Album Review: Stryper – “Fallen”
In the 1980s they were “soldiers under God’s command”, an unlikely pairing of Christian evangelism and the glam rock pageantry of the era. Then, as now, Stryper’s mix of spandex and salvation was viewed by many as tantamount to heavy metal heresy. Could it be though that the Yellow and Black Attack were in fact pioneers? With the release of the band’s latest album Fallen, it’s time to find out.
Hairbands and high-pitched falsetto vocals are forever destined to remain some of the biggest taboos in the rock repertoire, only Christian metal finds itself more universally scorned. Stryper then would appear something of a perfect trifecta for habitual humiliation. Yet, this is a band with platinum album sales, who continues to make a living, tour the world, and produce new music way beyond their apparent expiry date.
Rather than shy away from their past, Fallen simply embraces the synergy of earlier Stryper records and ramps it up to new heights. Opener Yahweh is six bombastic minutes of wailing vocals, thunderous rhythm and the kind of guitar licks that would make Steel Panther blush. The fact that it’s about the ancient god of Israel feels entirely secondary. Elsewhere, the cupboards are ripped bare for an almighty smorgasbord of arena rock staples, be it the vocal arrangements of Styx and Journey, or the dual-guitar punch of Judas Priest. Such is the snap to the production that even post-grunge acts like Shinedown appear present as an influence.
Fame, fortune and fornication might be key stop-offs on the roadmap to rock n’ roll legend, but what kind of a close-minded scene would we be to consider them the only path? The validity of Stryper’s MO is one for personal reflection, but standing true to one’s beliefs and being seen for who you are actually seems pretty close to the beating rebel heart of rock n’ roll.
That Stryper broke ground as the first overtly Christian act to achieve mainstream success is unquestionable, but it’s a tag that’s also unnecessary. Bands sustain success not through novelty, but by ability. Hits like Calling On You and Honestly crossed over because they held up to their peers on rock radio, rather than any godly influence. Fallen is an album capable of turning heads through old-fashioned standards like songwriting and musicianship. Heck there’s even a Black Sabbath cover thrown in! Who says the devil has all the best tunes?