From a viewpoint of Japanese, the problem with Western Christianity is the tendency of mixing up righteousness and ego.
Totally dualistic concept of right and wrong.
I am right – You are wrong.
I win because I am right. I deserve victory because I am right.
This kind of attitude was often a letdown when we worked with some Christian ministries from the United States.
God is Love. And Love is party. Party of Love.
As far as I know, Christianity is NOT about being right. It’s about OUR repentance and HIS forgiveness.
I think that’s one of the reasons I was not happy with the recent couple of albums from Stryper.
They all sounded very good, if not great. They were very “right”. But they were not a party. And that “righteousness” was on the very thin line with strong ego.
I love Stryper. I believe in Christian Metal. I think that’s the reason I’m writing this personal journal.
I really like the young and fresh energy of “Soldiers Under Command”. I really like the beauty and heaviness of “In God We Trust”. I really love the pure and raw passion of “Yellow & Black Attack”.
I think I wrote the “Love Letter” to them in the past.
My wife was doing “Stryper Street Team Japan” during 2013-2016 period. I still believe she was the main force of making Stryper Japan Tour 2016 come true. It was their first Japan tour since 1989.
Just like I said in the past, (or did I?), I can’t say exactly when, but since a certain point, I was hearing more “ego” than “praising God” in Stryper’s music.
Don’t misunderstand. Their music was still awesome. They are one of the very few bands from 1980’s hair metal era that is still making awesome music. Not only that, they are clearly getting “better”.
Probably I’m asking too much. Probably I’m wanting too big things. Or possibly I’m too much of a purist.
But that “big ego” factor prevented me from enjoying their music of recent.
Again, don’t misunderstand.
I believe musicians should be judged by their music, not by their personalities. I believe personality of artist and the message of their art should be considered differently.
So here I am talking about a spiritual factor in music. Some people feel it, some people don’t. It’s totally up to one’s opinion.
So here is my opinion.
With these things said, Stryper’s new album “Even The Devil Believes” is a VERY GOOD album.
I’m very impressed.
In my opinion, this is quite possibly their best album.
Sure, you can’t compare it to the young and fresh energy of their early works, but if you talk about the musicianship and the quality of music itself, this is DEFINITELY their best.
They totally went back to their signature 1980’s hair metal style. I didn’t really like that “we are getting heavy” approach of their recent albums but here they are getting back their “pop and shiny” edge.
And that sounds so fresh. Do you know how impressive it is? In 2020, they play this straightforward 1980’s style metal riffs and melodies and they STILL sound FRESH. Do you know how awesome this really is?
Sound production is better, in my opinion. Again, I didn’t really like the modern approach of sound production on their previous albums, but here on this new album, it seems like they have found a good balance.
Notably the guitar sound. On their previous albums, they were more of modern, heavier, wider range of guitar sounds. But here on this new album, their characteristic “mid sharp” sound is back and it totally stands out. Finally, in this age of digital sound, they nailed their “signature” guitar sound again.
That’s not all. The best thing on this album, I think, is Michael Sweet’s amazing vocal work.
Again, I didn’t like his recent style. I liked his younger, high pitched energetic vocals from 1980’s. But I didn’t like his “older, stronger, bigger” style from 2010’s.
However, on this new album, his “stronger” singing style is totally perfected.
He now sounds so fat, so strong, so big!!
What a great performance!
It seems like he finally found his ultimate vocal style. With this powerful singing, now Michael Sweet is up there with any legendary singer in rock history.
This new album “Even The Devil Believes” is Stryper as good as it gets. They have accomplished something great. They have achieved the ultimate style. This is a masterpiece. I honestly think this is one of the best “hair metal” style records of all time.
In 2016, when we closed down our “Street Team Japan” thing, I said “You can do better” or something like that.
Now I am glad that they came up with “much better” album.
(Just for your information, my wife was a huge fan of Tim Gains. That was one of the big reasons we decided to close our Street Team Japan. Tim quit (or was fired) the band in 2017, but we could sense that was coming in 2016. My wife says it’s probably Perry’s “FIREHOUSE” input that made Stryper “pop and shiny” again. But I’m not sure about that.)
This is totally a great metal album. I’m totally impressed.
But do I really enjoy it?
Did I feel God’s Love? Did I feel Jesus?
I don’t know. I can’t answer that question.
But I’m guessing I’m impressed with the power of “righteousness” in Stryper.
With the power of very big, strong, artist ego. (For secular rockers this could be a big compliment. And I’m saying this as a pure compliment.)
Again, I might be asking too much.
With all things said, I am very happy and super impressed and super blown away by this album.
I didn’t expect Stryper could be this good. BLOWN AWAY. I am BLOWN AWAY!!!!!
I respectfully say CONGRATULATIONS!! to them for achieving such a great thing.
And I send my BIGGEST respect for their passion and musicianship.
This is definitely one of the best metal albums I’ve ever heard in my life.
Good record is good because it makes people think.
Good art is good because it poses question and make people grow.
This is a good record.
And I believe this record is a good thing for advancing God’s Kingdom.
(Some people say metal is devil. Some of them probably are. But I STILL believe Stryper is God’s thing. Yes I still do.)
I think I can say I’m a fan of theirs, happily again.
So now here is the rating time.
I’ve seen “that controversial Blabbermouth review”.
Although I kind of understand what the reviewer (Mr.Dom Lawson) says, I think it’s unfair to give such a low score solely because of the message and lyric content. Because he basically is praising the music itself.
But honestly I think it is a “good” review.
Review’s purpose is not just giving ratings. Its biggest purpose is to bring attention to the music. In that matter, this “controversial” review totally did its job. People love controversial things. I think this review thing brought much attention both to Stryper and Blabbermouth. Rock’n’roll journalism, that is.
But I would have been happier if –
The reviewer had not given such a low score just because he didn’t like Christianity. I can understand “the spirit of rock’n’roll and everything that heavy metal is supposed to be about”, but at least he could given 6 or 7 out of 10.
Mr.Michael Sweet had not personally attack the reviewer, saying “live somewhat of a pathetic life” and stuff. I would have been happier if he had treated this review thing more gracefully, for all the Christian people’s sake. (But maybe that’s a part of the package – Rock’n’roll publicity?)
So here is my score.
+10 for the musicianship and awesomeness
-2 for the lack of party
The result is 8/10.
That’s about the line things are fair?
Again, this is totally my opinion.
I’m just a fan.
I’m just a regular believer in Japan.
Maybe you will personally attack me, too?
Yes I’m pathetic.
But I believe Jesus loves pathetic people.
I understand that is what Christianity is all about.