The Stryper Story
In The Beginning
Stryper, originally known as Roxx Regime, was formed in Orange County, California by brothers Michael and Robert Sweet and guitarist Oz Fox.
Stryper stands for
Salvation Through Redemption Yielding Peace, Encouragement and Righteousness.
The Isaiah 53:5 under their logo is the bible verse that states "by His stripes we are healed". The band earned their stripes on the Los Angeles metal club circuit and in 1984, after recruiting bass player Tim Gaines, signed with Enigma Records and released their debut mini-album, The Yellow And Black Attack (Y&BA).
Rockin' The World
Their first full-length release, Soldiers Under Command (SUC), sold over half a million units worldwide in the eighties, and stayed on Billboard's Top 200 album chart for over forty weeks. In addition to the hard-rocking tunes that Stryper's core audience has come to expect, the ballad "Honestly" from their platinum selling 1986 release To Hell With The Devil (THWTD) hit the Top-40 charts. The video for "Honestly" rapidly became the number one most-requested video on M-TV. 1988 saw the near-platinum release of In God We Trust (IGWT), as well as renewed success on M-TV, which was bombarded by thousands of phone requests for "Always There For You".
Caught In The Middle
Coming off the acclaim of the 1989 tour supporting IGWT, the band released Against The Law (ATL) which shipped gold in the fall of 1990. Despite its sales success, some fans were confused by Stryper's change in appearance and lyrics. This lead to numerous rumors and questions about the sincerity of Stryper's faith. "We were making a grab for musical freedom," says Robert Sweet, Stryper's drummer. "But we never should have let that been misinterpreted as a change in our beliefs."
In 1991, Enigma Records went bankrupt, and Stryper was left without a record company. This was short-lived, as they were quickly picked up by Hollywood Records. In the summer of 1991 they released Can't Stop The Rock, a "best of" album with two new tracks.
In January of 1992, Michael Sweet left the Stryper to pursue a solo career. Although officially Robert Sweet, Oz Fox and Tim Gaines continued as a three piece for another year, there were no further studio recordings as Stryper once Mike left.
Together As One?
Michael Sweet was the first to re-appear back on the scene, when he secured a record deal with the Christian label Benson Records. (Benson distributed Stryper to the Christian retail stores in the 80's.) This union produced two albums: the self titled Michael Sweet, and Real. In 1998, Mike put out a full length demo by himself titled Truth. This generated label interest, and he was soon signed to Restless Records. The remastered and updated version of Truth was released early in 2001.
Tim Gaines and Robert Sweet joined legendary Christian guitar player Rex Carrol in the band King James. Although King James released two releases to date, Tim and Bob only performed on the first album which was released in 1994 on the Christian label Star Song.
Absent from the limelight for many years was Oz Fox, who last was seen making guest appearances on several Christian releases including JC & The Boyz, Bride, and Ransom. Oz and Tim joined forces once again in 1995 to form Sin Dizzy. Together with Bobby MacNeil on guitar and John Bocanegra on drums, they released He's Not Dead in 1998. Tim left Sin Dizzy in 2000 to continue working musically with his wife, Irene Kelly.
Robert Sweet released his solo release titled Love Trash in 2000, in which he plays all the instruments on the album and features Larry Worley on vocals. (Ex-lead singer of Christian rock band Fear Not.) Robert recently formed Blissed with fellow members David Pearson, Trevor Barr, and Jeff Miller. Their album, Waking Up The Dead, was released in early 2003.
Can't Stop The Rock
On May 21st of 2000, history was made when Stryper hit the stage again for an informal jam at the first annual Stryper expo in New Jersey. December 16th of 2000 marked the first full blown set preformed by Stryper in 9 years, held in Costa Rica. The second annual Stryper expo was held in Azusa, California on May 18th and 19th of 2001. The two day expo featured multiple bands and vendors, with Stryper closing the expo with a concert. Shortly after, Stryper played to one of their largest crowds at Cornerstone at Bushnell, Illinois on July 7th, 2001.
In 2002, ten years after their breakup, Stryper headed into Michael Sweet's studio to cut two new songs, "Something" and "For You", for their second greatest hits compilation, 7-The Best Of Stryper, which was released on March 25th of 2003 by Hollywood Records. That fall, they embarked on a 35 city tour that both fans and critics agreed was one of the hottest tours of 2003. As a result, the prayers of Stryper fans everywhere were answered in May of 2004 with the new live CD recording titled 7 Weeks: Live In America. Unfortunately, this would be the last time that the original band would play together. After the tour, longtime bassist Tim Gaines left Stryper to pursue musical projects with his wife Irene. He left the band with the other members' blessing, though many longtime fans were disappointed with his decision.
