STRYPER: God Damn Evil

Warning: Commandment Violation*

(See Full Listening Review for Details)

Heaven’s Metal does not condone the taking of the Lord’s name in vain in any form – intentional or otherwise. While it may not be the intent/motive of the artist to do so, the creation of an album title or song title (and/or lyrics) which, to some (or many), may be construed or interpreted as a direct disregard of a Commandment is an unwise free-will choice for a Christian artist to exercise. Based on the otherwise cumulative positive effects of the music/lyrics in total, the choice in this case to exercise, by the artist, their free-will in expression of their desire to rid the world of evil,  has not been deemed hazardous to the overall edification of the listener. Simply, this disclaimer serves as both a warning to prospective consumers and as clarification to the artist that this was neither a helpful nor a necessary concession in order to attain the end result – praying for the repulsion of evil out of this world.

*[All treatments for ailment involve both benefits and adverse effects to the prescribed therapy. Sometimes the strength of the cure comes with unwanted side effects, and in such cases, warrants (as we call it in medicine) a “black box” warning on the label.]

Let me get this out early in the review – as regards the album title/title track and some of the lyrics to the title track – I don’t like or agree with the GD Evil reference or the premise it may be based upon. Legalism is not my style – we don’t earn our way into the Kingdom – but there are lines that have been drawn by Scripture (by God) that we do best to heed if we are His followers. I understand Stryper’s intent of this verbiage – to rid the world of evil, to see it go punished, etc. I am not judging the motive, in other words, of the band for as the song says, “You Don’t Even Know Me.” And yes, I know, this has been the Stryper way for decades now. However, there is a big difference between titles like “To Hell With The Devil” and “Against The Law” – positions actually well-supported by both Jesus and Scripture – and “GD Evil.” I won’t even argue the, “but other titles would have been less controversial and conveyed the same desire” line of thought because what’s done is done and I have to trust in my brothers if they have a clear conscience on this. I would simply put forth that it doesn’t seem wise to justify taking the Lord’s name in vain (taking a play of words off of that) for the sake of praying for the damnation of evil in the world, especially for a band this mature who really doesn’t need controversy to drive their message home anymore. After all, the volume of this work speaks for itself, does it not? I say yes.

Furthermore, the whole prayer doesn’t sit well with me on multiple levels. First, God damned evil in this world since the garden and has repeatedly shown us what He thinks of evil and sin. Second, God’s got it covered and only allows what He doesn’t see fit to restrain for His purposes. Third, He has a plan for evil, and it doesn’t constitute destruction of the Creation (Romans 8:22-23). Again, I don’t know the exact intent of the lyrics, but my whole point is this: yes, let’s pray for the restraint of evil in this world, and for those lost to be saved, but let’s leave God’s damnation of evil to Him. For remember this, we are all equal in our evil, condemned and “damned” to Hell if not for the sacrifice of Christ. So we need to be careful what we pray for, and how we encourage others to do so as well. Again, God has already damned evil for sure, He’s got it covered.

Musically speaking, this collection of songs is a nice combination of the heavier crunch and aggression of Fallen and the nuances and melodic metal brilliance of No More Hell To Pay. I hadn’t heard any of the pre-release songs, but understand the hesitation about embracing the style of the opener “Take It To The Cross.” The lyrics are fantastic, and the growls don’t even bother me, but that chorus is something altogether different. Fortunately, the rest of the album moves in a more traditional Stryper vein, at least consistent with the past two releases. The shrill, high-pitched vocals on “Sorry” and “Lost” – a song which asks great questions by the way – are a return to the older Stryper sound. Objections to the title track aside, the music on this song is infectious – very catchy, and it is hard not to keep hitting the repeat button. “The Valley” is probably one of the best songs here – absolutely love the heavy riff and the lyrics are refreshingly both humble and truthful. “Sea of Thieves” is another heavy song with an inspiring chorus section and some great guitar work. “Beautiful” is a great mid-tempo rocker with more uplifting lyrics and a great guitar solo breakout – quintessential Stryper. I think it is fair to say that the only true ballad here (the bluesy “Can’t Live Without You”) is reminiscent of the sultry “Lady” from Against The Law. I know Michael has stated he doesn’t like that record, but man that song was hard to top. Finally, “The Devil Doesn’t Live Here” – in my opinion – epitomizes everything great about Stryper metal/rock. The lyrics are biting, confident and filled with truth and the music is brilliant – fast, precise and hook-laden.

Overall, the production sound on GDE is comparable to Fallen, the drums once again sounding thunderous and punchy. The balance of the treble of Michael’s voice with the crunch of the guitars and the low-end power is just about perfect. Let me conclude by emphasizing that despite my reservations about the title track/album title, Stryper not only continues to stand fast in the faith, but they continue to hold the line against evil in this world with music and lyrics which far surpass in power any controversial or provocative album title.

Frontiers Records

Release Date: April 20th, 2018

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