Murder by Pride
- Reviewed by Jeremy V. Jones Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2009 28 Jul
- Eclipse for the Son
- 4 Leaf Clover
- Peace of Mind
- The Plan
- Murder by Pride
- Mercy over Blame
- I Believe
- Run in You
- Love Is Why
- My Love (I'll Always Show)
Stryper was huge in the '80s, and not just in Europe. Their 1986 To Hell with the Devil was the first Christian album to go platinum, and they were the first Christian band to garner MTV airplay. Their yellow-and-black Spandex theater was tailor-made for the video era. And album sales surpassed 8 million, mostly by 1990 when the band fizzled as glam metal surrendered to grunge.
Stryper reemerged with a brief tour and greatest hits collection in 2003, then delivered Reborn in 2005. That record replaced hair metal flourishes with a nu metal crunch and lower-octave vocals by Michael Sweet. But the project met a collective meh—not cutting edge enough to gain many new fans, not Stryper enough for the faithful.
Now the whims of rock have turned in Stryper's favor: The '80s are cool again—just in time to release Murder by Pride 25 years after their debut. Longtime fans should be thrilled. This time the band keeps its signature sounds front and center: Sweet's vibrato, quintessential metal vocals, and plenty of harmonized choruses and dual guitar solos lead by Oz Fox.
Fortunately, Murder avoids being merely a throwback album. I'd still like to see more progression along harder rock lines, but I have to credit Stryper for creating new material that plays to its strengths and still stands in a new era. If anything, Murder swings a little more radio-friendly on tracks such as the pop-structured "Run in You" and the midtempo, hookcentric "I Believe." The latter could easily fit into many a church worship service, despite its clichéd chorus of "I believe, I receive."
"Alive" provides the power ballad of the pack, built on a piano foundation. It strikes a touching note in light of the fact that Sweet lost his wife to cancer earlier this year, although capitalized You in the liner notes indicate it's addressing God.
Mostly there are metal scorchers. "Murder by Pride" is perhaps the album's most complete blend of old and new. "The Plan" and "Mercy over Blame" also stand out. The opener, "Eclipse for the Son," unloads the full arsenal to make an unveiled statement that Stryper is back. "4 Leaf Clover" provides backup, keeping the guitars blazing with enough firepower to almost overlook the weaker lyrics: "There's no strength in a unicorn / No luck in a 4 leaf clover."
Overall, Sweet's lyrics show more introspection and transparency than gimmicky lines such as "to hell with the devil"—you'd hope as much after 25 years. But Stryper built its success on wailing guitars, vocal gymnastics, and theater. Sweet's voice sounds strong as ever even in the higher ranges. Fox's fretwork still smokes. And an international tour kicks off this fall, complete with a set of the classics as the entire original cast dons yellow and black—but, thankfully, not the Spandex. Stryper is indeed back.