What’s The Rockbrat Listening To Today ? STRYPER – THE COVERING (2011)

In 1991, Stryper were lampooned by all and sundry for releasing the ‘Against The Law’ LP – a non yellow/black album. Leather jackets and songs about women too. Shame shame shame said Derryn. Clearly the boys had sinned. So what am I to make of this? 20 years later and heavy metal’s favourite Christian crusaders have released an album of their favourite metal anthems. Those same sceptics who tore strips off Stryper (ha – get it?) for being a gimmick band in their heyday, were those same people who ran them down in 1991 when the y released ‘Against The Law’ running round with their ‘Told You So’ smug expressions.  It’s fair to say that there will be those same types who will consider ‘The Covering’ as a sham – but I’m not one of ‘em.  Whether you were a fan of Christian rock or not, many people dug Stryper for the MUSIC, cos they were a GREAT heavy metal band.  For the skeptics, let me give you a brief history lesson. In the early 80’s, Stryper were part of the burgeoning LA hard rock/metal scene and were going by the name of ‘Roxx Regime’. They looked like every other schmuck. How you gonna make it if that’s the case ? Back then, bands that looked a little bit different and went for some theatrics, (WASP, Twisted Sister etc) had a better chance of making it. So they applied the yellow and black concept and went the white metal way – they stood out, they were different from the pack – but they were still a killer metal band who played exciting and original material. I saw a flyer from the Country Club from 84 and they were being supported by Bon Jovi. Interesting to note that in 2010, Bon Jovi were the highest grossing touring performer in the world – and Stryper ? Well it’s the start of 2011 and they have released an album of covers. They have covered bands that they used to listen to and had a big influence on them musically. According to Michael Sweet, “Even though this has been a record to cause controversy and a select few to question our motives and reasons for covering the songs that we recorded, our faith and beliefs have never been more confirmed and our message is the same as it has always been. We’ll go to the grave making a bold stand for Christ and we will never deny that. At the same time, we wanted to show a different side to the band and make everyone aware of the fact that we literally ‘cut our teeth’ on this music. Our history is what it is and there’s no reason to avoid that or to say otherwise. These songs and bands have played a very important role in our own sound and musicianship and quite possibly we wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for these bands. At the same time, we can play a cover song yet still remain faithful and present the message we’ve always presented. This record will show a whole new side to the band musically yet an even more powerful side to the band spiritually.” The band tackle a dozen tunes on this album, and all are true to the originals – which is what I liked to see when bands cover a tune made famous by some other. The album opens with a version ‘Set Me Free’ originally a Sweet tune. This is not my favourite Sweet tune, but this is killer version. Klaus Meine he may not be, but Michael Sweet’s take of the Scorps ‘Blackout’ is spot on – matching Klaus’ phrasing note for note. Stryper doing a rendition of Sabbath’s ‘Heaven & Hell’ was always been contentious – but I dunno why. It’s just so logical. Ronnie represented the darkness – Stryper the light. Turn this one up! This simply ROCKS! The band roll through a superb interpretation of UFO’s classic ‘Lights Out’, and their take of Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’ sounds awesome with Michael Sweet easily matching Bruce Bruce’s vocals and the guitar parts also up to the mark.  There are good versions of Purple’s ‘Highway Star’, though they could have gone for a better track than this one, maybe Rainbow’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’.  Also unnecessary  is a rendition of KI$$’s ‘Shout It Out Loud’ which when stacked next to all these other great metal tunes – sounds dated, mundane and pedestrian – which is pretty much what it is. (If I don’t hear this song again this lifetime that’s OK with me. Throw in ‘I Love It Loud’ whilst I’m at it).  Stryper could have selected a better Priest tune to cover other than ‘Breaking The Law’ but their rendition is true to the original.  Same goes for “On Fire”, great take, but I would have selected another Van Halen tune than this one. Their cover of Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” is fabulous, with Michael Sweet easily handling the Robert Plant high notes. If you heard Michael Sweet singing with Boston, you’d know that there are not many vocal ranges he can’t match.  One of the albums highlights (for me anyway), is the brilliant cover of Ozzy’s ‘Over The Mountain’ with Oz Fox hitting all of Rhoads’s licks note for note.  As you’d expect, the band do a superb and authentic take of Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son”, which along with ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Heaven And Hell’ are my favourite three cuts on the record. Top to Bottom though – all the tracks here are first rate. No Motorhead or Motley cover? Maybe on the next volume. I picked up this album on iTunes – I suggest you do the same. 8.5 out of 10. Buy it here

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