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Monday, February 17, 2014

Stryper – ‘No More Hell To Pay’ album review

Stryper – ‘No More Hell To Pay’ album review

Released on: Frontiers Records. Release date: Available now.

So this is another of my ‘wrapping things up here at Chambers of Rock, reviews,’ which should’ve been posted late last year, but … Regulars and longtime readers know the score and I’m not going to drag this review out longer, by going through the ‘whys’ again.
Anyway, yes Michael Sweet, Robert Sweet, Oz Fox and Tim Gaines got things together once more last year (2013) to record another new Stryper studio release, in ‘No More Hell To Pay.’

Over the past decade or so, the ‘yellow and black attack’ men have been kind of back and forth with their reunions, but I hope now that they are firmly back together for good, even if Michael has been doing his own solo thing in parallel of late.
What the heck, why shouldn’t he?!
I did love the band’s tribute album to their influences ‘The Covering’ released in 2011, wonderful versions of some real rock classic tunes. Highly recommend that one to anyone!
The guys did re-record a bunch of their classics which was released earlier last year as ‘Second Coming,’ although I never got to hear the re-recordings, but based on their recent form I’m sure it was great!
This new one, ‘No More Hell To Pay,’ was finally released in November of last year …, yes, I know, slacker right?!

This is an absolute gem and they have really outdone themselves in my opinion, well maybe one track that I’m still not 100% sold on, but maybe that’s because it’s really pretty much too metal like. Yes, I know ..., I know ...
The rest of the album really shows some top class melodic hard rock of the very finest variety!
I mean seriously, I have found when I put this on in the car, I just don't want to stop playing it and find myself singing along all the time!

Opening track ‘Revelation’ intros with some nice harmonics and power chords before getting into the song proper.
A great solid melodic rocker with a sweet solo!
There’s something a little Scorpions like to me about title track ‘No More Hell to Pay,’ but I won’t take anything away from Stryper on this track. I just love it and sing it over and over again even when I’m not playing the song, the chorus line comes to mind again and again.
Just love the song's overall groove and the whole band’s sound is great and once more a very fine solo!
‘Saved By Love’ is next up and is a lot quicker than either of its predecessors, it just drives and really cruises!
Love the passionate scream of the chorus line and the drumming is just so tight, almost (Judas) Priest like guitar sound, I would just love to jam this tune, wonderful! Totally rocks out!
Back on the cover trail next with the band’s interpretation of ‘Jesus Is Just Alright With Me,’ yes the old Doobie Brothers tune and yet again this one drives until it hits the bridge to ease back into some chugging, crunching riffs and then gets right back into it swing again and pretty much slams, with some sweet interplay on the guitars, nice!

Is it just me or are there moments when Michael Sweet sings, where he’s not unlike Dennis DeYoung?
That is no slant on the guy, as on so many songs here he totally shows what a great and varying range he has.
‘The One’ is a monster, beautiful power ballad that would be enough to blow away any AOR fan, I swear.
Love the harmony guitar parts, beautiful and again, Michael’s voice, just great!
The metal approach next of ‘Legacy’ which start quite heavy before getting into the more melodic chorus, before getting back into its chugging, driving verse once more.
I really can’t say enough about how wonderful the guitar solo work on this album is throughout and of course there’s more of that here. Very slick!
OK, now it’s ‘Marching Into Battle’ that I really can’t get into and maybe it’s because of its metallic, dare I say Metallica like sound, but to a degree …, sorry, Spinal Tap like metal. Just doesn’t work for me, still and I’ve listened to it many times now.
The band completely make up for it with the absolutely wonderful ‘Te Amo’ which drives in a very (Iron) Maiden like fashion with time changes but it’s just so melodic that it manages to capture the metal edge of say Maiden and yet remains so true to melodic hard rock that Stryper has down to a fine art.
This track is just complete magic for me and is without doubt my favourite here, wonderful in every way!
Perhaps ‘Sticks and Stones’ has a bit of a cheesy title, but it’s a nice groove throughout both verse and chorus and keeps up with the pure strength of songwriting throughout the album.
As cheesy perhaps as the title may be considered, it’s a really strong chorus once again. Another winner!

‘Water Into Wine’ of course derives from the bible verse, but it’s a very strong hard melodic rocker indeed, with as much passion and groove as anything here, perhaps even if it may give a little nod here and there to classic early Def Leppard.  
Big chanting choruses of course, no real solo here although guitars are howling throughout!
With ‘Sympathy’ it’s again a strong hard rocking gem through each verse and then big harmonious choruses and a truly wonderful soaring lead break before a bridge that takes things down quite a bit with two nice harmony lines and then it powers up to close the track out.
Closing track ‘Renewed’ has a riff not unlike something Priest would play, but Michael Sweet’s ever reaching vocals take your mind away from that somewhat but the track cruises before another time changing bridge to bring the tempo down and then it kicks into a nice up tempo groove and solo and proceeds to just kill it!
Monster closer, love it!
Based on this absolutely storming release from Stryper it seems to me that there’s plenty more life in the band yet!
There is apparently a special edition also available, with a bonus DVD that includes two music videos – ‘No More Hell To Pay’ and ‘Sympathy’ – and a documentary on the making of the album which I wish I had, but ah well.
As I said at the start, this album has taken me a while to finally get this review typed up and the chances are, most rock fans that would be likely to get this, got it some time back, but if you’re sitting on the fence, DON’T, get this it is to these ears an absolute gem!

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

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