The Yellow And Black Attack Christmas
:: Stryper - Reason For The Season::
:: Stryper - Winter Wonderland ::
There are fewer words that will put the Fear of God into any self-respecting metal fan than Stryper. The yellow-and-black-clad Orange County rockers not only epitomize Metal Lite, but are Holy Rollers as well, playing a brand of Christian Metal that encourages more laughter and scorn than head-banging. But there was a huge audience for this kind of Jesus Rock in the ‘80’s— evangelical kids who wanted to rock with their cocks out, but were afraid of gettin’ the tar whupped out of them by fire-and-brimstone parents who caught them with illicit copies of “Screaming For Vengeance” or “The Number Of The Beast.” In a time when heavy metal was equated with Satanism, Stryper was, in theory, the band to put Mom and Dad at ease.
The “Yellow and Black Attack” was led by the Sweet brothers -- lead singer and guitarist Michael and his drummer brother Robert -- both of whom were the quintessential Lite Metal pretty boys (though one-time Creem and Hit Parader cover subject Robert, with his obviously dyed blonde hair and black Tom Savini-style goatee, now looks like a shrunken apple head with a David St. Hubbins wig perched on top). Latino guitarist Oz Fox (ahem, Richard Alfonso Martinez) rocked out on a custom tiger-striped axe; you Stryper fans with deep pockets can find a replica of it here. Oz later formed the unfortunately-named Sin Dizzy, which put out a rock opera centered around the crucifixion of Jesus Christ called “He’s Not Dead.”
Christian metal sounds like an oxymoron, but Stryper sold upwards of 8 million albums (!) such as “In God We Trust” and “To Hell With The Devil” when other God Rockers like Barren Cross and Guardian were signing up for government cheese. The chunky, generic power chords that made up most of their louder songs did a pretty good job of concealing the fact that they were howling about the Bible, but when it came to their ballads — particularly “Honestly,” one of the wimpiest songs in all of metal history — they sounded like Christopher Cross en route from a revival meeting.
The band thrived during the mid-‘80’s hair-metal heyday, but when grunge and alt-rock took hold in the early ‘90’s, the scripture was on the wall for Stryper. The band’s long-time label Enigma Records folded and they moved to Hollywood Records just long enough to put out a best-of with the suspiciously secular sounding “Can’t Stop The Rock” (a passage unlikely to be found in either Testament). Michael Sweet bailed on the band in 1992, but it’s no surprise. Here’s a testimonial from Jennifer, a Friend Of The Robot:
"Yeah, my friend's mom Cassandra (who was a total MILF) was their makeup and hair person for a couple years and they actually LIVED with his family but then my friend's little brother got everyone sick and they had to cancel some shows and subsequently Michael Sweet turned into a raging dick about it and turned them out into the street. So my friend and her family were living with her grandma and figuring things out."
On one of Michael’s “Message To The Fans” on his website, he turns another cheek. “No matter how much we fall short,” he says, “God’s message and anointing still goes out!” ROCK PROPS to God. “He deserves it all,” concurs Michael, looking strangely like Bob Odenkirk as the leader of the band “Titannica” on TV’s“Mr. Show.”
But fear not, Stryper fans! After playing a few festival shows and cutting a couple of new tracks in 2003, they’ve returned, older and wis--, okay, just older, with their new album, “Reborn.” You feel bad taking pot-shots at these over-the-hill Christian rockers, but just look at the cover, which makes them look like those Uruk-Hai creatures birthed from slimy muck in the first “Lord Of The Rings” movie. The spandex is long gone and Robert tries hard to distract us from his leathery countenance by wearing a bunch of yellow-and-black stryped neckties all at once. The reformed band toured the U.S. throughout ’05, so if you’re late on the “Reborn” bandwagon, you’re going to have to hoof it to Sweden (or Minneapolis) to check them out — Praise Jeebus — this summer.
Stryper’s Christmas contribution is a 1984 recording of “Winter Wonderland” that starts out with some painful band shtick and turns into the kind of bloozey rock Xmas song you expect to hear over Everclear eggnog at a frat house. But it’s not nearly as horrible as the A-side, “Reason For The Season,” which tries to stretch out a single rhythm guitar chord for five grueling minutes’ worth of song (there’s a nearly 7-minute “Long Version” we’ve spared you from). Alas, “Reason For The Season” is more of a Sunday School lecture (“Every day is a holiday/When He is with you”) than the Christian Rock Yuletide Classic the band prays for it to be.
Mark (of the Beast)