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Even The Devil Believes – Stryper

Here we go, all you hardcore Stryper fans! The boys have delivered on yet another album. Even with more than 35 years under their belt, you can almost set your watch by how productive this band has been in the last decade. Starting with 2009’s Murder By Pride, this release will be their fifth album of all original material, and their eighth album overall since then. Their prolificacy is legitimized by the top notch quality of the material, too. I feel that the band continues to push themselves with each release, and this record is no different.

I think Even The Devil Believes is the most diverse and melodic the band has been in the last decade, and perhaps in their career. This is a huge statement to make, but I really feel that Stryper hasn’t ever had harmony vocals with this much power. The thing that makes this record’s melodic passages a little more palatable than, say, something from In God We Trust, is the devotion they now have to the heaviness of their brand of metal. I am a devout fan of Stryper and every note they’ve ever played, but there are times in the earlier years when I thought things got a little too light or pop-oriented. That’s something that’s buried way in the past. This is yet another heavy record, but with a few more big choruses, multi-part vocal harmonies, and even a slick Queen/ELO-type choral thing (“How To Fly”). “This I Pray” is about the lightest thing on this record and it’s a song filled with strength and integrity. It has a little bit of a Bon Jovi meets modern country feel, but it also has the masterful guitar work that we’ve come to expect from Stryper. A standout track on the album is something called “Invitation Only,” and it’s something different than anything else on the record, really. This is a song that could be an outtake from the Yellow & Black Attack record, but the keyboard synth underneath gives it a really bright and unique spin. But even the heaviest work here is reinforced with tight and uplifting harmony vocals. The lead track, “Blood From Above,” is a great example of this. It has a frenetic pace equivalent to any classic thrash, with shredding guitars and deadly shrieking screams. On top of all that musical lunacy is a band singing like they’re robed members of God’s choir. They blend the hammering heaviness with harmonic grace better than anyone else, and they do it quite often with this record. In true Stryper fashion though, we get those razor sharp riffs and blazing guitar parts with plenty of in-your-face crunch. “Do Unto Others,” “Middle Finger Messiah,” ”For God & Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and especially “Divider” are as heavy as anything we’ve heard from the band. 

One of the many reasons I was a little extra excited about this one was because it’s the first studio recording with bassist Perry Richardson. I know that Perry favors the heavier side of things, so I expected most of these songs to have a Kardashian-sized bottom. Perry definitely doesn’t disappoint either, dishing up some pretty sexy bass parts. He absolutely owns “Make Love Great Again,” which kicks off with a huge bass line that will rattle your windows. Keep your ears close to these songs to hear some of the rhythm lines throughout the album, though. Perry Richardson has a gigantic effect on the Stryper sound.

Michael Sweet still has one of the finest voices in hard rock/metal. His tone is definitely deeper than it was 30 years ago, but I tend to favor this lower-ended Michael Sweet. One thing I always wished Stryper had in the early 80’s was the ability to get gritty. With Michael’s tone so high and clear, he never really had the ability to give things too much muscle. I truly feel that the deeper vocal tone on the past couple records has contributed tremendously to the strength of the music as a whole. Make no mistake, though – the signature Michael Sweet scream is still alive and well.

Stryper is sharper and heavier than they’ve ever been, and it keeps getting better with each and every release. For me, the best part of the Stryper catalog is from 2013’s No More Hell To Pay forward. These most recent releases have had all of the elements I loved most from the years prior. With Even The Devil Believes they continue building on those elements, and have added a few new flavorings to boot. It’s a pretty great thing to be a Stryper fan in 2020.

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