Let’s face it; the careers of some artists and groups, it would seem, never truly die; they simply ‘roll’ with the proverbial changes, re-defining and, in some cases, improving themselves as they inevitably age. Although the abuse of such an undeniably clichéd descriptive may indeed seem contrived at best (Martin Popoff I am most definitely not), it remains appropriate whenever discussing legendary Christian Metal veterans Stryper. Having already survived a veritable plethora of inner turmoil–most notably the insolvency of Independent behemoths Enigma Records and the curiously-maligned Against The Law era–that would have destroyed a lesser-dedicated group, they find themselves basking amid a well-deserved critical and commercial renaissance initiated by the release of their ingenious Kenny Lewis-Produced comeback Reborn (2005). Accordingly, when approached in regards to coverage of their latest auditory excursion God Damn Evil, we were only more than happy to partake.
On the brilliant God Damn Evil (2018), an expertly assembled eleven song collection of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the Matt Bachand (Act Of Defiance, Hatebreed, Shadows Fall)-fueled first single “Take It To The Cross” and the relentlessly pummeling–albeit highly-effective–lament “God Damn Evil”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Undoubtedly attempting to capitalize on the veritable tidal wave of momentum initiated by the release of the well-received Fallen (2015) and No More Hell To Pay (2013), the group fires on all cylinders early and often via a multi-dimensional blend of soaring vocals, blistering fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms. Stylistically differentiating themselves from their remaining contemporaries (and, more importantly, their long defunct brethren), the group refuses to conform to the tried and true formulations of the genre’s would-be prime.
Continuing with the impressively swaggering “You Don’t Even Know” and the rumbling, impossibly hook-laden “Sea Of Thieves”, the newly-rejuvenated combination of vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet, lead guitarist Oz Fox, Craig Morgan/Firehouse/Trace Adkins bassist Perry Richardson–due to scheduling restraints, all bass was performed by Chris Piquette Band and Tom Ingram Band four stringer John O’Boyle–and drummer Robert Sweet steamroll ahead with what can only be described as a truly sickening ease. Almost entirely entrenched amid the fist-pumping, mosh-inducing insanity that defined much of their Gold and multi-Platinum-encrusted past (minus the arguably anemic In God We Trust, 1988), their initial sonic excursions are worthy of the highest of critical and commercial accolades. Maintaining their now trademark aura of hopefulness and ‘positive vibes’, the group remains in stark contrast to the concerted doom and gloom motif that plagues the charts and airwaves.
A self-Produced affair throughout, other standouts, including the emotionally-overwrought–yet ultimately searing ‘instant classic’–“Can’t Live Without Your Love” and the oft-thunderous, equally impressive closer “The Devil Doesn’t Live Here”, while not necessarily groundbreaking and quite far from revolutionary, are seemingly guaranteed to further cement their reputation as a bona fide creative and commercial force not to be ignored. Ultimately succeeding by repeatedly subjecting the proverbial average elocutionist (i.e. you, the increasingly faithful listener/reader/subscriber) to a painstakingly quintessence of their modus operandi, the group panders to their legions of notoriously rabid constituents with the predictably pleasant results of yore. Yielding one of their most thoroughly satisfying studio efforts to date, the group effortlessly delivers a simultaneously slick and razor sharp hybrid of their Roxx Regime – The Yellow And Black Attack era and the simplification of digital recording.
But what can you really expect? Even more of the Stryper you most assuredly already know and love. With the majority–if not all–of the occasionally polarizing wares contained herein seemingly guaranteed to appease the improbably long-running group’s notoriously dedicated constituents, God Damn Evil will ultimately become a much-welcomed addition to their undeniably impressive lineage(s). While one might effectively argue (and I, for the most part at least, would agree) that an inherent level of ‘danger‘ exists within the group embarking on yet another new era at this stage of their career, they now appear poised to definitively dispel their few would-be detractors. Needless to say, if you’ve once again found yourself in search of a thought-provoking alternative to the painfully contrived, Pop, Hip Hop and ‘Bro Country’ frivolities that are so often force fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane liniment for whatever ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.