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Stryper: Reborn

"We wanted to take a moment to explain the imagery that you hold in your hands. We have always been a band who makes extremely bold statements spiritually, vocally, musically, and last but certainly not least, visually."

So reads the sticker on the front of Reborn, the ninth record and first studio album in 15 years from Christian arena rockers Stryper, whose graphic cover depicts the four nearly unrecognizable band members struggling to remove "the slime and the sin" from their shirtless bodies. Each member is divided into quadrants depicted by a cross. Stryper's screaming black-and-white color scheme remains the same, and to a certain extent, so does its music. But make no mistake: This is a tougher (and bolder) Stryper, a band that still contains three-quarters of its original members who embrace their past without suffocating it. The album is still packed with the band's signature irresistible melodies, catchy riffs and unmistakable voice of guitarist Michael Sweet (which, in perhaps Reborn's most remarkable revelation, hasn't aged a bit). But they are countered with nü-metal chunks and in-your-face production that may take some of the band's non-believers by surprise. In other words, don't expect to hear anything approaching the piano-laden tenderness of "Honestly," but also don't listen for anything as propulsive and monotonous as "C'mon Rock," an early attempt by the band to be a holy Manowar.

Reborn is an aptly titled comeback album loaded with class. Amid the modern "Open Your Eyes," which kicks off the record with unbridled determination, and the darkly joyous title track are songs like "Wait For You" with its memorable doo-wop "na-na-na" chorus and the mid-tempo ballad "Rain" that could make arenas sway. Michael Sweet hasn't lost his knack for writing accessible choruses and bridges, and guitarist Oz Fox updates his sound almost effortlessly, as does drummer Robert Sweet (who nevertheless indulges in some over-the-top pounding). New bassist Tracy Ferrie admirably replaces Tim Gaines, who played and sung his heart out on the band's 2003 reunion tour and then left amicably the following year.

Just as Stryper did back in the day, it offers up songs with both direct and indirect references to a higher power that address such topics as forgiveness ("If I Die"), enlightenment ("Open Your Eyes") and God's presence ("When Did I See You Cry"). Stryper closes the 11-song album with a fast and crunchy anthem-like rendition of the hymn "Amazing Grace" (titled "10,000 Years" here, for some reason) and a more aggressive version of Stryper's 1988 smash hit "In God We Trust" (now christened wiith the more contemporary title "I.G.W.T.") - giving doubting Thomases fodder to argue that band didn't have enough new material to fill an album. Maybe, though, the inclusion of both selections is meant to be a respectful nod to the band's traditional and more recent pasts. Either way, here's hoping longtime fans and those who missed out on the days when Stryper sold eight million albums and lobbed Bibles to fans packed into arenas find Reborn refreshingly redemptive.

Track Listing:
1) Open Your Eyes
2) Reborn
3) When Do I See You Cry
4) Make You Mine
5) Passion
6) Live Again
7) Wait For You
8) Rain
9) If I Die
10) 10,000 Years
11) I.G.W.T.

Added: September 29th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Stryper Web Site
Hits: 3606
Language: english

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Stryper: Reborn
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-09-29 23:08:03
My Score:

Though Stryper has released the albums "7: Best Of Stryper and 7 Weeks Live In America it has been 14 years since the Soldiers Under Command have recorded an album of new material. The year 2005 would be a special one for the Brothers Sweet and Oz Fox for not only is a new CD ready for their fans but they also come featuring a new member. Not long after the release of the live CD, bassist Tim Gaines decided to leave the group. He is replaced by the talented Tracy Ferrie who adds a different edge of bass playing to the already tight lineup. The band sounds just as heavy as they came across on Soldiers Under Command and deliver the level of harmony and musicality you would find on To Hell With The Devil. I felt that these two earlier releases helped influence and add to the sounds that you will find on the new CD entitled Reborn. The new release continues along the bands beliefs and message of Hope and Faith in the Lord. Of the memorable tracks on the album "Reborn" is pretty self-explanatory while my favorites are "Passion" and "Open Your Eyes". Each one of these tunes containing the powerful style and big sound that normally was expected and received in Stryper music. "In God We Trust" appears once again from the album of the same name on the new CD. This version is more modern and flows along with the sound on Reborn more than the big 80's sound the 1988 version had. I find it interesting when bands choose to update existing tracks or bring older songs into the now. Stryper should try that with their hits as I think it would work for them.

The band sadly got lumped into the "hair band" classification back in the early days but beyond their peers was their musical expertise and uniqueness. To this day Robert Sweet proves he is one of the most solid and powerful Hard Rock drummers in the business. Vocal wise, Michael Sweet's voice is as pure as it was some 20 years ago. I found Michael playing a lot more guitar alongside Oz Fox on the record and that allows for better content in the axe area. Tracy Ferrie's bass work seemed a lot more technical in his level of play than his predecessor Gaines. Original fans might welcome him a little more based on that. The CD is well-produced and comes with an eerily illustrated cover of the guys coated in a slimy substance. The band notes on the CD that "no matter how hard we strive to free ourselves from the slime and the sin that consumes us, only God can set us free". My only disappointment was the lack of lyrics to the songs on the many page foldouts. I liked the CD as a regular fan of the group and can attest that while the band remains strong in their faith this CD does not shove it in your face. There is a message and a point inside and you are left with the choice to make. Anyone can enjoy most of this CD and I recommend you at least give it a listen.

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