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In the Beginning there was Stryper

posted Sep 19, 2011, 7:24 PM by Sarah Brehm   [ updated Nov 3, 2011, 5:12 PM ]

The late 60s and 70s saw several pop/rock hits with religious themes, including 1969’s “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, the Doobie Brother’s cover in “Jesus is Just Alright” in 1972, and Glen Campbell’s “I Knew Jesus (Before He was a Star)” in 1973. The Christian rock bands Petra and Resurrection band got their start in the 70s, releasing their debut albums in 1974 and 1978, respectively. But many Christians dismissed the notion that this type of music, associated with Christianity, was acceptable. Many went as far as to say Christian rock music was “satanic.”


Then we entered the 80s, and one metal band shook things up so much by singing openly about Jesus and God, yet being accepted by the mainstream and very successful world-wide; Stryper exploded onto the metal scene in 1983 with their first EP The Yellow and Black Attack. Quickly building a reputation for wearing yellow and black spandex, stereotypical 80’s gigantic hair, and for throwing Bibles into the mosh pit at shows, Stryper forced many Christians to re-evaluate their stance on Christian rock music. People started questioning why metal music with blatantly Christian themes was supposed to be wrong.


Stryper bravely led the way through the 80s and 90s, greatly widening the once narrow path of Christian rock for others to follow. And the yellow-and-black-attack is back—though with a little less spandex! Stryper stopped in Chattanooga on September 18 to play on the Mosaic Arts Venue stage, though the event was sponsored by The Warehouse. Supporting acts were Killinger and local band CoverdScars (Formerly Covered In Scars or CIS).


Killinger, a relatively new band, out of Canada opened the night. They are the embodiment of classic 80s metal—tight pants, leather jackets, long hair, eye makeup, and a sound that harkens back to the time when metal was all about arpeggio guitar solos, and piercing vocals. Killinger announced that a portion of their CD sales that night would go directly back to The Warehouse Venue, a very nice gesture that probably boosted sales.


Local band CoveredScars played next. Since I last interviewed them (C.I.S. Shares Christ Through "Life" Metal Music), CoveredScars has gone through a slight name change, has added another guitarist—“Smiley”, and have greatly increased their popularity. CoveredScars aggressively promotes themselves on Facebook and Reverbnation, gaining one fan at a time from all across the nation. They walked out on stage with a new look too—painted faces. I wasn’t much of a fan of the face paint, but the guys of CoveredScars are good guys with a desire to share Jesus to anyone who will listen. They played numerous songs from their debut album, What Words Will Do, including the title track, “Black Train,” “Hell is Empty,” “Skin Crawl,” and “33 Years.” They ended their set with a new song titled “Flinch of the Hinge.”


Then came the much-anticipated highlight of the night—Stryper! Black-and-yellow stripped drums, black-and-yellow guitars and bass, black-and-yellow clothing! They may have gotten older, but Styper hasn’t changed—all original members were back—lead singer Michael Sweet, bassist Tim Gaines, guitarist Ox Fox, and drummer Robert Sweet. And they looked genuinely happy to be performing the music they love.


There were plenty of young families in attendance—parents showing off their favorite band to their kids, exposing them to what they listened to. From the opening note to the final strum of the encore, the excited crowd continued to sing a long and cheer. Michael Sweet noted that if they played every Stryper song, it would probably take about six hours, but they did play an array of songs that spanned the many years of their career including “Loud ‘N’ Clear” from the 1983 EP The Yellow and Black Attack, “Soldiers Under Command” and “Reach Out” from Soldiers Under Command (1985), “The Way” and “Sing Along Song” from To Hell With the Devil (1986), “All for One” from Against the Law (1990), “Murder By Pride” from Murder By Pride (2009), and several songs from their most recent album The Covering (2011) including “Shout it out Loud” by KISS, “Heaven and Hell” by Black Sabbath, and “Breaking the Law” by Judas Priest.”


At one point Robert Sweet emerged from behind his drum set to toss Stryper Bibles into the eager crowd. This has been tradition for Stryper shows. Michael Sweet mentioned that they used to find the Bibles on the ground after shows, so they started putting their logo on them, and suddenly they weren’t being left behind!


Stryper still has it! The harmonizing, high-pitched vocals were spot-on, and the perfectly-executed guitar solos easily satisfied the crowd. Each time a solo started, phones and camera sprung high into the air, trying to reach above the crowd to get that perfect shot or video footage. (Which made it difficult for short people like me! Even standing on a chair didn’t help!)


Stryper encored with arguably their most popular single “To Hell with the Devil.” Michael Sweet closed the night with a prayer. Overall it was a fantastic night. It was fun seeing the music that influenced so many of the Christian rock bands that I listen to today!
Words by: Sarah Brehm
Photos by: Sarah Brehm and Rick Brehm
Videos by: Sarah Brehm
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CoveredScars "What Words Will Do"

Tim Gaines, Stryper

Stryper throwing Bibles!

Michael Sweet, Ox Fox, Stryper

Stryper "To Hell With the Devil" live at The Warehouse