Heavenly passion - A review of Stryper's "Second Coming"
"Second Coming" is the perfect release to discover or re-discover one of the most underestimated heavy metal bands. On this release, Stryper re-recorded fourteen tracks originally taken from the debut EP "The Yellow and Black Attack" in 1984, the debut album "Soldiers Under Command" from 1985 and its follow-up "To Hell with the Devil" released back in 1986. Instead of covering the band's entire career, the Californian quartet only chose its best and most popular tracks. In addition to this, the devout Christians included two brand new tracks on this release.
What makes this release so great can be described in one word: passion. After a hiatus of more than a decade and a few comeback records under the radar, the group is back in full strength and sounds much better than most veteran bands. One has to point out Michael Sweet's emotional, powerful and skilled performance throughout the entire record. He sings with so much conviction, joy and talent that it blows me away each time I listen to this record. I can't help but sing along to each song on this joy ride. He hits the high notes as if he had fallen into the Fountain of Youth and sounds even much better than Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford and the likes these days. Yes, you read it right, Michael Sweet is probably the best veteran heavy metal singer that is still around and if you don't believe me, go listen to this album. His charismatic and enthusiastic vocals are the key to success for the band and the reason why Stryper are not only back with this record but here to stay as proven on the brilliant "Fallen". The great thing is that the performances of the other band members are just as great which already starts with the numerous powerful backing vocals. The guitar riffs are flashy, heavy and powerful and the guitar solos are melodic, memorable and passionate. In addition to singing along to the outstanding vocals, the sixteen songs inspire to take out the air guitar, bang your head, raise your fists into the air and rock out like it's 1986 all over again. Each riff is tight and each solo is absolutely spot on. The rhythm section doesn't disappoint either. The drums are straight forward and thundering, kicking you right in the guts and adding even more pace to this dynamic record. The bass guitar isn't just audible but also tight and vivid at the same time. Occasional keyboard orchestrations in the few calmer tunes give you the opportunity to relax for a while, wipe away the sweat from your face, drink a beer and rock on right after. The production is organic and spot on. The fourteen re-recorded songs on here sound better than the original versions that were already great. Most bands fail when they re-record their classics because the spirit from the past is missing but even fans of the band's beginnings should admit that Stryper sound hungrier than ever and you can feel this in every single second of these sixty-seven energizing minutes.
I could simply say that all songs on here are highlights but let me point out my very favorite cuts. "Loud N' Clear'' is the perfect opener and summarizes everything this band and heavy metal in general stand for. Enthusiastic and high-pitched guitar melodies meet grounded riffs, pumping bass sounds and tight drum patterns. The vocals are at times high-pitched and passionate but also a little bit lower and cooler in the right spots and overall quite variable. The chorus is catchy and you won't forget it once you've heard it for the very first time. The backing vocals in the refrain add some more energy and motivate anyone to sing and shout along. There is no way the band can get around this killer anthem in concert. This infectious mixture comes along in a compact way below four minutes which is a quality most contemporary heavy metal bands aren't familiar with anymore. Other highlights on this album include but aren't limited to the passionate chorus of "Soldiers Under Command", the short and sweet gospel rocker "Makes Me Wanna Sing", the uplifting up-tempo banger "The Rock That Makes Me Roll", the catchy and cool mid-tempo anthem "To Hell with the Devil" and the epic and touching declaration of love to God in form of "More Than a Man".
Older fans might also be interested in the two new tracks and I'm delighted to state that they can keep the high average of the other tunes. "Bleeding from Inside Out'' is a cool mid-tempo rocker with a melodramatic and emotional chorus that suits the lyrical topic. The extensive guitar solo in the middle part leading to a slower passage with numbing vocal effects is probably the highlight of this song. "Blackened" is more of a hard rock tune between mid- and up-tempo passages. The choirs in the chorus add an epic touch but the song becomes truly great in the final seconds when Michael Sweet unleashes some of his high and liberating screams where he proves once again what an amazing singer he is.
If you are a fan of traditional hard rock and heavy metal, you should really own this album. If there's one single Stryper album you would like to purchase, it's this one because it includes passionately revamped versions of the band's best songs plus two promising new cuts. The only reason why I didn't give an even higher rating to this gem is because the band is obviously very limited in its lyrics that end up being too repetitive in combination with the band's exaggerated urge to converge us to devout Christians that isn't very appropriate anymore so many years into the twenty-first century where religious conflicts continue to increasingly harm people all around the world.
Final verdict: 95%« Light and shade in equal parts - A review of The 69 Eyes' "Universal Monsters"Heavenly passion - A review of Stryper's "Second Coming" »
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