For decades you have known them as the yellow and black attack for the power of Christian Metal and serving the genre as a reminder to the fans about God's glory and love for all mankind. They've held up this banner with releases such as Soldiers Under Command, To Hell With The Devil and most recently Murder By Pride and they are still going strong as a touring band with all original members in their lineup. Their newest release is called The Covering and it will answer any of the questions that might come about in regards to just how a Stryper rendition of a particular song or artist might sound. The important thing to know right off the bat is that this collection really pulls out some surprises and there are songs that I never expected them to give a reworking. They start us off with "Set Me Free" by The Sweet and if you don't know this band yet for shame as they are one of the most influential of them all. The guys deliver some justice in their "Stryperization" of it from the get go. A cool hit to the bleachers comes via their delivery of "Blackout" which has remained one of my personal favorites from The Scorpions. I was initially surprised to hear them doing Black Sabbath's "Heaven And Hell" from the bands Dio era but when one considers that all of these tracks were important to them as growing musicians and band then it makes perfect sense even if the theme is a little darker than we are used to from them. It's not like they're covering Slayer or Merciful Fate after all. The UFO classic "Lights Out" hits your speakers hard and this has to be a great one in concert for them if they are doing it. It still resonates with power when UFO does it, and if performed properly can be a hit in anyone's set list.
As a long time Kansas fan I was interested in seeing how they would do "Carry On Wayward Son' and the big vocals are there as soon as the song begins and all the tasty fills and twists. Stryper has effectively breathed new life into this classic. Great guitar solos from Oz and Michael and some soaring vocals. We jump into a fast car for Deep Purple's "Highway Star" next and the band does a find job of it. We get some cool keyboards from Charles Foley. KISS comes up on the bands itinerary for "Shout It Out Loud" and while a solid rendition I am VERY fussy about KISS numbers. To me there is always something missing in the vibe when I hear someone else do one of their tunes. Oh well, it is 100 times better than the Poison cover of "Rock And Roll All Nite" so that is saying something. There are a couple of more excellent deliveries via the choices they made from the Iron Maiden, Van Halen and Ozzy canon but those I will let you examine on your own dime. Even though I loved the album from beginning to where we are right now, I did have a couple of small reservations and considered a couple of tunes to be the ones that I could have immediately done without. The songs I am pointing the finger at come by way of the Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin offerings. Yes I love "Breaking The Law" as a tune but EVERY band learns and does that one when they are starting out in a band. I can also name hundreds of Metal heads who are expert air guitar players as result of this number. I would have preferred the guys give us some Priest with a little more kick like "Exciter" or "Freewheel Burning" since I know they could do those with ease. The other would be the Led Zeppelin track and that's because we really don't need to hear anyone else do their material on albums anymore. In my humble opinion it's been done to death at this point and if I want to hear Zeppelin, I play Zeppelin (or go to see Zebra). The guys do a fine job on each of course and this is just my personal opinion. The great thing about the covers that these guys selected is that they really showcase just how good a band Stryper is. Michael's vocals are in tip top form and the double lead guitars of Oz and himself shine. The bottom end is solid as a rock with Gaines and the pounding drumming of Robert. He remains one of my favorite Hard Rock drummers to date and reminds me why on every tune of this album.
The album closes out with the bands sole original and new tune "God". The drive of this one is great and the lyrical content is just what you expected to find in a Stryper tune. It was a smart idea to close out the album with this killer new track as it makes sure to reinforce what the band is all about in the first place. I took this tune as a very close brother to "More Than A Man" and "Soldiers Under Command" in terms of its powerful drive and message. The CD comes in a digipak case that features no band photos at all and is presented as almost a comic book. We see a representation of Michael on the cover, but he reminded me more of Cable from X-Force based on the eye he had. My guess is that the guys also love comic books but who can tell. The lyrics to the songs are not presented but we do get healthy thank you notes from the band members. I would have liked at least a single band photo and the reasoning behind the album because the general public doesn't get press releases and might not be inclined to search for the reason why they did this in this jet stream of an internet world we live in. This is a high recommendation for all and I cannot wait to see them in concert once again.
1. Set Me Free (The Sweet)
2. Blackout (Scorpions)
3. Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath)
4. Lights Out (UFO)
5. Carry On Wayward Son (Kansas)
6. Highway Star (Deep Purple)
7. Shout It Out Loud (KISS)
8. Over The Mountain (Ozzy Osbourne)
9. The Trooper (Iron Maiden)
10. Breaking The Law (Judas Priest)
11. On Fire (Van Halen)
12. Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin)