Stryper recently released their newest album, God Damn Evil. First things first, this album ROCKS!!! Is it Stryper’s best album? At this time I am inclined to say that it is not. That distinction belongs to Fallen (2015). However, I am reserving my judgement. Only time will tell, so ask me in a year and my answer may change. Is God Damn Evil a phenomenal album by a veteran metal band? It most certainly is. I will say that it is an album full of surprises. Stryper has not broken the mold here. But repeated listens will reward fans as there is a subtle maturation of the band’s classic sound heard throughout. Long time fans of the band will notice nods to past Stryper albums.
From start to finish this is a strong and consistent Stryper album. The band fully embrace their 1980’s roots on the album, yet the music in no way sounds retro. There are some concessions to modern metal. The album’s opening track, Take It To The Cross, features tastefully placed death metal vocals. Overall the album has a heavier feel which at times is achieved with some thrash metal inspired guitar riffs. Other than that this is just about what a die-hard Stryper fan would expect from a twenty first century Stryper album. It is amazing that a band can know themselves so well. There is no mistaking that this is a Stryper album. This veteran band still has something to say lyrically and musically regardless of the fact that they have not drastically altered their approach. This set of eleven songs sounds so fresh and relevant.
Michael Sweet has long been the main driving force behind the band. He has been on quite a hot streak over the last several years. Between Stryper albums he has found time to record solo albums as well as two albums with George Lynch (Dokken). Somehow Sweet has done so much musically without watering down the quality of Stryper’s recent albums. In fact it has proven to be just the opposite. The band’s last two albums, Fallen and No More Hell To Pay (2013) are among Stryper’s best. Michael Sweet has publicly stated that God Damn Evil is Stryper’s best album. After listening several times I can understand Sweet’s excitement about the album. There is something different about this album. There is a forcefulness and level of aggression that is not present on prior Stryper albums. From start to finish the songs are well written, well produced and performed with excellence. I can say that lyrically God Damn Evil is one of my favorite Stryper albums.
With each listen my love for this album grows deeper. In regards to its place among the band’s catalog, as stated early only time will tell. I will say that it is a more consistent album than No More Hell To Pay. From beginning to end there is not a weak song to be found. I do like the fact that the new album does not feature any cover songs. Stryper’s last few albums have contained a cover song. The band’s rendition of Black Sabbath’s After Forever, on the Fallen album, was about as good a cover as you will hear. However, I am a greedy fan, I want 100% original songs from Stryper. The band can save the cover songs for their next covers album.
The band members each shine on the album’s eleven songs. I have been saying it for the last two years and I am still amazed. Michael Sweet’s vocal abilities are jaw dropping. At 54 years of age the man is still bringing the goods vocally. He is singing with a level of power and added aggression that is astounding. Guitar wise Michael Sweet and Oz Fox have really stepped it up. Sweet and Fox have long been one of the most underrated guitar duos in metal. The two have been delivering exception guitar riffs and licks for many years. One of the surprises on the album is the appearance of the wah-wah pedal. This is not a guitar effect generally associated with the Stryper sound. I must say that Robert Sweet, The Visual Timekeeper, has to be one of the most overlooked drummers in metal. He has spent thirty plus years laying down solid, consistent drum grooves. His performances on this album ably showcase his drumming talents. Handling the bass duties for this album is John O’Boyle. Although he is a guest on the album I must give him a great deal of credit. His bass playing really helps to drive the album.
Below is a brief rundown of the album’s eleven songs:
Take It To The Cross – The band utilizes a bit of shock and awe to open the album. I love the driving, thrashy guitar riff that carries this track. The song follows in a similar vein to Fallen’s album opener Yahweh. That is until the chorus comes along. Initially I was not quite sure what to make of the chorus, it certainly is different. But it is extremely catchy and it has grown on me immensely. Before the song is over the band drops one final bomb with the death metal vocals. I am a fan of extreme metal so I love this added touch. This is an excellent example of a veteran band incorporating new sounds without comprising who they are. I must say that the song contains one of my favorite Stryper lyrics.
Sorry – A return to the straight forward Stryper sound. Overall the guitar riff has a feel similar to the To Hell With The Devil era of the band. This song showcases Stryper’s continuing lyrical progression.
Lost – This is one of my favorites from the album. The song opens with a typical Stryper guitar riff. The verse does not prepare the listener for Michael Sweet’s outstanding vocals during the chorus. The absolute power that he displays is astounding. There is an air of desperation as he asks the question, “Are we lost?” A fantastic song from start to finish.
God Damn Evil – The album’s catchiest chorus. The song was stuck in my head for days. Another song recalling the To Hell With The Devil era. There is also a bit of an Against The Law feel to the song. There is a forcefulness and level of aggression to this song that pushes it to the next level. I absolute love all that is going on during the guitar solo. Robert Sweet is killing it on the drums. The guitar run that ends the guitar solo is eye opening.
You Don’t Even Know Me – The song combines the sounds of the In God We Trust era with the modern feel of the Reborn era. A melodic mid tempo rocker that lyrically addresses the negativity that is far too prevalent on the internet.
The Valley – One of the album’s heavier songs. This is another one that sounds like the Reborn era of Stryper. This song contains one of my favorite vocal performs on the album. Michael Sweet’s vocals are immense on this one. Lesser singers would forever damage their vocal chords attempting vocals like these.
Sea Of Thieves – I love the main guitar riff on this one, I would say it is somewhat atypical of Stryper. This is a straight up, no nonsense rocker.
Beautiful – A song that definitely draws on the latter period of the band, Murder By Pride and beyond. This song shows that the band continues to progress their sound while still sounding like Stryper.
Can’t Live Without Your Love – A chance for the band to bring the volume down. This is another wonderful ballad for the band to add to their growing list. The chorus has a feel somewhat similar to the song Lady from the Against The Law album. This song may be a ballad, but it contains one of the album’s best guitar solos.
Own Up – The album’s penultimate song features a punchy guitar riff and an extremely catchy chorus. I love the drum groove and the nimble guitar solos on this one. This is the album’s sleeper track, it is an excellent song that may get overshadowed by the more bombastic songs. This melodic rocker is the calm before the storm as it sets the table for the album’s blistering closing song.
The Devil Doesn’t Live Here – With an opening riff that calls to mind the Against The Law era of the band. This song follows along the lines of prior blistering album closers like Rock The Hell Out Of You, The Reign and Renewed. This song fully embraces the band’s 1980’s roots. It is by far the album’s fastest song. The band closes the album with a bang.
It is a great time to be a Stryper fan. A fantastic new album, a fresh, rejuvenated band and a new tour. In 2018 the future looks bright for Stryper. There is already talk of future Stryper projects. At this time what more could a fan ask for. I am so curious as to how time treats God Damn Evil. All albums do not age well, but I am confident that this one will.