Originated: Orange County, California Country: United States of America Genre: Hard Rock/Metal Read Interview
Bio: Stryper is an American Christian heavy metal band from Orange County, California. The group's lineup consists of Michael Sweet (lead vocals, guitar), Oz Fox (guitar), Tim Gaines (bass guitar), and Robert Sweet (drums). In 2004, Gaines left the band and was replaced by Tracy Ferrie (bass guitar) but rejoined in 2009.
Formed in 1983 as Roxx Regime, the band soon changed their musical message to reflect their Christian beliefs, and the band's name was also changed to Stryper. They went on to become the first overtly Christian heavy metal band to gain acceptance in the mainstream. In 1983, they signed with major label Enigma Records and released their debut album The Yellow and Black Attack. In the mid-1980s, Stryper enjoyed their most successful period beginning with the release of To Hell with the Devil, which achieved platinum sales status. Stryper went on to release two more gold albums before breaking up in 1992. In 2003, Stryper came out of retirement for a reunion tour and subsequently signed a multi-album contract with Big3 Records in 2005. In 2013 they signed a multi-album deal with Frontiers Records, and have released Second Coming, which includes 14 re-recorded songs from their first three albums and an album, No More Hell to Pay, released on November 5, 2013. Fallen on October 16, 2015.
The name "Stryper" derives from the King James Version of the Bible. "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." The reference, Isaiah 53:5, is frequently included as part of their logo. Stryper's drummer, Robert Sweet, also created a backronym for their name: "salvation through redemption, yielding peace, encouragement and righteousness".
During the 1980s, Stryper represented the popular glam metal style of the time, characterized by highly visual performances, twin guitar solos, Michael Sweet's high-pitched, multi-octave screams and big hair. A characteristic element of the band was that all their outfits, sets, and instruments were painted in yellow and black stripes. The number of the stripes represented in various stage props and costumes increased during the show, leading up to In God We Trust. The band explained the symbolism of the stripes: a direct reference to the whiplash scourges given by Pontius Pilate to Jesus, derived from the King James Version of the Bible's Isaiah 53:5. A trademark of the band's stage act was drummer Robert Sweet's practice of turning his enormous drum kit sideways to the audience so that the crowd could see him playing. This is why Robert was more often called a "visual timekeeper" rather than a drummer.
Apart from its ubiquitous yellow and black stripes, Stryper had other distinctive trademarks. During concerts, Stryper threw Bibles to the concert crowd, editions of the New Testament with the band's logo stickers affixed to them. As a protest against "666" symbols popular among many heavy metal fans of the era, Stryper promoted an alternative numerological symbol; Stryper's trademark use of the "777" symbol subsequently became quite popular among Christian metalheads. Although the number "777" is not actually referenced by the Bible (as opposed to 666, which is famously mentioned in The Book of Revelation as The Number of the Beast) the number "7" is traditionally (in Christian symbolism) associated with divine perfection. Some of the band's stage sets included the crossed out symbols of "devil" and "666". The Los Angeles Times reported in 1985 that "the band gets sullen fans of Twisted Sister cheering and poking stubby 'one way' fingers heavenward, a refutation of the double-fingered 'devil horns' salute of many metal groups".
Stryper is recognized as the first openly Christian heavy metal band to gain recognition in the mainstream music world. Their message of salvation has also made them popular with some elements of the media. Mark Joseph states "The Yellow and Black Attack was propelled by the group's success in Japan, which was largely due to an endorsement of the band by famed rock critic Masa Itoh, the man who ruled the Japanese hard rock/metal scene, who many fans looked to for his evaluation of bands. Itoh had heard of Stryper, gotten in touch with their manager Daryn Hinton, and liked what he heard. When he gave the band a positive review in Japan's heavy metal bible Burrn! magazine and played the album on his radio show, Stryper suddenly found themselves at the top of the metal heap in Japan with a record that was outselling Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, and every other metal band." This led to the band signing with CBS Sony in Japan.
Stryper has not been free of controversy. Many Christian critics did not approve of the group's association with the heavy metal subculture, which has often been associated with Satanic imagery. Other Christian detractors viewed the band's flashy costumes as incongruous with the modesty in dress often associated with sincere practitioners of devout Christianity. Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart was a particularly prominent critic, likening Stryper's practice of distributing the New Testament at their shows to "casting pearls before swine". Swaggart's condemnation may not have been a surprise, however, as Stryper was supported by the rival Jim Bakker ministries, who are thanked on several Stryper albums. A 1985 CCM magazine article by Chris Willman, who was also writing for the Los Angeles Times, stated that "Stryper was the target of scattered picketing, boycott threats, and righteous denunciations". For example, concert-goers were often greeted by protesters armed with bullhorns and distribution of Gospel tracts. "It was just like if Ozzy Osbourne was there. They gave us the same treatment, laughs Daryn Hinton."
In 1990, Rolling Stone magazine reported that the band had become disillusioned with Christian music. This, combined with a notable shift in tone in the band's lyrics, led to Against the Law being banned from many Christian bookstores. The Benson Company, Stryper's sole tie to the Christian market, dropped this album from distribution.
Stryper has sold over 10 million recordings worldwide, and it is estimated that two-thirds of their albums were bought by non-Christians. 2011 Stryper won the readers choice award for Best Christian / Gospel Artists & Bands. Kim Jones of About.com states "With 44% of the vote, hard rock legends Stryper beat out all of their competition to be named the best Christian hard rock band, bringing to mind the old adage, 'like a fine wine, some things just get better with age.'"
Ian Christe, author of the heavy metal history book Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, mentions the album To Hell with the Devil in his book as one of the landmarks of the glam metal movement.
The song "To Hell with the Devil" appears on the Rhino Records release The Heavy Metal Box, a compilation mainly of secular classic metal bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Metallica, as well as hair bands like Twisted Sister and Poison.