Born in 1983, Californian band Stryper has followed a positive and passionate path of metal and faith leading up to the release of God Damn Evil—the band’s 12th album. It’s been a while since the guys graced Australian shores to share with fans a healthy dose of what they do best. But they’re back in town and TEO had a chat to frontman Michael Sweet about the meaning behind Stryper, getting back to their roots and modernism.

TEO: God Damn Evil is Stryper’s 12th album, what a milestone! Can you tell us a bit about the making of this one?
We’ve been trying very hard to get back to our roots, back to the sound we had in the beginning. We feel like this album has really brought us full circle to who we were, who we are, and who we should be. We’re really happy with how it’s turned out; it’s everything that represents the band and we feel like it’s really our best album.

It’s your heaviest release yet, did you ever envision the band making an album like God Damn Evil?
You know, usually what happens with bands over the years from what I’ve seen is they tend to lighten up as they get older. There are a few exceptions, Judas Priest is one, and I think Stryper is another exception to the rule. We’ve almost gotten heavier since the beginning and that hasn’t been planned or purposely done, it’s just what’s coming out of us these days. And I think what’s helped steer us in that direction is comments from the fans asking for something a little heavier and a little edgier. That’s why we wrote the song ‘Take It To The Cross’ because people were asking for something that bordered on thrash and that was our answer to that. But we’re not compromising who we are and what we want to do, so we’re very pleased and apparently the fans are pretty pleased, which is hard to achieve.

There’s something distinctively ’80s about your music, but yet still modern. How do you stay up to date with this constantly evolving genre?
I try, as a writer and musician, to stay up to date on everything going on around me: new bands, new sounds, [a] new [way of] production, but we’re never going to try to be a modern rock band because we’re not. At the same time, it’s important to try to stay relevant and keep up with the latest technology, and sounds and effects used on modern records—I don’t want to make an album that sounds like it came out of 1986 because, to be quite honest, it’s hard for me to listen to some of those albums from the ’80s. There’s too much reverb, too many effects and [they’re] just not what I’d like to hear in 2018. So, we’re trying hard to merge the two.

Your voice is a very important instrument in this band, and it sounds as incredible as your first album. What would you say to young singers who want to stand the test of time?
I would say smoke a pack of cigarettes and drink a bottle of whiskey every day—nah, I’m kidding! It is important to take care of yourself—not just your voice by drinking tea and honey, and warming up your voice, but also taking care of yourself. Keeping things in moderation, whether it’s smoking, drinking, eating or exercise. It’s important to keep your lung capacity up so you can breathe, because singing is all about breathing, and if you’re out of shape you’re going to have trouble singing. If you don’t have your health, you really have nothing.

As a band that is very upfront about religion, has your music and faith ever clashed?
Of course. With travelling and being away from your family, homes and animals, you’re living an alternate life out of a suitcase and it can be difficult to juggle both. But we’ve managed to, thank God, get through it. We encourage each other and we’re accountable to each other. And that’s the beauty of being in Stryper; it’s a brotherhood.

Stryper formed in 1983, and the band name is a backronym: salvation through redemption, yielding peace, encouragement and righteousness. Does that still apply to the Stryper of today?
It does. Absolutely. And we have the scripture that goes along with our logo, which is Isiah 53:5 and in some translations of the Bible it says, ‘By His stripes we are healed.’ So that’s what all of our stripes represent and that’s probably the most important part of who we are and that’s why we still present that message in our lyrics and that’s why we still throw out Bibles. As much as we enjoy rocking, what’s more important is to see lives changed and inspired.

Friday, 17 August 2018 – MELBOURNE, Max Watts

Saturday, 18 August 2018 – SYDNEY, Max Watts

Sunday, 19 August 2018 – ADELAIDE, The Gov

Tuesday, 21 August 2018 – BRISBANE, The Triffid

Available here.

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Photo: Alex Solca