'No More Hell To Pay'
Release date: 1st November 2013
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
Notorious and well respected Christian rockers Stryper return with their eighth proper studio album, if you exclude their re-recorded set called 'Second Coming' and their covers album titled 'The Covering'.
This is a set of twelve tracks which will hopefully retain the reputation that has kept them afloat for an impressive recording career that spans nearly thirty years!
Those of you that purchased 'Second Coming' and enjoyed it will be pleased to know that this album continues in the same vein. Old skool Hard Rock from start to finish inbuilt and armed with those melodies they were renowned for.
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Gone are the days of 'Murder By Pride' or 'Against The Law' styles of presentation, as the rampant Hard Rockin' 'Saved By Love' harks back to their golden early era. The change of pace that takes place during 'Jesus Is Just Alright' makes for an entertaining and striking highlight during this new album too whilst the opening 'Revelation' is safe within its cage of familiarity.
The angel on the artwork rises from the flames breaking the shackles and chains that bind, and in some ways I suspect the band are hoping to share in the abstract similarities with 'No More Hell To Pay', but alas I would say that this album is merely cementing their reputation for the style of Hard Rock they have been fondly known for.
On the other hand, if you see the angel reaching skywards as a parallel statement for the band reaching up and freeing themselves from the fires of Hell, then I guess you cannot argue with that!
For a band who was the first of their kind to have two simultaneous top ten hits in the MTV charts, they know their stuff. 'The One' is a fine example of that insight as they deliver a softer side to their arsenal with an instant hook to boot.
Not allowing the listener a chance to become complacent though, they follow this lighter-waving song with a driving Rocker in the shape of 'Legacy'. If there are fires in Heaven, then they burn brightly within the force of Stryper.
Interestingly, Michael Sweet who helms the microphone and plays lead guitar for the band had this to say about 'No More Hell To Pay': "The new Stryper album, 'No More Hell To Pay', is the record we needed to make as a follow up to 'To Hell With The Devil'.
"Every song has a hooky guitar riff. Everything is in minor keys, so it's a little darker sounding and a little tougher."
The title track provides some harmonious backing vocals which help this song stand up to the quality on offer elsewhere, whilst 'Sympathy' offers up a large chorus that breaks the mundane verses.
If you buy the version of this album that contains a bonus DVD you'll be treated to video clips for both of these tracks in conjunction with a 'making of the album' documentary.
Hints of Judas Priest and the Scorpions bounce around along with their own sense of identity and presence which all add up to a right ol' romp in the ears.
Selling around eight million albums worldwide is something that shouldn't be sniffed at, and these guys have themselves a good album here, but whether it's a classic in comparison to their canon of work remains to be seen.
'Renewed' feels like a song-by-numbers and finishes the album whilst a track like 'Sticks And Stones' lumbers in chunky territory before soaring with an instant chorus.
Other notable moments include 'Marching Into Battle' and 'Te Amo' (which once translated simply states 'I Love You'). This latter track thankfully isn't a cover version of the Rihanna hit song of the same name.
There is definitely more of the good stuff than bad on show with this album, and if you were hoping to read this review with me saying how they've reinvented themselves or perhaps produced something sublime, then I'll have to disappoint.
Did they turn 'Water Into Wine' I hear you ask? Let's just say that a world without Stryper would be a little more boring and that 'No More Hell To Pay' Rocks for the most part.
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals / Lead Guitar
Robert Sweet – Drums and Visual Timekeeping
Timothy Gaines – Bass / Vocals
Oz Fox – Lead Guitar / Vocals
2. No More Hell To Pay
3. Saved By Love
4. Jesus Is Just Alright
5. The One
7. Marching Into Battle
8. Te Amo
9. Sticks And Stones
10. Water Into Wine