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Group Members: Michael Sweet
All Music Guide:
Heavy metal has been associated with ol' Beelzebub ever since its inception, but a few acts took the opposite route and put their Christian beliefs in hard rocking songs, such as Stryper. Formed in Orange County, California, in 1983, the group was originally known as Roxx Regime, and consisted of singer/guitarist/main songwriter Michael Sweet, drummer Robert Sweet, lead guitarist Oz Fox, and bassist Timothy Gaines. It wasn't until the group changed its name to Stryper (which stood for "Salvation Through Redemption Yielding Peace, Encouragement, and Righteousness") that things really began taking off for the quartet. Specializing in the melodic Van Halen/Def Leppard style (with heart-wrenching power ballads tossed in), dressed in all black-and-yellow outfits, and spreading their religious message even further by tossing bibles out into the crowd at their shows, Stryper were signed by the Enigma label in 1984. The same year, the group's debut recording, a six-track mini-album titled The Yellow & Black Attack, was issued.
The album created a buzz for the group among metalheads, which was only heightened with the release of the band's first full-length album, 1985's Soldiers Under Command. The first Stryper release to crack the Billboard charts, its success led to the re-release of The Yellow & Black Attack (which included an extra two tracks and new artwork) in 1986. Later the same year, Stryper issued their sophomore full-length, To Hell with the Devil, which many consider to be the group's finest hour. Turning out to be the highest-charting album of their career (barely missing the Top 30), the platinum-certified album benefited by MTV's repeated airings of the videos for "Calling on You" and the syrupy ballad "Honestly" (the latter of which peaked at number 23 on the U.S. singles charts). Despite possessing a different message than their peers, by this point Stryper fit in perfectly with the other popular pop/hair metal bands of the day (Bon Jovi, White Lion, Dokken, etc.).
Yet just as it appeared that Stryper could possibly break through on a massive scale, such new metal styles as thrash (Metallica) and more stripped-down rock (Guns N' Roses) began to usurp Stryper's pop-metal audience. As a result, Stryper's next release, 1988's In God We Trust, failed to expand their following, nor did it live up to promise of its predecessor (although it did manage to earn gold certification). Sensing this, the group adopted a harder-edged sound and look for 1990's Against the Law, and even covered the Earth, Wind & Fire funk classic "Shining Star." Neither managed to cross over to the top of the charts. A greatest-hits set, Can't Stop the Rock, followed in 1991, but with Nirvana just about to ring the death knell for pop-metal bands, Michael Sweet decided to leave the group for a solo career. Surprisingly, the remaining members of Stryper opted to carry on as a three-piece (with Fox handling lead vocal duties), and continued to tour for a spell. The Michael Sweet-less version didn't last long however, as Stryper officially called it quits in 1992.
In the wake of the band's split, its members remained busy. Michael Sweet's solo career never scaled the same heights as Stryper's, although solo releases appeared on a somewhat regular basis, with 1994's Michael Sweet, 1995's Real, and 2001's Truth. Robert Sweet issued a solo recording, Love Trash, in addition to studio work, while Fox and Gaines formed a new group, Sin Dizzy, who issued a rock opera (concerning the crucifixion of Jesus Christ) titled He's Not Dead.
During the intervening years, a large core of devoted fans remained intact, resulting in all of Stryper's albums being reissued by Hollywood Records. In 1999 Sin Dizzy played a show with Michael Sweet, which ended in an off-the-cuff jam session of old Stryper tunes -- resulting in reunion rumors. And with a heightened nostalgic interest regarding '80s-era metal bands during the early 21st century, Stryper agreed to sporadically reunite for a "Stryper Expo," which has since turned into an annual event. Stryper's second greatest-hits collection, 7: The Best of Stryper, was issued in 2003, and included a pair of new tunes recorded especially for the collection, "Something" and "For You." Fueled by a renewed interest in the Christian rock scene, the band returned to the studio for 2005's Reborn and again in 2009 for Murder by Pride, the latter released in celebration of the band's 25th anniversary. In 2011 Stryper released The Covering, featuring covers of songs by bands that inspired them, including a take on Black Sabbath's 1980 hit "Heaven and Hell."
