BY HENRY MILLER
Some bands have a sound that is just so specific to them, you recognize it even 34 years later. Others have a frontman whose voice is that sound.
In Christian heavy metal band Stryper’s case, both examples are true.
Singer and lead man Michael Sweet’s authoritative, high-octave and driving voice is the sound Stryper hit the ground with in Southern California in 1983. That voice is still a force behind a band which hosts three of its original members — Sweet, his brother Robert Sweet on drums and Oz Fox on guitar.
“In the past 34 years, we’ve evolved into what we are now,” Sweet said. “This is what we always really wanted to be. I love the progression. The story of Stryper is that of an underdog. We seem to go against the grain with everything we do, and our fans tend to be the same — they’re good hardworking people who believe in love, respect, and not conforming to the ways of the world.”
Stryper has taken to the road once again, promoting their all-time greatest hits from the ’80s and ’90s, as well as new music from their recently released album titled “God Damn Evil.”
The yellow-and-black monsters of Christian heavy metal will perform Sunday at the Boggus Event Center in Pharr.
The group exploded onto the Christian hard-rock scene with ’80s metal albums “Soldiers Under Command,” “To Hell with the Devil” and “In God We Trust.”
While Christian music in the ’80s was often labeled as being a decade behind in sound and lyrical presentation, Stryper’s hardcore sound immediately fit right into the heavy rock scene and was a completely new sound for the Christian genre. Stryper’s sound was so unique that the band became the first to ever have two songs in MTV’s Top 10 simultaneously, with the hits “Free” and “Honestly.”
Stryper rose to significance in the heavy-Christian genre and was an easy crossover for ’80s rock stations while other bands such as Whitecross, Barren Cross and Guardian, among others, remained on one side of the market but helped that heavy Christian market grow. Stryper was a group unlike any other before.
Since returning from a 12-year hiatus in 2003, Stryper, with more than 10 million albums sold, has managed to release new music annually. Their most recent album was just released in April, a critically-acclaimed 10th studio album, “God Damn Evil.” The album opened at No. 1
on Billboard’s Christian Album Sales, No. 2 on Billboard’s Top Christian Albums and elsewhere among several Billboard charts. In addition, “God Damn Evil” soared to No. 1 on the iTunes and Amazon Hard Rock charts immediately upon release.
Just a few years earlier, controversy surrounded then-Christian artist Amy Grant when she crossed over into the “secular” music world. The difference was she created music for that genre; the same Stryper songs were on both Christian and secular stations. People complained about everything — even the fact that the band didn’t use Jesus’ name in any of their songs. Still, behind their recognizable logo, always trademarked with “Isaiah 53:5,” the band continued to grow and their fans base spread out across the world. That bible verse reads: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.”
“In today’s music world, it’s miraculous for a band like Stryper to even chart at all,” Michael Sweet said. “We’re absolutely thrilled that we’re still making our best music to date and climbing the charts 34 years later. We love what we do and we’re so blessed to do it. We’re grateful for so much support. We’re excited about the next season of Stryper.”