When the members of Stryper made their presence loud and clear upon the release of their first full-length studio album, 1985’s ‘Soldiers Under Command,’ the band almost instantly developed a strong reputation within the heavy metal community for their accelerating dueling guitar solos, soaring operatic vocal harmonies and their firm lyrical ties to the Christian faith.
Such subsequent fan-favorite releases as 1986’s ‘To Hell With the Devil’ and 1988’s ‘In God We Trust’ only continued to build upon Stryper’s stylistic foundation, whereas 1990’s ‘Against the Law’ introduced an unexpected metamorphosis which resulted in a bold departure from the band’s evangelical lyrics, as well as their stage appearance and even their distinctive logo.
The current incarnation of Stryper falls somewhere between the approaches found on ‘Against the Law’ and ‘To Hell With the Devil,’ with the emphasis particularly centered towards developing anthemic hard rock and metal songs while occasionally introducing their religious beliefs into the end result; such a formula was proudly showcased on Stryper’s acclaimed 2013 studio album ‘No More Hell to Pay.’
When it comes down to how the band is classified, however, the members of Stryper may not share the same standpoint as some of their longtime listeners. During a recent conversation with Cryptic Rock, lead vocalist and guitarist Michael Sweet was asked for his opinion on the current Christian metal and rock scene, which apparently struck a raw nerve with the frontman.
“I do not really keep up with it,” he replied. “I come from a different school of thought and I do not like all the labels. I do not like being referred to as a Christian rock band. We are not a Christian rock band; we are a rock band comprised of Christians.
“Just like any other rock band out there, you have rock bands that are comprised of drug addicts, you have rock bands that are comprised of Satanists, and you have rock bands that are comprised of Catholics, like Slayer.
“Black Sabbath [bassist] Geezer Butler [wrote] the song ‘After Forever’, which is about Christ, but they were not labeled a Christian band. Actually the opposite; they were labeled a dark, almost at times a Satanic band, and they are not.
“My point is that I just do not like all the labels. If you are going to label a band a Christian band, then you got to label all the other bands. If U2 is made up of members that are Catholic, then are they going to be called a Catholic rock band?”
He continued: “I do not know where the label ‘Christian rock band’ came from. It is hard for me to wrap my mind around it… It instantly puts you in a box. When they put you in a box, it limits what you are put on this earth to do.
“I just feel like it does limit the band. Some people misinterpret that as saying that I am ashamed of my faith or I am running from my faith. I think the exact opposite. We never ran from our faith, we have always been the most full Christian rock band that is comprised of Christians the whole time. We have never held back a punch.”