Stryper – “No More Hell to Pay”


STRYPERnmhtpCoverBy now, anyone paying any sort of attention to metal music knows that Stryper is releasing No More Hell to Pay, marking their 30th anniversary and 11th studio album since The Yellow and Black Attack in 1984.  Best of all for longtime fans, this album also has the original lineup of Micheal Sweet, Oz Fox, Tim Gaines, and Robert Sweet.  For those somehow unaware of the storied career of Stryper, they have sold over 10 million albums, have six gold and three platinum albums, been nominated for a Grammy and were the first artist to have two songs in MTV’s Top 10 simultaneously back when MTV actually showed music videos.  So, the burning question of course is whether or not this album is any good on its own or will it only be something for longtime fans.

To avoid needlessly prolonging any suspense, this is a good album that will not disappoint longtime fans and has a lot to offer those who like heavy music.  From a stylistic standpoint, this is updated hair metal in all its glory.  Sound is perhaps a bit darker than back in 80’s, but all the elements are here.  That being said, the sound does not sound dated, which is a feat in and of itself.  Coincidentally, when I received this album, I was watching a VH1 special on Deep Purple and the epic reunion of the MkII lineup to record Perfect Strangers and after listening to No More Hell to Pay the first time, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the show.  Yes, I did just put Stryper in the same sentence as Deep Purple.  Get over it.  To explain a bit, for both bands these albums were releases where the best lineup of the band came back together to record an album that showcases their immense talent and has the unmistaken sound that longtime fans have been clamoring.   In both situations, these bands come across in the recording with an air of confidence and maturity that one can only get with phenomenal talent and experience.  One big difference I should point out is that the Deep Purple reunion was only after about 13 years or so, while this is the 30th anniversary for Stryper.

No More Hell to Pay opens up with “Revelation” and has the signature harmony lead riffs in the beginning of the song that is a classic feature of the Stryper sound.  Even though I wouldn’t consider this song as one of the strongest on the album it does perfectly answers any questions about whether or not this album will be worth listening.  Michael Sweet’s voice is still as epic as it ever was, the guitar solos are still excellent, and Tim Gaines and Robert Sweet can still carry the songs through their driving rhythms.

“No More Hell to Pay” will instantly transport older listeners back to their 80’s hair metal days.  Hearing that great opening riff accented by the drums, I can instantly picture a stage with Michael Sweet and Oz Fox highlighted by a spotlight and Robert Sweet standing at his drum kit for the opening, most likely with some flame cannons accenting the drum hits.  The general structure of the song is also fits with the hair metal theme with verse sections having chords ringing out  behind the singing complemented by some guitar fills and a driving  rhythm section keeping the song moving and some great soaring harmonies in the chorus.  The tempo picks up measurably with “Saved by Love” and its fast main riff and showcases the high octave screams of Michael Sweet toward the end, reminding me a bit of vintage Rob Halford.

Cover songs often are a point of contention as some are really good and some leave me scratching my head wondering what the point was.  Stryper chose to cover “Jesus is Just Alright” and I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting much but was pleasantly surprised.  Being an overtly Christian band with strong faith-filled lyrics, one has to wonder about the choice as Jesus should be more than “just alright”, but that’s a whole other issue and I think the lyrics in the breakdown section in the middle of song where Michael Sweet talks about Jesus as “He’s my best friend, He took me by the hand, led me far from this broken land” address that adequately.  Michael Sweet and Oz Fox then go on to trade some great guitar solos and the throughout the song, I was struck by the relentless drumming which carries the song and adds a bit of heaviness.  Sound of the drums instantly reminded me of those in Van Halen’s cover of “(Oh) Pretty Woman” – sharp, loud and keep the listener focused.

Every hair metal band has to have a power ballad and the first such song fitting into this category on No More Hell to Pay would be “The One”.  The song starts out very much reminiscent of “Catch the Rainbow” by Rainbow in terms of vocals and overall tone but then shifts into the soaring vocals and chorus so prominent in power ballads.  I wish it would stay back where it started as the high pitched ooohh-wee-ooohh accent vocals just don’t work for me.

Every hair metal album needs at least one fist-pumping anthem and “Marching into Battle” is that song.  The opening is very reminiscent of Motley Crue’s “Shout at the Devil” with the syncopated bass drum and guitar and the song has a very familiar feel and structure almost to the point of being predictable and that is something I couldn’t help but notice in this album.  Many of the songs have a predictable style and structure that will be obvious to those who remember 80’s metal.  Some of these elements are great, like the guitar solos that showcase the talent and skill of the guitarists without sounding out of place, while other elements like the borderline cheesy lyrics in songs like “Sticks and Stones” almost make me cringe (yes, the soaring chorus in that song is “Sticks and stones may break my bones…”).

I imagine this is the Stryper album longtime fans have been waiting for.  The band is at the top of their game here, production quality is excellent and really highlights the skill of the band and there really isn’t a bad song on this album.  As you would expect, there are some misses here and there, but they are few and far between  and mostly around  falling into clichés.  For those who are not longtime fans, and this where I fit in, this is an album that has the best elements of 80’s hair metal presented in a format where they sound fresh and updated.  Having seen Stryper live at Cornerstone Festival, I really hope I get the chance to see some of these songs live.

Rating: 8/10

1. Revelation
2. No More Hell To Pay
3. Saved By Love
4. Jesus Is Alright
5. The One
6. Legacy
7. Marching Into Battle
8. Te Amo
9. Sticks & Stones
10. Water Into Wine
11. Sympathy
12. Renewed

Band members:
Michael Sweet – vocals, guitar
Robert Sweet – drums, percussion
Oz Fox – guitar, vocals
Tim Gaines – bass, vocals

The Yellow and Black Attack” [1984]
“Soldiers Under Command” [1985]
“To Hell with the Devil” [1986]
“In God We Trust” [1988]
“Against the Law” [1990]
“Can’t Stop the Rock” [Compilation – 1991]
“7 Seven the Best of Stryper” [Compilation – 2003]
“7 Weeks : Live in America 2003” [Live – 2004]
“Reborn” [2005]
“Extended Versions” [Live – 2006]
“Greatest Hits – Live in Puerto Rico” [Live – 2007]
“The Roxx Regime Demos” [Compilation – 2007]”
“Murder by Pride” [2009]
“The Covering” [2011]
“Second Coming” [Compilation – 2013] (review)
“No More Hell to Pay” [2013] (review)

Record Label: Frontiers Records, Nov. 2013

Weblinks: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Buy the album here:
First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission
USA: Metal Helm

Video below for “No More Hell to Pay”:

Video below “No More Hell To Pay” Samples


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