Review Summary: After the resurrection which was No More Hell to Pay, Stryper unleash a follow-up that reaches heaven by riffing like hell.
No More Hell To Pay was more than a return to form for Stryper. The 2013 album was considered by many long-time fans and newcomers alike as the band's strongest album to date. More consistent than even their platinum-selling landmark To Hell with the Devil, No More Hell To Pay was a consistently heavy affair that often brought to mind legends Judas Priest more than Stryper's perceived peers such as Cinderella and Poison.
Following up such a high mark is no small feat for a band that has been rocking the world for Jesus for over 30 years, but put your doubts to rest. Have faith my son, because Stryper has conceived yet another metal miracle.
The aesthetics of Fallen come as little surprise to anyone vaguely familiar with the band's work. Remember the controversial album cover of To Hell with the Devil that featured angels robbing satan of his guitar and throwing him into the abyss? Yeah, we get yet another nod to that scene with God doing the honors this time. The yellow and black trademark is still there, and a track list including "Yahweh", "Let There Be Light" and "King of Kings" makes it clear that Stryper has not given up on delivering the message that made them as famous as they are infamous. Okay, maybe they were more infamous for throwing Bibles at the crowd, or maybe for the terribly dated 80's MTV videos for power ballads "Honestly" and "Calling On You." But what sets Fallen apart from their past work is that Stryper doesn't just focus on all the things that made Stryper great back in the day...Stryper has cranked it up to 11 and then some.
Right away, opener "Yahweh" is unlike any other song in the band's long career. The traditional harmonies between Michael Sweet and Oz Fox have now been amplified tenfold to choir-like effect, sounding like a holy mob of metal monks levitating to heaven. The opening riff is as fast and razor sharp as anything in power metal, and the verses slam to a down-tuned "Children of the Grave" groove. Stryper's two lead guitarists were what elevated them to the level of any other hair metal band, but the harmonized trade-off solos in this album are just insane. It comes as no surprise that the lyrics tell of the trial and death of Jesus, but I don’t think the staunchest atheist could resist giving a shot at Michael’s piercing screams and singing along to the epic choir of "YA-AH-WEEEEEH!" Easily the best Stryper song since "To Hell with the Devil," this is how you open a hair metal album.
While the first track hints at epic power metal bands such as Theocracy or Gamma Ray, the most evident influence of the album is Master of Reality-era Black Sabbath. No, not just because the album includes a fitting cover of "After Forever." The riffs on this album are as heavy as hell and would make proud the master of riffs himself. The title track most clearly references Black Sabbath with a riff like "Into the Void" and vocal melody reminiscent of "Neon Knights." Next song "Pride" is a glorious track lead by a groove-laden yet doomy riff and lyrics about how pride is the cause of all the sin and hate around us.
Thankfully, most of the songs on this album hit a variety of themes and issues aside from Christianity, such as "Big Screen Lies" which criticizes the blatant misinformation given by the media. The heavy riffs take a short break in the middle with the catchy hair metal rocker "Love You Like I Do" and the lone ballad "All Over Again" but come back full force with the aforementioned Sabbath cover. Clearly, this is the heaviest album in the band's discography, showing that age and dedication can bring a deeper commitment for one's first love.
While I wouldn't say Stryper has gone so far out of their comfort zone to render them unidentifiable (or truly experimental for that matter), Stryper has let loose and have given fans what they really want. No more feeling embarrassed, Stryper fans. This hair metal band has come back stronger than any other with the headstrong purpose to rock the hell out of you.
So to hell with any stubborn critics. Stryper have outdone any of their albums from the 80's for a second time.