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Stryper - 'Murder By Pride' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/a3/42/2b/656_strypermurderbypride_1285786165.jpg Hot

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Even though this is another great Stryper album there are a couple of things that could have been better.

I know they've had a lot of stick for the yellow and black costumes, the bible throwing and the Christian message in their songs, and there are even people out there who still believe the whole thing is just a gimmick, but personally I don’t pay that much attention to most lyrics anyway, and if I like the music then I like the band. Stryper are one band who’ve never, ever disappointed me and whose albums I like all of, and the odd song aside pretty much all the way through. Sure, ‘In God We Trust’ was a watered down copy of ‘To Hell With The Devil’ and ‘Reborn’ missed the big backing vocals, high-pitched screams and incendiary guitar solos, but as songwriters these guys have been consistent. The good news is that they still are.

‘Murder By Pride’ retains the modern edge of ‘Reborn’ but also takes you right back to ‘The Yellow And Black Attack’ and ‘Soldiers Under Command’ at times with it’s metallic riffs, duelling guitar solos, big vocal harmonies and Michael Sweet’s distinctive screams. Opening upbeat rocker ‘Eclipse Of The Son’ has all of the above (except maybe the big harmony vocals) and could easily have come from a much earlier album with it’s tight twin guitar riffs, manic guitar solo and sparingly used, instantly familiar three-part harmony at the end of the chorus - and Sweet certainly isn’t holding back on the vocals either. The following track ‘4 Leaf Clover’ still has the modern rock thing going on but with a ‘Soldiers Under Command’ style traded Michael Sweet/Oz Fox solo and a proper ‘To Hell With The Devil’ scream, ‘The Plan’ is another good upbeat song and the title track rocks like heaven with typically dramatic chord changes and harmony guitars. With a killer, faithful to the original version of Boston’s ‘Peace Of Mind’, changing just the drum beat in the verse and featuring Tom Scholz himself on guitar (the vocals are particularly Delp-ish and you can see why Scholz wanted Michael to front Boston), only the ballad ‘Alive’ slows the pace in the first half with Sweet’s overt Dennis DeYoung-isms.

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The second half drops the pace considerably with low key verses adorning the acoustic-based ‘I Believe’ and ‘Run In You’ before their big choruses kick in, the mid-paced ‘Love Is Why’ has a glorious melody and the straight-ahead groove of ‘Mercy Over Blame’ could have come straight from the ‘Against The Law’ sessions, complete with tasty guitar solo. Towards the end ‘My Love I’ll Always Show’ is punchier and more powerful than before with only the lyrics in common with the song that was originally on their first album, and ‘My Love, My Life, My Flame’ is a sugary but heartfelt ballad that brings the album to a close by (accidentally I’m sure!) stealing a few bars of Magnum’s ‘Les Mort Dansant’, although I’m certain that if it was intentional the guys would probably be more familiar with the slight re-write - ‘Call To Heaven’ from Patti Smyth’s ‘Never Enough’ album. Before these two however is possibly my favourite song on the album and one of the best they’ve ever written; ‘Everything’ is indeed everything that Stryper are about and the mid-paced, cleverly arranged rocker simply refuses to leave your brain.

Even though this is another great Stryper album there are a couple of things that could have been better. The production isn’t particularly bad but by Sweet’s usual standard it’s not as powerful as it should be, and for some unknown reason the “visual timekeeper”, Robert Sweet, doesn’t play on it. The drummer on the album is the respected Kenny Aaronoff, and it may not be his fault, but to put it into 1960’s Batman onomatopoeia, I want my kick and snare drums to go “Doof” and “Thwack” and what I get is “Dunk” and “Splat”. It doesn’t ruin my love for this album though, and it’s a particularly strong release throughout. The yellow and black attack is back - thank God for that!

Phil Ashcroft

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