HOLY SH**!!! No, no, no, I’m not going to say it like that when I’m trying to talk about the new STRYPER CD “Reborn…” even though that was my first impression after just hearing the first couple of minutes of the opening track “Open Your Eyes.” This ain’t your typical STRYPER! But now, almost 15 years since their last release, I think the album title, “Reborn,” says it all and just one look at the cover art showing the metamorphosis of the members as they were into what they are now emphasizes this rebirth. This is a new band in sound, image and attitude and “Reborn” is destined to be one of my top five albums of the year.
Not unlike their earlier releases, “Yellow & Black Attack” and “Soldiers Under Command,” “Reborn” is hard-hitting, edgy and raw in it’s essence but still maintains those melodic harmonies and hooks which are distinctly STRYPER. Joined once again by guitarist Oz Fox, his brother Robert on percussion, and newcomer Tracy Ferrie on bass, lead vocalist Michael Sweet and the band have reached deep inside themselves and pulled out an absolute triumph musically, vocally and lyrically. If you’re looking for the heavy piano and/or keyboards you might remember from albums like “In God We Trust” or “To Hell With The Devil” or the power ballads that came along with them, you should look elsewhere. The arrangements are heavy, the production is raw and the overall feel is a raunchy, grinding, guitar-driven compilation that will leave you riveted from beginning to end.
Michael’s vocals are superb throughout the release and as for Oz, what can you say? His distinct guitar rhythms add a dimension to this release I don’t ever think could have been accomplished by Michael alone had this been a MICHAEL SWEET project as originally intended. Throw in the rhythm section and WOW! Songs like the opening track “Open Your Eyes,” “Reborn,” “Live Again,” and “When Did I See You Cry” pound through you like a sledgehammer. They grip you with their heavy, pulsing rhythms balanced by some grinding, searing guitar work and Michael’s commanding vocals.
Tracks like “Passion,” “If I Die,” “10,000 years,” and “Make You Mine” are definitely among the more commercial sounding songs on the CD. They are heavy, melodic arrangements with thick, powerful choruses but still maintain that edginess to fit in perfectly with the rest of the album. “Rain” also would fall into this category, but it’s beautifully arranged to the point where by the time the chorus really kicks in, it’s almost anthem-like in its composure and absolutely one of my favorite tracks on the CD.
“Wait For You” is the only real “ballady” sounding track on “Reborn.” It features some very nice acoustic and electric guitar work but really highlights Michael’s vocals just a little bit more than any of the other arrangements and the harmony overlays in the chorus are absolutely amazing. Finally we come to “I.G.W.T.” Anybody catch that? Ok, ok, I’ll spare you the brain cells… “I.G.W.T.” is STRYPER’s 2005 version of the title track to their 1988 release “In God We Trust.” Now THIS is the version I wish they had done back then. You can still hear and feel “hints” of the original song but without the over-production and heavy harmonics… which remains consistent with the more modern flair of the release as a whole.
So here we are twenty-one years after the release of “The Yellow & Black Attack” and STRYPER is still alive, kicking and better than ever. They truly are a band “Reborn” although their message and faith remains the same. Welcome back guys and I can’t wait to see you on the road this fall.
- Michael Sweet - vocals, guitar
- Oz Fox - guitar, backing vocals
- Tracy Ferrie - bass, backing vocals
- Robert Sweet -Drums, Visual Timekeeper
- Open Your Eyes
- When Did I see You Cry
- Make You Mine
- Live Again
- If I Die
- Wait For You
- 10,000 years