Stryper is a Christian glam 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 would soon change their musical message to reflect their Christian beliefs, and the band's name was also changed to Stryper. They would go 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 would go 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.
Origin of name 
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".
Foundation and mainstream success (1975-1990) 
The Sweet brothers became Christians in 1975, but began to pull away from this faith. The Sweet brothers rejoined the church after their friend Kenny Metcalf (their first tour keyboardist) persuaded them to do so.
Inspired by bands such as Van Halen, but distressed by their message, they sought to form a band that would extol their worldview and beliefs. Stryper was originally known as Roxx Regime and composed of brothers Michael Sweet on lead vocals and lead guitar and Robert Sweet on drums. Eric Johnson played bass. They were originally a trio. Oz Fox eventually joined the band. Before Oz Fox joined the band, a number of guitarists almost joined Roxx Regime, including Doug Aldrich and C.C. DeVille The name "Stryper" was adopted when bassist Tim Gaines joined the band and the label urged the band to change its name. The Bible scripture, from a passage in Isaiah 53:5, "By His stripes we are healed" became part of the band's logo. Shortly afterward, they released the EP The Yellow and Black Attack on July 21, 1984. During this period, Stryper opened for bands like Ratt and Bon Jovi, leading some fans and critics to claim that they were not a true Christian band. Stryper's first full-length album, Soldiers Under Command, released on May 15, 1985, was the band's first gold record. Capitalizing on this unexpected success, and in an attempt to make up for the EP's extremely limited release (fewer than 200,000 copies), their record label, Enigma, re-released The Yellow and Black Attack on August 10, 1986 with two new tracks and new cover art.
Stryper's third album, To Hell with the Devil, was released on October 24, 1986 and went platinum after spending three months on Billboard's album charts, eventually selling more than 2 million copies. In addition to being Stryper's most successful record, it was both the first contemporary Christian music and Christian metal album to achieve this feat. "Calling on You", "Free" and "Honestly" were hugely popular MTV hits in 1987—so much so, that "Free" and "Honestly" both became most-requested songs on the show "Dial MTV." They were also the second Christian band to get any airplay on MTV, Degarmo & Key having been the first with their song "666." "Honestly" is Stryper's highest-charting song, peaking at No. 23 on the Top 40 charts. The album received a Grammy Award nomination. Michael Sweet is the band's primary songwriter and has written most of the band's material throughout the years. He is also currently the band's producer.
Bassist Tim Gaines did not participate in the recording of To Hell with the Devil, and for a short period of time prior to the release of the record he was replaced by Matt Hurich. Hurich was not with the band more than a month, although he was outfitted with a Yellow & Black striped bass and a racing costume. Brad Cobb played bass on the album. However, when the promotional photos for the album were being shot, Gaines returned to the band and subsequently participated in its successful world tour. In 1987 the band headlined the Dynamo Open Air Festival in the Netherlands. There is one To Hell with the Devil promotional photo of the band with Matt Hurich that was used in print advertisements. Prior to his time in Stryper, Hurich was in Leatherwolf. In 1989 he performed with his Stryper bass in the group Divine Right, which featured Kevin Brandow (Petra) on lead vocals and guitar.
In the summer of 1986, Kenny Metcalf left touring with Stryper & Brent Jeffers replaced Kenny Metcalf on keyboards and toured with Stryper until 1990.
Their next album, In God We Trust, released on June 28, 1988, also went gold, and the song "Always There for You" briefly entered the lower levels of the pop charts, peaking at No. 71 despite it being another massive hit on MTV. However, the sound of the album was more pop-oriented than previous releases and a number of critics, as well as Stryper fans, criticized the record for being over-produced. In addition, the image of the band was moving even closer to the glam metal look of the era, giving fans something else to criticize. These factors led to lower sales, and the album spent only 5 weeks charting on Billboard. The second single & video "I Believe in You" peaked at No. 88 and a third single "Keep the Fire Burning" failed to chart at all. As with the previous album, Tim Gaines did not participate in the recording (Brad Cobb once again played bass) but later rejoined the group for another world tour. In God We Trust also garnered two GMA Dove Awards for "Hard Music Album" and "Hard Music Song" for the title track.
