November , 2013
Review by Damian J. Cousins
"No More Hell To Pay"
Label: Frontiers Records
It's hard to believe that after 30 years, this is only Stryper's eighth studio album, No More Hell To Pay, available now via Frontiers Records. After a lengthy hiatus in the '90's they made a triumphant return in 2005 with Reborn, followed by the home run that was 2009's Murder By Pride, and nearly three years on the road. Finally, we have some new material to sink our teeth into, so let's go!
"Revelation" and the title track "No More Hell to Pay" immediately deliver a one-two punch of heavy twin guitars, courtesy of Michael Sweet and Oz Fox, with bassist Tim Gaines and drummer Robert Sweet holding down the rhythm with a thickness. Michael wastes no time in showing he can still hit those high notes, either. I really can't believe the man is 50 years old. Then it's time to go full-bore for a fast-paced number "Saved By Love" featuring some incendiary guitar work. Michael has repeatedly said that this album would feature some of Stryper's heaviest material yet. No argument here!
After a just alright cover of "Jesus Is Just Alright" (see what I did there?), the band proceeds to unveil what is arguably one of the greatest ballads they've ever written in "The One". I normally gravitate to the heavier stuff on a record, but this song hooked me right away, and is definitely one of the best. Next thing you know, you're being hit over the head by the crushing riffs of "Legacy" another standout that would sound equally at home in 1986 as it does today. Of course by now we've all seen/heard the various live versions of "Marching Into Battle" from different tour stops on YouTube, and I am pleased to say that the studio version goes just as hard and doesn't lose a thing.
When I first saw "Te Amo" it was obviously a head-scratcher, and I didn't know what to expect. What I got was another speedy track with great riffs and a killer hook that is obviously a love song. Now whether it's about a person or a deity is not up for me to decide, I just really liked it. "Sticks and Stones" has the most unique guitar sound, and is the perfect mix of heavy and melodic, making it another instant favorite. Really, the only song I wasn't wild about is "Water Into Wine", but hey, that's only one song on an album of 12, so I'd say they're doing pretty well. Besides, "Sympathy" gets the momentum back on track, and is wisely the second single and video they released.
Closing song "Renewed" really finishes what Stryper started on track one and that is an album that truly showcases the best of classic metal with a fresh sound. It's got melody and punch, and Michael Sweet's production is flawless; the mix is perfect. If Murder By Pride was a home run, then this album is a grand slam. No More Hell to Pay is some of the band's heaviest and strongest work to date, and here's hoping we get another 30 years out of them!