Some remember Stryper as the frenetic "yellow and black attack" that stormed the music scene two decades ago, transforming the pop-metal genre from the inside out. Others recall a groundbreaking foursome that resolutely declared an inspiring message of spiritual redemption, becoming a cornerstone on which countless lives were changed.
Today the legendary quartet is back and burning hotter than ever with intensified levels of zeal, resolve and innovation. With three original bandmates (lead vocalist Michael Sweet, drummer Robert Sweet and guitarist Oz Fox) and newcomer Tracy Ferrie on bass, Stryper now releases its first all-new studio effort since 1990's Against the Law project.
Reborn, Stryper's ninth career disc and premier release on Big3 Records, features a cavalcade of high-voltage arrangements that showcase the band's richly melodic vocals, deft instrumentation and powerful themes. In addition, the disc proficiently melds the group's standard intensely tuneful style with edgy hard rock influences. The net effect: An 11-track set demanding reverence, repeated spins and a volume level that is cranked full-on.
Produced by Michael Sweet and Kenny Lewis (who collaborated with Sweet on several solo projects), Reborn debuts entirely new material, with two bonus songsa Stryperized version of "Amazing Grace" re-titled "10,000 Years" and an updated rendition of the group's classic track "In God We Trust" that should rouse both longtime and new fans alike.
So how did the current disc come into existence? It started nearly two years ago when all four original members of Stryper reassembled and embarked on a rewarding 20th anniversary tour. That led to 7 Weeks: Live in America, a 2004 release compiled from reunion performances in major cities around the nation. Shortly thereafter, following an amicable parting with original bassist Tim Gaines, the band picked up Ferrie and played a fall 2004 encore show at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. This event triggered a demand for a new record when it came to plans for the future.
"The show at Disney went so well and felt so fresh it was like we were a totally new band," explains frontman Michael Sweet. "It was such an incredible experience for all of us, and we knew something was happening that would go beyond one performance."
Returning home, Sweet and the other bandmates promptly sensed they should consider recording a new album. From there, a central concept ultimately took shape. "The word reborn' communicates so much from a spiritual perspective," Sweet says. "It really speaks to how we feel as a band right now. This is a whole new time for us, and we're excited."
Beyond the core theme of renewal, Reborn embraces subjects like forgiveness ("If I Die"), God's patience ("Wait for You") and true enlightenment ("Open Your Eyes"). One hard-driving song in particular, "When Did I See You Cry," conveys the reality that God can move in anyone's life, whether homeless, addicted to drugs or simply wandering. "The power of God is alive, but we often miss it," Sweet asserts. "We see opportunities to share the gospel, but we are so caught up in other things of life that we get sidetracked."
Stryper has dealt with its share of sidetracks and difficulties over the years. From its origin as Roxx Regime, a garage outfit from Orange County, California, the band persevered as they hammered out a name and a reputation in the gritty Los Angeles club circuit. The hard work paid off in 1984 when the quartet inked a deal with Enigma Records and released debut mini-album The Yellow and Black Attack.
As the first Christian rock band to enjoy any decided success in the mainstream market, Stryper went on to sell more than 8 million records worldwide. The group's RIAA certified platinum 1986 release To Hell with the Devil was selected as one of the "100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music" by CCM Magazine. The project also generated the Billboard Top 40 hit "Honestly," which peaked at ..23.
Two other albums struck RIAA gold: Soldiers Under Command (1985) and In God We Trust (1988), both spending numerous weeks on the Billboard 200 album chart.
One of the most electrifying stage acts from the 1980s, Stryper garnered heavy airplay on MTV and VH1. The band also received notable coverage in Rolling Stone, Time, Spin, Newsweek and numerous other publications, cementing their legacy as the iconoclasts of pop-metal.
Fittingly, Stryper should be in for a deluge of renewed exposure and acclaim. But Michael Sweet would just as soon turn the spotlight on someone else. "The one theme that is woven into every song on our new album is this: Look to Jesus," he says adamantly. "Some people may get tired of hearing this, but we feel God has called us to share the message of Christ's love, mercy and grace. He's always there no matter what, and that's what we will proclaim until we die."
The band is currently on tour in support of the new album. Stryper is managed by Deep South Entertainment.
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