Decline, break-up and solo projects (1990-1999) 
On August 21, 1990, Stryper released the controversial album Against the Law, which drastically changed the band's image and lyrical message. While their earlier albums all had yellow and black colors in the covers and the lyrics spoke of God and salvation, Against the Law featured the band with black leather clothes and with no mention of the word "God" in the lyrics at all. The band's musical sound was also heavier, closer to classic metal. Drummer Robert Sweet said that the change of image and sound was in response to the criticism of the previous album and an attempt to leave behind their glam metal image. The album sold poorly. This was partly due to rumors in the press (both mainstream and Christian) that Stryper's music was trending towards a more mainstream sound as their Christian faith weakened. Fans would wonder why they covered the 1975 Earth Wind & Fire's "Shining Star". The video for it would not be a hit on MTV, the first Stryper video that was not. Two other videos followed for "Two Time Woman" and "Lady" which generated minimal airplay. However, many critics still considered the album to be Stryper's best musical production to date.
On July 20, 1991, after being signed to Hollywood Records, Stryper released a greatest hits collection called Can't Stop the Rock, which featured two new songs. One of which was the Gulf War inspired "Believe". The band continued to tour until February 1992, when frontman Michael Sweet departed the band citing artistic differences and to pursue a solo career.
Stryper continued as a trio for several European dates. Sometime during this period while touring with the Christian band Bride, Dale Thompson would fill in at vocals. It was during one of the concerts that Robert Sweet unexpectedly announced that Bride's frontman Dale Thompson was going to be their new lead singer. This, however, was later denied by Thompson. Upon returning to the United States, the remaining members decided to go their separate ways and were never able to recapture success without Michael Sweet.
Michael Sweet signed with Benson Records in 1993 and released his first solo effort in 1994. It went on to sell 250,000 units, achieve five No. 1 Christian CHR hit singles and three No. 1 rock singles. Michael Sweet has released five solo records which were hugely successful in the Christian Music market. He is currently working on his sixth solo record and also writing a book to be released in 2012.
Oz Fox and Tim Gaines formed their own band, SinDizzy, and released the album He's Not Dead in 1998. Drummer Robert Sweet played in several bands, among them Blissed, who released an album in 2002. Other bands include King James, dbeality, Final Axe, and The Seventh Power.
Reunion (1999-2005) 
The former members of Stryper first reunited in 1999, when Michael Sweet and SinDizzy were invited to play at a summer rock festival in Puerto Rico. As an encore, Sweet joined Oz Fox and Tim Gaines on stage and played several Stryper songs. Later, in 2000, the first "Stryper Expo" was held in New Jersey, and for the first time in 8 years the complete line-up of Stryper took the stage. That same year, a concert was held in Costa Rica at which the four members played together. A second "Stryper Expo" took place in Los Angeles in 2001.
Hollywood Records asked the former members of Stryper to record tracks for a new greatest hits compilation in 2003 7: The Best of Stryper. The compilation was released with two new songs, "Something" and "For You", marking Stryper's first new music since the early 1990s. A tour followed in support. The band played 36 shows in the United States and finished the tour in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A live album, titled 7 Weeks: Live in America, 2003, was released the following year, and the concert in Puerto Rico was filmed for a live DVD produced and directed by Jack Edward Sawyers. However, that show in Puerto Rico proved to be the last for the original line-up of Stryper. Gaines and the band parted ways in 2004 before they were slated to play Disney's Night of Joy in Orlando. Michael's bassist on his previous solo tours, Tracy Ferrie, replaced him.
After the "Night of Joy" show and with new found energy, Stryper decided to go back into the studio to record a new CD, Reborn and another tour followed in the fall of 2004.
Stryper's next album, Reborn, was released on August 16, 2005, and was the band's first full-length CD of original material in 15 years. It was produced by Michael Sweet. The new album received a positive response from fans and critics, some of whom labeled Reborn as one of the best albums of that year. With a more modern sound incorporating aspects of alternative rock and grunge, along with fewer guitar solos, the new record updates their style while keeping the Stryper identity. The record was written by Michael Sweet. The lyrics also have returned to the band's familiar themes of God and salvation.
