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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stryper - The Covering album review

Stryper – The Covering album review
Released on: Big 3 Records. Release date: Available now.

I have to say from the get go here, that this covers album is seriously, very well done indeed!
I mean, who'd have thought this would come from a band like Stryper in the first place, but frontman Michael Sweet has already answered to that, again and again, to those who are questioning the band's faith, in recording an album of songs, in some cases artists that some consider 'devil worshipers.'
Of course, anyone with any common sense at all would simply brush that aside, as Michael clearly stated before, Stryper would never have formed if it wasn't for the influences of these bands.
Quite right too!

Here's the thing for me, back in the day, at least in the UK when the band first crossed the big pond, it was almost considered a bit of a joke that, how could a heavy metal band be preaching to the masses, the word of God? I mean it was the 'Yellow and Black attack?' Come on ....!?!
The thing was Stryper were one of the first bands to actually cross that bridge if you will, bringing rock music to Christianity, so really, all power to them ...

The band's last album, 'Murder By Pride' took me a while to get into, but it grew in the end.
I think it lacked a little, on the production side if truth be told.
Good work though guys and they have kept it coming with this absolute winner!
Anyway, I'm getting off track a little here. This really is a good album, I mean who'd have imagined these guys singing Ozzy, Black Sabbath, Kiss and Iron Maiden songs, but they have, as well as some other great rock classics that they really have done themselves and the original artists proud on!
Yes Stryper with 'The Covering' have got a very good, strong album going here ... Not so sure about the cover though, sorry guys ...

What is a great statement is the opening number, a cover of The Sweet's 'Set Me Free.'
What a great rocker to kick things off with! Yes, I said rocker and anyone that gave The Sweet a chance and bought their album, knew full well that they were serious rockers and not the bubblegum pop band that TV shows and magazines portrayed of them. I guess though they didn't help themselves in doing the 'bad' songs they did. Anyway, 'Set Me Free' is a great opening rocker, no question!

Wow! Michael Sweet next has Klaus Meine’s voice well matched on ‘Blackout.’ Very impressive indeed and the band does an excellent reworking, with some added screams in there for good measure from the frontman.
The only other thing they’ve done differently really, is made the guitar solo’s their own.
Otherwise they even added the breaking glass at the end of the track. Clever.

They cover Black Sabbath’s 'Heaven and Hell' next and Michael Sweet cannot do Ronnie James Dio (RIP), but in fairness the only guy that has honestly come close is Jorn Lande. Instead Michael Sweet makes the song his own vocally, but huge kudos to Oz Fox for some great guitar work throughout this track and the whole album. Great tribute to Ronnie and the guys.

UFO’s 'Lights Out' is next and for me, it’s always great to hear name acts covering UFO or Thin Lizzy - By the way guys, why no Lizzy cover?! LOL! - probably my two favourite UK bands ever, who I always felt were so often overlooked globally. Again Sweet sings this in his own Stryper style and I must say, I’ve never heard anyone replicate Phil Mogg’s vocal, ever either.
I will say that Oz Fox has used a very (Michael) Schenker like sound for this though. Very good indeed and I think it’s great that Stryper has in recent times added a keyboard player in Charles Foley, who you’ll find makes his presence that much better known as the album moves forward.

A really rockin’ version of the Kansas classic 'Carry On Wayward Son' next and it’s certainly edgier and it really jams, I love it!

Nice that Stryper have got a nice international balance on their influences with US, German and English acts all represented on this album and this continues with a great version of Deep Purple’s 'Highway Star' next – Rhonda (My wife), you need to listen to this, you’ll love the Hammond! – and the rhythm section of Robert Fox and Tim Gaines keep it all tight. Great!
Nice harmony guitar in Ritchie Blackmore style too and then it picks up and almost replicates how Night Ranger cover this live too.

It’s funny as next track Kiss’ ‘Shout it Out Loud’ almost seems pedestrian paced by comparison here, but it’s fairly true to the original.
I do like the way that Stryper seem to have thrown in extra power-chords throughout the album too to beef things up.

Ozzy’s ‘Over the Mountain’ is next and gets things chugging along with crunching guitars and is a pretty steady replication too.

‘The Trooper,’ the Iron Maiden thoroughbred is next and I’ve always loved that harmony guitar intro, Bruce Dickinson is someone else that is hard to replicate and Michael Sweet doesn’t try and again, it’s a different guitar solo part that makes it Stryper’ized!

Keeping the British metal track it’s Judas Priest’s ‘Breaking the Law’ next and we’re reminded how contagious that signature Priest riff is.

You know what’s a little funny, is that I’ve always thought at times that Michael Sweet’s voice is more than a little like a cross between Freddie Mercury and former Styx man, Dennis DeYoung and I mean nothing negative in that at all, in fact, if someone said that I sounded like that, I’d be well impressed!

How about a little Van Halen then? Great bass from Tim Gaines and yes, guitar from Oz Fox, who really rips things up here with 'On Fire!' Great stuff!
No David Lee Roth’isms here, Michael Sweet gives this his own special touch.

So you’re thinking, they’ve covered so many classic rock acts, where’s Led Zeppelin? Right here, with ‘Immigrant Song.’
Interesting intro, which then breaks into the song proper after a few bars, but it’s an extremely short version at little over two minutes, so I wonder what the story was there? It does seem like it ends abruptly, strange?

Closing track is original composition ‘God,’ which rocks it up great and it’s a fine performance to close out this very impressive release.
An incredible vocal performance from Michael Sweet once more and overall the band sounds fine, hints of Maiden at times here.
Buy it! What else can I tell you, I really love what they’ve done here, I really do.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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