Famed and ridiculed for their beliefs and Christian values, Stryper (“Salvation Through Redemption Yielding Peace, Encouragement and Righteousness”) have always been more about their lyrics alone, certainly to me anyway. ‘Second Coming’ features two new tracks and fourteen re-recorded versions of their considered classics. Awash with modern production values and a few changes to the vocal phrasing, one thing that does stand out is the further evidence and in fact greater clarity of the whole groups vocal and guitar harmonies.
The first major change for me is in the ballad ‘First Love’ from their 1985 and second release ‘Soldiers Under Command’. Long did I find relevance to these lyrics in my youth however some of the vocal phrasing changes are a little hard to swallow, although you often get this in love versions I wasn’t expecting key moments to change their stance, especially the haunting ending of the original that is missing from this version. Change is inevitable and I do commend them for the changes, it’s simply surprising to hear such changes to considered and well coveted classic songs. ‘Free’ and ‘Surrender’ are two of their massive hits; the latter is still hard hitting and again finds a change to the vocal phrasing. One thing I do note with this recording though is the precise nature of Michael Sweet’s vocals. They certainly have aged well and there is a genuine bar raising level in the quality.
So we know the classics, they have been refined but they still maintain the integrity of the original recordings. The two new tracks on offer ‘Bleeding from the Inside Out’ and ‘Blackened’ certainly will split hairs. The former is a little weak and not really that much to speak of really, but the latter is a lot heavier and much more gratifying, more like the ‘Against The Law’ effort than ‘Murder By Pride’ release.
All in all, this release is above average although I would have liked to have heard more new material, especially with the massive harmonizing influence of bassist Timothy Gaines (brother of Steve Gaines from Abattoir/Anger As Art/Bitch & Bloodlust) on bass returning to the studio following an album of covers. ‘Murder By Pride’ was the continuation of this bands rebirth and the second coming may well be a little premature for some folks, but in truth you cannot mask this bands musical ability above all their given adversity as a result of zero substance. It’s a welcome return, but more of the new rather than the recycled would have been more fulfilling but if you are in the market for a mini best of or want to find out what the band are all about, then by all means you can go no wrong by checking this album out.
(7.5/10 Paul Maddison)