In 2006, the band released the DVD Greatest Hits: Live in Puerto Rico with Music Video Distributors. Stryper was schedule to open for extreme thrash metal band Slayer, headlining in Mexico. A few months later, Slayer pulled out of the Mexican tour and cancelled their headline for personal reasons.
New album and back on the road (2006-2010) 
In November 2006, Stryper announced new management. They also announced a follow-up to Reborn tentatively due in spring/summer 2007. However, that February saw lead singer Michael Sweet postponing the release of the new album two days before its recording was to begin. Sweet's wife Kyle had been diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, and the new album was put on hold so that he could care for his family and ailing wife. She underwent surgery and treatment from February 14 to July 14. In April 2008, Kyle announced that her cancer had returned as of October 2007. The new album was in the mixing stage as of January 2008, and Sweet said that it should be released in July or August.
Michael Sweet performed with the band Boston in 2007 and was asked to join the band as co-lead vocalist and guitarist and toured with Boston in 2008 with Styx as the opening act.
On March 5, 2009, Michael Sweet's wife, Kyle, died from cancer. Murder by Pride was released on July 21, 2009; with the lead single "Peace of Mind" preceding it.
Since late 2008, Tim Gaines has played bass in concert with Tourniquet. The band has since added the song "To Hell With The Devil" to their set list to highlight Tim's involvement. Recently, Oz Fox joined Tourniquet on stage in Germany to perform the same song.
The Covering (2011) 
It was announced on July 13, 2010, that The Covering would be the name of Stryper's latest album, tentatively scheduled for release October 13 from Big3 Records/Sony. The album, produced by Michael Sweet, is a collection of twelve cover songs from bands that inspired Stryper and helped to shape the band's sound and musical identity, including past hits from Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Kansas and many others. The Covering also includes "God", a new original recording. On September 14, 2010, it was announced that the album's first single, a cover of Black Sabbath's hit "Heaven and Hell", was available for download on iTunes. The album was released on February 15, 2011.
Second Coming and future (2013) 
It was announced that the band had signed a deal with Frontiers Records and would be releasing a new album in March titled Second Coming. The album features fourteen classic songs re-recorded as well as two new songs. They are also planning on recording an album of new material.
Music and image 
During 1980s, Stryper represented the popular glam metal style for the time which is characterized by highly visual performances, twin guitar solos, Michael Sweet's high-pitched, multi-octave screams and big hair. 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. 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 would explain 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.
Apart from its ubiquitous yellow and black stripes, Stryper had other distinctive trademarks. During concerts, Stryper threw Bibles to the concert crowd—specifically 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 "" 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". 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. 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.
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.
Christe was also the producer of a short documentary about the band titled Soldiers Under Command. Directors Matt Luem and Greg Fiering and producer James L Reid interviewed the band in 2002 at the 2nd Annual Styper Expo in Azusa, California. The short film addressed the origins of the band, responses to their music in the early days of their career, and their eventual breakup. The film additionally addressed the question of the band reuniting; Robert Sweet most prominently desiring a reformation of the band, while brother Michael Sweet still following his solo career. The film was the official selection of the AFI, Newport, NY Underground, DC Underground, Chicago Underground, Urban Nomad, and Noise Pop film festivals.
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.
In popular culture 
The Marvel comic series Runaways refers to Stryper as being a Christian glam band in Vol. 4 True Believers.
UK band Half Man Half Biscuit refer to Stryper in the chorus of their song "Christian Rock Concert" from the 1991 album McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt.
In the 2009 film Whip It, Ellen Page's character "Bliss" distinctively wears a Stryper t-shirt throughout the film.
On the Bloodhound Gang song "Lift Your Head Up High (And Blow Your Brains Out)" on One Fierce Beer Coaster the lyric "Or do you own a record by Stryper?" is a part of a list of reasons for doing what the title of the song suggests.