I've been collecting hard rock and heavy metal CDs since the late '80s.
Stryper - "Even The Devil Believes"
(Frontiers Records, 2020)
11 Tracks, Run Time: 46:33
I can't be the only one who's noticed that Stryper are getting better with age, can I?
The Christian rock stalwarts have most definitely been on a roll over the course of their past few studio albums. On 2013's No More Hell To Pay, 2015's Fallen, and 2018's God Damn Evil, the yellow-and-black bedecked quartet successfully shed the cheesy trappings of their kitschy, mid-'80s big hair and power ballad past, and in the process, they've revealed a much more mature, harder-edged, and powerful band beneath.
Even The Devil Believes, Stryper's thirteenth studio album, has just arrived via Frontiers Records, and it completes their transformation. Stryper sounds more energized and (dare I say it?) metal on this album than they have in years, and as a long time fan, I couldn't be happier.
The eleven new sermons heard on Even The Devil Believes are bound to cause much rejoicing among Stryper's devoted flock, and it packs enough musical firepower that it might even bring 'em some new converts from the other side of the aisle.
You don't necessarily have to be a Christian to enjoy Stryper (though it obviously doesn't hurt)—all you need is an appreciation for high quality, well played '80s metal, which the band certainly delivers on Even The Devil Believes. Can I get an "Amen?"
"Even The Devil Believes"
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Even The Devil Believes kicks off nicely with the barn burning "Blood From Above," a fast-paced. four-on-the-floor rocker with lightning-fast riffage from Oz Fox that'll get your air-guitar goin' in no time. Drummer Robert Sweet locks together with new bassist Perry Richardson (who's making his recording debut with the band) to form a super-tight rhythm section, and lead vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet even pulls off a couple of high pitched "metal" screams ala Rob Halford. So far, so good!
The title of "Make Love Great Again" might cause some eye rolling, but the song's actually pretty great, with a nice chunky feel and a choral hook big enough to land a whale. "Let Him In" and "Do Unto Others" continue the streak; both are melodic rockers with just the right amount of crunch, leading into the epic title track, which has one of the best riffs on the record.
"How To Fly" sounds like it could've been a leftover from Michael Sweet's short-lived side project with George Lynch of Dokken, and then "Divider" kicks up the raunch meter a few notches with a healthy amount of grimy, metallic guitar work.
The stripped-down "This I Pray" features some nice acoustic strumming and reminds me of some of Stryper's bluesier hair-metal contemporaries from the late '80s, like Cinderella or Tora Tora. It's not quite a "power ballad," but it's the closest thing you'll get to to one on this record.
Likewise, the bright, peppy sound of "Invitation Only" feels like a throwback to some of Stryper's ultra-slick past albums like To Hell With The Devil or In God We Trust. If we were in 1986, I bet this song would've been the first MTV/radio single.
Even The Devil Believes closes out with a solid one-two punch -- the praise anthem "For God & Rock N Roll" and the Van Halen-ish "Middle Finger Messiah" (whose intriguing title is practically guaranteed to ruffle some feathers in the more conservative corners of their fan base). Both tracks are loaded with still more crunchy guitar work and catchy, sing-along choruses that will stick in your head like glue.
"Make Love Great Again"
Summing it Up
In case I haven't made it obvious by now, Even The Devil Believes is an absolutely killer release which showcases Stryper at the top of their game. Honestly (pun not intended, I swear), I can't think of another veteran "Hair Band" from the same era that's still pumping out material of this high quality. Special mention must be given to the vocal stylin's of Michael Sweet, who has apparently discovered the Fountain of Youth -- he sounds better than a lot of guys half his age. New boy Richardson deserves some props as well, as he fits into the band nicely and provides a rock solid bottom end.
I've been a Stryper fan since 1985, and I've probably taken more crap from my more-metal-than-thou friends for liking them than any other band. Some of those nay-sayers might find themselves re-thinking their opinion of the Yellow & Black crew if they heard Even The Devil Believes. Who says the devil has to have all the best music, anyway?
"Do Unto Others"
© 2020 Keith Abt