To Hell With The Devil

Stryper

Enigma Records, 1986

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/19/1998

In any religon, there comes a certain amount of faith that you just have to make due with. Especially in the Christian religon. In some Christian doctrine, a saint like Ghandi is currently burning in hell because he chose the wrong faith. That's the same doctorine that tells us that any sexual act that isn't for the sole purpose of procreation, will result in enternal damnation. One of my theological questions about Christianity is just as complex as the last two examples:if hell is all about eternal suffering, wouldn't a Christian heavy metal rock band like Stryper be blasting through the PA systems?

Now, I admit, I couldn't review this album if I didn't have it. In the 7th grade, I went through probably the most frightening, hell-like experience in my life: junior high. In my constant search for some release, my mom suggested I get involved more with the church. My love for heavy music and Stryper seemed like a match made in heaven. And I did play To Hell With The Devil to death. But after another listen today, I remember it was AC/DC's album, Back In Black that taught me, "Rock n' roll ain't noise pollution."

It's bad enough that Stryper epitomized the worst characteristics in heavy metal hair bands. But they were a self-rightous hair band in the process. They flung bibles into the audience during their concerts. Their original album cover to my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 To Hell With The Devil features the band, in muscular angel garb, dragging the devil back down to hell. In an almost homoerotic way, that cover was almost as disturbing as Tool's inner sleeve artwork. 

But all that's external. Let us dive into the album to get the true answers as why this album is so awful on so many levels.

The album begins with the typical "intro" section, featuring orchestral arrangements then kicks off with the title track. Michael Sweet wails and screams like his spandex was altered two inches too tight. Drummer Robert Sweet and bassist Timothy Gaines do nothing but lay down a typical 'thud..thud' rhythm section while Oz Fox performs his guitar heroics.

For inspiration, "To Hell With the Devil" lacks how shall we say...depth. "Just a liar and a thief/the word tells us so/we like to let him know/where he can go," then the anthem kicks in. Yup, you guessed it... "to hell with the devil/to hell with the devil".

Fortunately, "Calling on You", their first major hit, had enough variety to keep you interested. Rich harmonies and not too nauseating musicianship. But that's the biggest prop I'll give to Stryper. Christ, Styx was bad enough to listen to the first time around. Now, we're being fed a knockoff of the band in a theatrical heavy metal band layout.

"All of Me" and "Honestly" were two sappy ballads that landed Stryper all over MTV. During a time when basically any heavy metal band could release a ballad and have it guaranteed to saturate the station 24 hours a day, Stryper seized the opportunity to make an extra buck. However, their professional wrestling like outfits, all yellow and black, rightfully exiled them into novelty status.

Before I render my judgement onto them, I want to make it evident, I know hair bands produced a whole load of crap in the '80s. They're easy targets to hit, but at least some bands (Poison, Winger) had at least some elements of humor to let the audience know not to take the band seriously.

With Stryper, you have cheez-whiz trying to pass off as nourishment. They wanted to inspire listeners, but with licks as weak as a Carpenters bass line and lryics that basically said "devil bad, God good", it was a diet of nothing. If you want religous inspiration, I would suggest listening to Johnny Cash's biblical works or even U2's Pop. For Stryper, To Hell With The Devil joins a few select albums that are so bad, the only place that there could be any value would be in the darkest pits of hell.

Rating: F

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1998 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Enigma Records, and is used for informational purposes only.