366 DAYS OF METAL: “The Rock That Makes Me Roll” (Stryper)

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Book Review: HONESTLY: My Life and Stryper Revealed

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honestly my life and stryper

Michael Sweet
Big3 Records
2014

  • “Honestly” coincides with the release of Michael’s log awaited solo album “I’m Not Your Suicide”. Michael Sweet, in this – his first autobiography – chronicles his life as the founding member, songwriter, singer, and guitarist of the pioneering Christian rock band Stryper. The first Christian rock band to see chart-topping success on MTV, Stryper went on to see over 10 million albums and has sold out arenas all over the world. Sweet gives and honest an moving account of the unexpected highs and lows throughout his tumultuous path to success. It’s especially fitting to find the intensely personal nature of these musical expressions supplementing the vastly thorough and revealing subject matter of the book Honestly, titled ever so poignantly after the chart-topping Stryper song of the same name. Not only does Sweet delve further into his rarely discussed youth, but offers a full array of rock n’ roll antidotes, plus several surprises from his family and faith journeys.

I, like many others I would presume, first discovered Stryper by way of the Top 40 station I listened to back in 1987. They were doing the nightly “Top 10 At 10”, and their song “Honestly” debuted that night. I remember not being too into it (it was, after all, a ballad, hair metal power ballad or not), but did think the lady singing had a pretty voice. Obviously, later on I discovered my faux pas, as well as really getting into Stryper after obtaining a copy of the album that song appeared on, To Hell With The Devil, a year or so later.

What I’m trying to say here, is that I’m a massive Stryper fan. Sure, I hopped on with what many will argue is their peak album; but, I’ve stuck with them through the dark times, through the breakup and consequent dry period, up to the reunion at the Stryper Expo, through being at their set at Cornerstone (I didn’t make it to the stage, that place was packed out…I did manage to hear some of their songs from the distance, though), to their first album release in over a decade, to their show in Omaha back in 2016 for the anniversary tour for the album that got me into them in the first place, to now.

So, you would think that I would have immediately devoured the autobiography / memoir of the band’s singer / guitarist / founding member Michael Sweet the moment it was published and released. And I would have…only, at the time I didn’t have a Kindle account, and my reading cue was already pretty impressive. Really, reading this only five years after the fact isn’t that much of a stretch considering my reading habits. Which is ravenous.

Anyway, Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed is the autobiography of Michael Sweet. Pretty obvious, but I needed some way to segue into the review of this book. Within the pages, he relates his early days growing up in California and his early forays into music along with his brother Robert, playing gigs in High School, paying the dues with Roxx Regime on the Sunset Strip in the 80s, and finally leading up to the formation of Stryper and the ups and downs of the initial success, his leaving the band in the early 90s, his solo career, and what lead up to the unexpected revival of Stryper in the new millennium. All of this is presented from his point of view, his thoughts on what happened, along with some surprising tidbits and amusing anecdotes along the way. For instance, apparently the day they were at the Enigma Records offices to get signed, the staff there was celebrating Aleister Crowley’s birthday. I’m surprised this is never brought up by those anti-Christian rock crusaders I’ve come across in the ensuing decades.

Overall: Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed was a fascinating journey through the eyes of Michael Sweet. There was information in there that I didn’t know about, and I pride myself in being a thorough Rock+Metal-ologist. But, that’s what a good memoir is supposed to do. Mind you, it’s been a few years since this was released, and a lot more has happened since the events ending the book, so maybe there will be an updated edition some time in the future. Until then, this is recommended.

This Is My Shocked And Appalled Face…

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NecRoSarX Chronicles Header
Hey, everyone! Stryper is set to release a new album this April! Here’s the album title and artwork!

stryper - god damn evil

It’s the follow-up to 2015’s excellent Fallen, and is the first to feature their new bass player, former Firehouse member Perry Richardson (that hair, man).

Yeah…nobody cares about that part. What seems to have everyone talking is that title they went with. Lots and lots of people within the various Christian rock and metal pages on Facebook are up in arms, loosing their minds over this album title. They’ve gone too far! seems to be the rallying cry.

Seriously, you are all acting like Stryper’s never courted controversy before.

Now, let’s just say, for sake of argument, all of these people flipping out over the album title (that’s some rather awesome artwork, I want to point out) have just came into being Stryper fans in the last decade or so, and aren’t familiar with their work from the first decade of Stryper’s existence. You know, pulling the ol’ “It was from before I was born” excuse. So, let’s review, shall we? History lesson time, kiddos…

Let’s start with their very first release, The Yellow And Black Attack

yellow and black attack 86

No no no, not that one. That’s the 1986 re-released version Enigma put out after realizing Stryper could make them money. No, I’m talking about the original 1984 release…

yellow and black attack

You see that? A mysterious, glowing blue hand guiding a bunch of ballistic missiles toward a shiny blue, yellow and black Earth. Presumably, that’s the hand of God, pointing thataway, with the warheads bearing the band members’ initials. As controversy goes, this isn’t really that big, but I’m sure it raised its share of eyebrows once it hit the record shops.

But, that’s merely peanuts compared to the big controversy surrounding this album…

to hell with the devil 2

That’s actually the censored version of the album, as the original artwork caused conservative Christians everywhere to loose their collective heads and demand the cover be changed to a black finish with just the band logo and title. Do you know what that original artwork was? Brace yourself, for the offensive original cover art was this…

to hell with the devil

Yep. Four ripped and swole angels, presumably modeled after the band members, tossing the Devil into the abyss of Hell. Yeah, I don’t get what the problem was, either. And frankly, even as I wasn’t a Christian when this came out, I was a bit more dubious about an alleged Christian band using that kind of album title to begin with.

But, then again, nothing could prepare anyone for what was to come a few years later…

against the law

Hoo, boy, was this the one that kicked the proverbial hornet nest. Where to begin? Well, there’s the title, Against The Law, which made everyone assume they were in rebellion now; then there was the modified band logo, which did away with the Bible reference, that seemed to reinforce the assumption that the band was now GOING SECULAR and TURNING AWAY FROM THE FAITH! As if that wasn’t enough, the band photos showed them wearing more black and — *gasp* — growing facial hair and toning down the big hair! They were just one step away from joining the Church of Satan by now.

In the end, these were all merely knee-jerk reactions to superficial surface-level judgments. Personally, my only question to Stryper about their new release is this:

Will it come with a vinyl edition?

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NECRO SHOCK RADIO – Session 3.11

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NSR LOGO

It’s time again for some more Brutal Music Therapy! And this time out, Uncle NecRo is feeling a bit nostalgic for some of the stuff he used to listen to back when he was but a young man himself. And he’s now sharing the pain with you all!

Featuring cuts from these albums:

barren cross - atomic arena bloodgood - detonation one bad pig - smash shout in your face stryper - to hell with the devil whitecross - triumphant return x-sinner - get it