STRYPER (1982–90; 2003–PRESENT). Michael Sweet (vocals), Oz Fox (guitar), Tim Gaines (bass, Brad Cobb for several records and tours, now Tracy Ferrie), Robert Sweet (drums).
During the heyday of the Christian rock scene, most Christian rock bands stayed away from metal and its satanic influences and “rock and roll all night and party every day” ethos. Most bands however, did not have the prostelyzing power, or extreme bad taste in clothing, that the Christian band members in Stryper had. (Stryper’s name stood for Salvation Through Redemption Yielding Peace Encouragement and Righteousness) Originally formed in the early eighties as Roxx Regime by the brothers Michael and Robert Sweet, the band started out as a secular metal band but were inspired by friend Ken Metcalf (who also toured with the band as a keyboard player and touring evangelist) in 1982 and decided to preach an evangelical Christian message via heavy metal.
The band, in their garish beelike costumes, was almost instantaneously successful.nTheir debut record, Soldier’s Under Command, went gold and established Stryper as one of the most popular metal, much less the most popular Christian, bands in the world. Their next record, To Hell with the Devil, was even more successful, going platinum and establishing Stryper as a major touring act. However, balancing commercial success with an evangelical Christian message proved difficult for Stryper to manage, and their next record, In God We Trust, was a major hit but was criticized by many fans for abandoning the Christian theme for more pop-ready commercialsounding songs such as “Always There for You.” Deciding suddenly that the secular world might be more lucrative, Stryper changed directions and costumes for the Against the Law record, which featured no songs that were explicitly about God or religion. Naturally the Christian fan base reacted with outrage at what many evangelicals considered to be the band choosing mammon over God.
After releasing a greatest hits record, frontman Sweet departed, leading the band to dwindle to a halt and the band dissolved with members playing in various Christian bands. In 2003, the band reunited to play several shows, and after some successful tour, a new record was rereleased in 2005. Stryper continued to tour to acclaim from old stalwart fans, as well as new fans in the Christian music industry. Stryper may have been labeled an anomaly by the mainstream metal press, but many both inside and outside the evangelical community welcomed Stryper’s message of hope and positivity.
It is unclear how many fans were converted, or even affected, by Stryper’s lyrics, or by the free copies of the New Testament that the band gave out for free to the audience, but at their height of popularity millions of people, Christian and non-Christian, were buying Stryper records. While Stryper may not have been the most successful metal band, they stand out as a stark contrast to the numerous black metal bands who claim to represent the true metal underground.
Discography: The Yellow and Black Attack [EP] (Hollywood, 1984); Soldiers Under Command (Hollywood, 1985); To Hell with the Devil (Hollywood, 1986); In God We Trust (Hollywood, 1988); Against the Law (Hollywood, 1990); Reborn (Big3, 2005); Live in Puerto Rico (Immortal, 2007), Murder By Pride (2009); The Covering (2011).