‘Soldiers Under Command’ and 1986’s ‘To Hell With The Devil’ are my preferred doses of Stryper. Both are highly recommended additions to your 80’s LA metal collection.
Written by: Dave T
ALBUM: Soldiers Under Command
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Michael Sweet – vocals, guitar * Oz Fox – guitar * Tim Gaines – bass * Robert Sweet – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Soldiers Under Command * 02 Makes Me Wanna Sing * 03 Together Forever * 04 First Love * 05 The Rock That Makes Me Wanna Roll * 06 Reach Out * 07 (Waiting For) A Love That’s Real * 08 Together As One * 09 Surrender *10 Battle Hymn Of The Republic (Glory Glory Hallelujah)
WEBLINKS: Site Link
The band started as Roxx Regime in the early 80’s. A certain CC DeVille briefly filled the guitar slot. Rechristened as Stryper (an acronym for: Salvation Through Redemption, Yielding Peace, Encouragement, and Righteousness.
It is also related to the Bible verse Isaiah 53:5), the Orange County, CA based foursome recorded their debut ‘The Yellow And Black Attack’ (an EP or a short album depending on which version you choose) in 1984. A vast improvement in both the production (Michael Wagener) and songwriting departments is 1985’s ‘Soldiers Under Command’.
My first approach to the album was a spot on review in an Argentinean cult magazine back in 1986. First impressions were the album cover: Rambo +Christian +Hair, and Michael Sweet’s Dennis DeYoung on steroids like-vocals – plus a little bit of Rob Halford.
After a few spins, it becomes clear that 80’s dual-guitar flashy playing, 50’s pop patterns embedded in choir-gospel-like harmonies and thunderous drumming are the features of this LA-Metal classic.. The guitars sound sharp and sweet (no pun intended) just like a yellow and black bee (lol), not far from Dokken‘s George Lynch reverb-plus-delay fat sound, Van Halen, Ratt and hints of Judas Priest‘s dual attack.
The most perennial song is the classic title track, a metallic number displaying fiery vocals and traded leads courtesy of Michael Sweet and lead axeman Oz Fox – who actually shreds by always choosing the right notes.
The proud ‘The Rock That Makes Me Roll’ is their heaviest number here. I wonder whether it’s actually about Jesus or Rolling Rock beer as I read somewhere else. It is closely followed in heaviness by the massive riff of ‘Surrender’ and its unbelievably catchy chorus:‘So freely surrender, glorious stuff.
‘Together Forever’ is plagued with happy verses and prominent delicious 50’s choir-like choruses; while the chugging, rocking ‘Makes Me Wanna Sing’ ends in an unbelievable beyond-human falsetto shriek.
At the risk of falling deep into guilty pleasure territory, I confess I actually like the mandatory 80’s power ballad ‘First Love’ -I can hear traces of KISS‘ ‘I Still Love You’ in the arpeggios and the slightly tortured singing. Another strong track is the beautiful soft piano-driven ballad ‘Together As One’, which has become over time a wedding song for more couples than you might actually guess.
AOR is well represented by the pair of ‘Reach Out’ and ‘(Waiting For) A Love That’s Real’, both packed with heavenly vocal harmonies. The album rounds out with a heavy version of the patriotic ‘Battle Hymn Of The Republic’ more suitable as an opener to these ears.
Do you remember Hit Parader’s February 1987 ‘Heaven and Hell’ cover story (Stryper versus W.A.S.P.) or their bold gig at 1987’s Dynamo Open Air Festival sharing the bill with Testament, Destruction and Atomkraft?
‘Soldiers Under Command’ and 1986’s ‘To Hell With The Devil’ are my preferred doses of Stryper. Both are highly recommended additions to your 80’s LA metal collection, gold-certified ‘Soldiers..’ being my personal favorite for sheer freshness and heaviness.
If you can bear with the (to some ears) girlish vocals and Christian-oriented lyrics, there’s a lot to discover and enjoy in Stryper, a band on par with the best of 80’s LA metal.
Stryper on Video
Soldiers Under Command
The Rock That Makes Me Roll