Live at the Whisky
Frontiers Records (rel. September 23, 2014)
By Bob Marovich
Jesus is the rock that makes Stryper roll.
I wish I could take credit for such a clever line, but it is actually a paraphrase of a song title on Live at the Whisky by Stryper, the first Christian metal band to gain mainstream acceptance.
As a young person, I loved all kinds of music, including heavy metal. It was a treat, therefore, to hear on Live at the Whisky the familiar thunderous, auditorium-filling, zone-out music I remembered but with positive messages of encouragement, fidelity to the faith, and so on.
Currently comprised of Michael Sweet, Robert Sweet, Oz Fox, and Tim Gaines, Stryper has been on and off the circuit, although mostly on, for the past 30 years. Live at the Whisky was recorded at a sold out show in November 2013 at Los Angeles’s Whisky a Go Go. Although the band was performing to promote its latest studio album, No More Hell to Pay, the variety of the repertory gives fans and newbies alike a sonic glimpse of their general prowess.
Stryper shows absolutely no sign of age and actually seems to have gotten stronger over the years. The power quartet moves unrelentingly from song to song to song on Live at the Whisky (and the companion DVD). Buzzing tonic chords, biting guitar solos with lightning-finger virtuosity, pounding drums, and multi-octave lead vocals evoke the influences of ’70s metal giants Judas Priest and KISS, albeit channeled through bands such as Van Halen, which served as one of Stryper’s musical inspirations.
Along with fan favorites such as “Free,” “To Hell with the Devil,” and “Calling on You” is the title track from “No More Hell to Pay.” One of the best cuts on the live set is an especially energetic “Jesus is Just Alright,” the Doobie Brothers cover of a 1960s original by pop gospel group the Art Reynolds Singers.
In short, Live at the Whisky is the next best thing to hearing Stryper live. Metal with a message.
Four of Five Stars
Pick: “Jesus is Just Alright.”