal Band and I sincerely respect that. I also respect the fact that Stryper has taken this path down Hard Rock and Heavy Metal roots lane and covered some of the greatest songs of Rock Music’s history.
* For more info on STRYPER, just click on the link below:
Michael Sweet - lead vocals & guitar
Robert Sweet – drums
Oz Fox - guitar & vocals
Timothy Gaines - bass & vocals
Track Listing For The Covering:
Set Me Free – (Sweet)
Blackout - (Scorpions)
Heaven and Hell - (Black Sabbath)
Lights Out – (UFO)
Carry On Wayward Son - (Kansas)
Highway Star - (Deep Purple)
Shout It Out Loud - (KISS)
Over The Mountain - (Ozzy Osbourne)
The Trooper - (Iron Maiden)
Breaking The Law - (Judas Priest)
On Fire - (Van Halen)
Immigrant Song - (Led Zeppelin)
LONG LIVE STRYPER.