Divinely damning evil

W ith the power of God, in the ’80s Stryper helped pave the way of decadence, greatness and MTV pomp and circumstance, leaving a heavenly stamp on the glam era. They’re still soldiers under command, spreading the good news through screaming guitar epics spanning 12 records. Vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet talks about their new record, God […]

Stryper’s yellow and black attack
at BMI Speedway


Stryper (L-R) Robert Sweet, Michael Sweet, Perry Richardson, and Oz Fox.
Photo: Alex Solca

By Mike Ritchie

With the power of God, in the ’80s Stryper helped pave the way of decadence, greatness and MTV pomp and circumstance, leaving a heavenly stamp on the glam era. They’re still soldiers under command, spreading the good news through screaming guitar epics spanning 12 records.

Vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet talks about their new record, God Damn Evil. “We wanted to showcase who we are, making a record that’s relevant to today’s society,” Sweet says. “Songs are based on things you see on social media.”

Sweet says it’s got the energy, the songs, the feel and the performances. “This is our best album. We’ll see in a few months if everyone agrees.”

About the cover art, “it’s portraying God coming back, slamming his staff down, saying, I’ve had enough.” They’ve gotten flack for it and the title, saying it looks like Zeus or Poseidon. “We wanted the artwork and title to make a bold statement so people would talk, and think about it. We felt it was very relevant to have an album called God
Damn Evil
.”

People have asked why they didn’t word it differently, or add a comma. “Doing that doesn’t make the statement it makes as is,” Sweet replies. “God Damn Evil is a simple, powerful statement.”

“Take it to the Cross” is them answering fans requests to be heavier. “Will you guys ever do something bordering on thrash? That’s our answer,” Sweet comments. They respect thrash bands but that’s not who they are. “That was really fun to record and will be fun to perform. It’s hard for people to get past the chorus and focus on the message. Pray about your day, pray about your problems. Take it to the Cross and lay it at God’s feet.”

They tried bringing their heavy side out more, especially on “Valley.” “It’s not your typical piano ballad, it’s a rock ballad with more edge to it.” Sweet says it’s their best video, harkening back to the ’80s.

Sweet wrote the record in nine days. “I go in a room and once I start, I don’t stop,” he admits. “It’s hard getting me to come out to eat, shower or go outside. I lock myself in a cage, then come out 8 to 11 days later. It’s usually a song a day. Some say that’s a bad thing and I need to spend more time on them. I just go with what I feel. They start coming together in a half-hour. I’ll get the riffs, program a loop, work out a groove and once I get a feel, I program the drum track. Then start the lyrics and melody. Start to finish the whole song, two to four hours tops.”

They’re also working on a career retrospective documentary. “It’ll be an extensive collection of live footage, early days before signing, and interview footage of people you’d never expect were Stryper fans.”

Despite ‘80s hair and decadence, they were never a glam band. “We certainly looked the part, during that era,” Sweet says. In God We Trust was their biggest produced album and their second biggest selling to date.

Sweet offers a unique solution to cell phone use at shows. “I understand people don’t want to be told what to do with their phones,” he admits. “Maybe there needs to be regulations and rules at shows. Maybe, the first three songs, like photographers. It’s a simple solution. Who wants to watch the show when a hand and phone are blocking their view? Live in the moment, enjoy it. When you’re watching through a phone you’re not enjoying the full experience and missing a lot.”

Sweet describes the ‘80s Sunset Strip scene as an overflow of people and musicians. The Troubadour, Gazzarri’s and The Whisky reigned as Ratt, Stryper, Mötley Crüe and Wasp were all playing somewhere. “It was a crazy time, really cool.”

They’ve played Ohio a few times over the years. “Kix is a great band, and we’re honored to be playing with them. It’s gonna be a great show, can’t wait.” The set list will include four new songs, classics, and staples.

As long as they’re still healthy and breathing they’ll do their best. “There’s no reason Stryper can’t keep touring another 10 years at least, maybe into our seventies,” Sweet hopes. “We love the fans, they’ve stuck by us for 34 years. Thanks for continuing and supporting what we do. Look forward to the future, there’s a lot more to come.”

May 26, Stryper play BMI Speedway, 791 E. Main St, Versailles, Ohio. Kix and Kodebreaker are also on the bill. Doors at 5 p.m., show at 6:30 p.m. $25 general admission, $35 day of show. More information at www.bmikarts.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Ritchie at MikeRitchie@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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