Artist: Stryper
Title: The Covering
Label: Big3 Records

On the heels of double rainbow mania comes double nostalgia. Last seen struggling to weather changing musical tastes in the early 1990s, the original Stryper lineup has regrouped for The Covering, an unabashed head-banging record that finds the band going back even further, blazing through other top acts’ hot metal tunes from the 1970s and early ’80s.

Still billed as Christian rockers, members Michael Sweet, Oz Fox, Tim Gaines, and Robert Sweet somehow stay faithful to classics by Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, Van Halen, and other shockers without causing too much trouble. So if you’ve ever loved Stryper or the guys they pay tribute to here, you’re going to enjoy this record.

For starters, “Set Me Free” (made famous by The Sweet) sets the tone with a pounding rhythm, layered lightning flashes of guitar, and vocals that don’t care about the fate of your glassware. While the vague lyrics could be construed as potentially violent, cheeky, or just inane, they might very well be lost on the listener who will instead be strapping on an air guitar and asking questions like: How does anyone play that fast? How can a man pushing 50 still hit those high notes? The same goes for the youthful romp through Scorpions’ “Blackout” which includes a mild profanity (“what the hell”). And there’s probably no danger in a discerning person turning to a life of crime upon hearing Stryper’s feel good cover of Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law.”

More likely, fans will appreciate the honest spiritual tension being explored in Black Sabbath’s epic “Heaven and Hell” (The Covering’s first single), the exciting Christians-in-the-mainstream nod of “Carry On Wayward Son” (Kansas), and the new Stryper song, “God,” a metal saga in itself conjuring vivid images and emotions about this fallen world. Splitting the difference, exceptional takes on full-throttle, fretboard melting rock-n-rollers like Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” (about fast cars) and Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” (set on a battlefield) may win over metalheads who were never interested in Stryper because of the band’s beliefs. Likewise, those never before exposed to some of these tunes are in store for quite a musical journey and an increasing urge to crank the stereo.

And for anyone still concerned about mixing sacred and secular, Michael Sweet, hoping to stop a backlash before it starts, has said, “No, we haven’t turned our back on God; we’re still serious about it.”

Check out Stryper music videos at Godtube.com