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Friday, February 24, 2017

Stryper (The Underrated Heroes of Christian Music)

  When it comes to Christian music in 2017 people tend to think of how Skillet, but mostly Hillsong  as the bands that took Christian music to the mainstream and that Christian music wouldn't be where it is without them.  I like these bands and I think they deserve the fame they have achieved.  However, to credit them for being the bands that brought Christian music to the mainstream is not correct. The credit for that belongs to the California metal band called Stryper.

Started in 1983, Stryper consisted of Michael Sweet on lead vocals and lead guitar, his brother Robert Sweet on drums, Tim Gaines on bass and backing vocals,and Oz Fox on lead guitar and backing vocals.  Initially when they started they intended to be like all the other 80's metal bands coming out of LA at the time.  However, early in their career they instead decided to cement their message in the form of rockin for Christ.  Then in 1984 they debuted with their first album "The Yellow and Black Attack".

Subsequently they would go on to have many great, and successful albums, most well know among them being "Soldiers Under Command" and "To Hell With The Devil".  Talent wise they were some of the best musicians to come out of the 80's.  Michael Sweet was a good lead guitar player and til this day has what many consider one of the best voices in metal.  Oz Fox is one of the most underrated guitar players ever.  He is a very good shredder, one who I wager could take Kirk Hammett from Metallica in a guitar duel.  They were also very good songwriters.  From the melodic opening solo's on Soldiers Under Command and To Hell With The Devil, to the Thin Lizzy like twin solo's on Calling On You and Reach Out.

 However,  while they were really successful they were also very despised.  Being a Christian band in an era where bands were singing about partying and sex as in the cases of bands like Ratt and Motley Crue, while others were singing about moshing and going crazy such as Anthrax and Metallica.  Christianity in metal was nonexistent when Stryper started and a lot of metalheads were not quick to embrace it.  Scott Ian himself has discussed a time when Stryper opened for Anthrax and they tossed bibles into the crowd only to have them swung right back at them as shown in the link below.

It wasn't just metal heads that gave them trouble, it was also the Christian Church. Some people called them a gimmick, some picketed their concerts, and some, like Pastor Jimmy Swaggart, actually said they played music of the devil.  Even today, a lot of people still believe that Christianity and metal music cannot mix, as I myself have been told by people in the Church.  But through it all the band pressed on 

Sadly, Michael Sweet would leave the band in the early 90's and it would lead to the group disbanding and sitting out until they decided to get back together in 2005. Since then they have made several more albums and still rock hard today.

Unfortunately, many people don't give the band the recognition they deserve.  With the church and the bulk of the Christian music industry barely recognizing the bands existence many people give Amy Grant credit for bringing Christianity in music to the mainstream in the 80's even though Stryper was more popular then she was.  In the 90's people give credit to Michael W. Smith, and today it is Hillsong.  Now don't get me wrong, these are talented people who deserve their fame.  
However, unlike Stryper, they took the safe route.  While these people stuck to performing in the church before their big breaks, Stryper dived head first into a scene that the Church wouldn't acknowledge, let alone try to minister to.  Not only that, but Amy Grant and Hillsong cater to a Christian audience and Christian Audience alone.  Stryper was a band that not only catered to metal but to MTV as well.  In 1987 When they came out with "To Hell With The Devil" their music videos were some of the most requested on MTV for entirety of that year.  

Without Stryper Christian music would not be where it is today.  We would not have Switchfoot, POD, Skillet, and I will even go as far to say that Hillsong might not be able to do what they have done without Stryper.  To simply push the band aside because they are metal is to push not just a great band a side, but a great story and a big reason why Christian music is where it is today.  Styper's story of having to go through the 80's  holding on to their message while being mocked by other metalheads and getting push back from the Church is something that should be heard and something to learn from. Razorfist in his Metal Mythos episode of Stryper does a pretty good job of discussing the bands music and their career.  Disclaimer, He isn't a christian, and he does cuss like a sailor, but he makes good points.  If you are a metal head or a gamer, he makes great content and I highly recommend subscribing to his channel. (Check his Stryper Mythos in the link below)

Is Stryper a perfect band? of course not, there is no such thing.  Having said that, they deserve a lot more credit for their contribution to Christian music than they have been given thus far.  If you are a Christian don't let the metal label drive you away from this band, they make good music that has a good godly message, and they should not be over looked despite what people say about them.