Following a covers album and a set of re-recordings, in 2013 Christian rockers STRYPER delivered the well-met “No More Hell to Pay”. Obviously settled in their groove, the band wastes no time in delivering “Fallen”, their 2015 offering. This band’s ballads were once a larger part of their identity than the heavy metal worship of Jesus Christ. Those days are gone, and “Fallen” is more about heavy metal worship than those syrupy ballads that once dominated MTV alongside Paula Abdul’s girlie jams. Take that as you want, but STRYPER’s latter-day toughening up suits them as they resume their crusade to blow speakers in God’s name.
The 6:21 opening number “Yahweh” was co-written by SEVENDUST’s Clint Lowery, and whether you’re still this band’s fan or not, it’s a stormy, thundering epic. Robert Sweet lays down a marching stride as Michael Sweet, who sounds like he hasn’t lost an inch in his pipes, leads a brimming trip through The Passion. Well-stuffed choruses provide gallantry and heroics designed to honor Christ’s sacrifice, as a quicker pickup midway and a trudging bridge sequence marks Jesus’s torturous trek to Calvary. The same methodology applies to the more efficient if less bombastic “Let There Be Light” later in the album.
While STRYPER does an okay job tackling BLACK SABBATH’s “After Forever”, a Tony Iommi hangover prevails over the trudging verses of the title track, appropriate tones for the implied banishment of Lucifer. As with “Yahweh”, the choruses are served piping hot as Michael Sweet shrieks his way amidst the teaming croons around him. It’s subtle, but SABBATH also plays into the lumbering verses of “Big Screen Lies”. Listening to Tim Gaines’s Geezer Butler licks and Oz Fox and Michael Sweet chomping through more of Iommi’s repertoire on “Heaven”, it’s apparent STRYPER, loosened from the major-label constrictions of their heyday, are wont to let the horns and talons of Satan make their presence known. This with the interest of pushing their messages of Christianity as rebuke — much as the title track “To Hell with the Devil” did back in 1986.
While these flirtations with the dark side may trip alarm bells to STRYPER’s devout, Michael Sweet asserts the band was weaned on BLACK SABBATH (who playing heavy-styled music wasn’t?) and polemics are practically welcome at this point. Remember, STRYPER redid “Heaven and Hell” on 2011’s “The Covering”. While derivative, STRYPER sticking to a SABBATH playbook for part of the way on “Fallen” does it a service in the heaviness department.
That being said, the album’s single “Pride” and “Love You Like I Do” are so-so anthems with the former carrying meaty riffs while bearing STRYPER’s customary message of positivity. The album’s obligatory and only ballad, “All Over Again”, is slightly more countrified than their better-known tearjerkers. No one will complain about the song’s yummy, stacked-up vocals. The speedy “Till I Get What I Need” carries a whumping AEROSMITH groove, while “The Calling” yields the album’s best-pushed riffs. “King of Kings” booms as a raucous homily, and is the albums twelfth and final song (no going to thirteen here folks!).
Oz Fox and Michael Sweet still shred and solo organically and the original four members continue to play as tightly as they have since “The Yellow and Black Attack”. For the occasional pitfalls “Fallen” yields, STRYPER goes all-out when the moments matter most. The period of confusion mulling over the band during the stripe-less and God-less “Against the Law” days still mars STRYPER’s legacy for many listeners. Still, many hopped back on the band’s wagon with 2005’s “Reborn”. Ten years later, said fans can rejoice that “Fallen” finds STRYPER doing what they do best — loud and proud as ever.