Stryper is currently in the early stages of promoting their soon to be released album, God Damn Evil. This seems like a prime opportunity to reflect on and rank the band’s prior studio albums. My introduction to the band came in 1987 through MTV. Stryper’s insanely popular music videos for Free, Calling On You and Honestly were in heavy rotation. It was not until 1995 that I became a serious Stryper fan. It has been a long and interesting journey since then. My love and appreciation for the band is as great as it has ever been. The last several years have proven to be an exciting time to be a Stryper fan. The following is my ranking of the band’s studio albums from my favorite to least favorite. I have chosen to focus on the main studio albums. This ranking does not include any of the band’s live albums, cover albums, or compilation albums.
In God We Trust (1988)
Great songwriting, memorable guitar riffs, big vocals, catchy choruses and excellent production all add to making this my favorite Stryper album. In God We Trust was the follow-up to the immensely popular album To Hell With The Devil. In the eyes of many the band’s huge third album is THE Stryper album. I love that album, but there is something about In God We Trust that speaks to me more. One could view In God We Trust and To Hell With The Devil as two sides of the same coin. The albums are extremely similar in style and approach. The main differences are not that drastic but they give In God We Trust it’s unique character. The vocals got a boast, while the guitars were turned down a notch and complimented by subtle keyboards. The prior three albums all saw a progression of the band’s songwriting and sound. This album was not so much a progression as a refinement of the band’s forumla. From start to finish In God We Trust is one of the band’s most consistent albums.
Standout Songs: In God We Trust, The Writings On The Wall, Come To The Everlife
The state of the 1980’s metal scene in 2015 was not a pretty sight. There were guys in the same bands that hated one another, singers that were struggling vocally, band members fought over band names, etc. In the midst of all of this Stryper released Fallen. Pound for pound this is Stryper’s best album. The music is the band’s heaviest and the songwriting is stellar. Each band members excels on their instrument. Michael Sweet absolutely shines vocally. There is not a bad song to be found on this album. Fallen works so well because it successfully brings the band’s classic 1980’s sound fully into the 21st century. There was trouble behind the scenes, but the band did not let that affect the quality of this album.
Standout Songs: Yahweh, Fallen, Pride, King Of Kings
To Hell With The Devil (1986)
This is the album where the Stryper sound was cemented. Everything fell into place here. Heavy guitars, soaring lead vocals, big choruses and dueling guitar leads are all here. Michael Sweet’s vocals soar into the stratosphere. The big choruses are incredibly full and rich. From a production standpoint this is one of the band’s best. The guitars are bright and crunchy, the bass has weight and the drums are crisp. The album contains many of the band’s signature songs. It also contains the band’s weakest song, All Of Me. One clunker can not take away from how incredible this album is. The remaining ten songs are all among the band’s best.
Standout Songs: To Hell With The Devil, The Way, Rockin’ The World, More Than A Man
Reborn was Stryper’s reunion album. After being apart for over a decade I love the band’s fresh, modern approach. The album is heavy and the guitar riffs are stripped down. Vocally it is one of Michael Sweet’s best albums. He may have been singing in a lower register, but the passion and conviction is still present. Those who saw the band’s tour for Reborn know that Michael Sweet was still capable of hitting most of the high notes. The guitar solos may be shorter but there is still plenty of great guitar work from Michael Sweet and Oz Fox. I know that a lot of Stryper fans do not care for Reborn, but I really love this album.
Standout Songs: Open Your Eyes, Reborn, Live Again, Rain
The Yellow and Black Attack (1984)
A great start for the band. This album is chock full of so many great guitar riffs and licks. Sonically the band had not yet captured the distinctive Stryper sound. The Yellow And Black Attack laid the foundation that Stryper would build their career on. Soaring vocals, heavy guitars, sing-along choruses, bold Christian lyrics and blistering guitars solos.
Standout Songs: From Wrong To Right, You Know What To Do, Co’Mon Rock, Loving You
No More Hell To Pay (2013)
While other metal bands from the 1980’s were broken up, or releasing sub-par albums Stryper was better than ever. How is it possible so far along into their career that Stryper could release such an excellent album? Some of the high notes of Michael Sweet’s youth may be unobtainable at this stage in his career. That does not mean that the man can not still deliver the goods vocally. Somehow at the age of 50 Michael Sweet delivered some of the best vocals of his career. The whole band is in fine form. The guitar riffs are heavy, the vocals are extremely strong, the guitar solos are nimble, the bass is solid and the drums are high energy.
Standout Songs: No More Hell To Pay, Saved By Love, Te Amo and Renewed
Soldiers Under Command (1984)
The band effectively built on the foundation of their debut album. Soldiers Under Command definitely showed the band going to the next level. The songwriting progressed, the guitar riffs and solos were more intricate and the production values improved. The band was a step closer to capturing the signature Stryper guitar sound. Overall the album is a nice mix of driving metal songs and delicate ballads. The only real issue is the consistency of the songwriting. Songs like Together Forever and (Waiting For) A Love That’s Not Real are good songs. However these two are not as strong as the rest of the album’s tracks.
Standout Songs: The Rock That Makes Me Roll, Together As One, Surrender
Against The Law (1990)
I know that a lot of Stryper fans love this album. Overall it is a very good album. The production is solid as are the performances. The biggest issue really is the inconsistent songwriting. All eleven songs are good songs. However, only about half of them are great songs. The other issues are in the sound and style of the music. I can appreciate the band wanting to go in a different direction. But of all of the band’s albums this is the only one that sounds a bit generic. It sounds a bit too much like their contemporaries. Two Time Woman and Rock The People could have been on any number of pop/glam/hair metal albums from the 1980’s. Not That Kind Of Guy is a great song that sounds like Stryper’s homage to classic Van Halen. I may be in the minority, but I love the band’s cover of Earth, Wind And Fire’s hit Shining Star. The band stayed true to the original while putting the Stryper stamp on it as well. Unfortunately it was the wrong choice as a single. All For One or Lady would have been better choices as the album’s single. Overall half of the album is stellar while the other half is very good, but generic sounding 80’s metal.
Standout Songs: Two Bodies (One Mind One Souls), Ordinary Man, Lady, Caught In The Middle and All For One
Murder By Pride (2009)
The followup to the vastly superior Reborn. This album was the band’s attempt to return to their earlier sound. Overall it is a solid but extremely inconsistent album. There are a few issues with this album. The production is somewhat sub-par for a Stryper album. Overall the performances are fine, but that crisp, distinctive Stryper guitar sound is not quite there. The song order could have been better. I do believe that a slight shuffling of the songs would have resulted in a better flow. Robert Sweet was unable to play drums on the album. The drumming, provided by Kenny Aronoff, is quite good, but Robert Sweet is missed. There is a slight tug of war musically. The band was pushing forward with new music in the 21st century. Yet many fans wanted the sounds of the 1980’s. There are no bad songs here, but there are very few great songs to be found. I really do like this album, it just is not the band at their best. That said I do listen to Murder By Pride frequently.
Standout Songs: Alive, Murder By Pride, Run In You