Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holy Covers

Stryper have always been a band who has hovered above the clouds playing songs in the name of the Almighty. Their “God”-like anthems and Christian ideals are worn on their sleeves. After 25 years of being the most successful Christian metal group; the band decided to descend below the clouds for a covers album celebrating the bands they grew up listening to while putting the Stryper flavor on it.

The opener “Set Me Free” is a fast one and Michael Sweet shows his vocal chops with a blistering scream at the end. The Yellow and Black Attack are not mailing in these performances as the fluid guitar solos in the middle enhance the song originally performed by Sweet. I also find this cover superior than the one Heathen performed on their first album.

Undertaking a song like “Heaven and Hell” is no easy task, but Stryper give their take on the classic with a fast solo section at the end on the song and a heavenly performance by Sweet on the vocal front. The song also retains its brooding atmosphere in the middle, with the slow buildup to the climax of the song. This cover is perfectly executed, especially because the perfect heaviness and drone of the guitars.

Another cover that was enjoyable were “Highway Star” with Sweet showcasing his vocal range and altering the verse notes a bit. The middle section sounds just as good as when Deep Purple penned this ode to driving and Stryper gives the song its due nailing the rhythmic changes in the song. The Van Halen song “On Fire” lets Oz Fox show his shredding duties by drooping the awesome guitar solo in the middle. While the band did not change much with “Carry on Wayward Son”; the vocal performance is majestic and the lyrics also fit the ideals Stryper promotes.

Unfortunately all covers are not created equal, and the covers of “Blackout” from everybody’s favorite Germans, and “Over the Mountain” from Ozzy Osbourne fall below the mark. For whatever reason, the boys decided to slow the tempo down of both songs and they both do more of a chugging then running along like the originals. These two were very disappointing efforts, but at least they had the glass shatter at the end of “Blackout.” A final failure is “Breaking the Law.” I wish they would have picked another Priest song to tackle because this is the cliché Priest song to cover and of course they do it. It is well performed, but the conviction in Sweet’s voice is missing like when Rob Halford yells “You don’t know what’s like.” Stryper then does it again with “Immigrant Song” from Led Zeppelin. Again, it is a fine performance, but they should have tried something else.

All is forgiven though with the final song on the album. This is the one original song found here and it is simply titled “God.” This track is the highlight as it is filled with soaring vocals, catchy verse lines and desperation in the chorus that is very exciting. The fast, double solo in the middle adds icing to the cake as this song harkens back to “Soldiers Under Command.” I can only hope this is where the band is heading with its future releases.

“The Covering” is a solid covers album that is worth checking out. “Set Me Free” and “Heaven and Hell” are wonderful renditions of two classic tracks. The performances themselves are fantastic and the one original song found on here might be the best song they have written in years. With this album, Stryper not only prove they have a lot left to offer, but that angels sometimes need a slice of hell too.

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