With a trend that began five years ago with No More Hell To Pay, Stryper’s tenth studio album, God Damn Evil, is perhaps the band’s heaviest to date. The title track alone is destined to become another anthemic Stryper classic. Other songs like “Lost” and “Take It To the Cross” offer similar status. Showcasing vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet’s soaring vocals, with the latter song tastefully bordering on the verge of thrash metal.
With a double-entendre title hearkening back to the band’s monster To Hell With The Devil album from 1986, the new release was once again met with concern by fans and retail outlets. Walmart even refused to even carry God Damn Evil in its stores entirely, but ironically still has it available online. Regardless, the band’s formula for writing catchy, hook-laden songs with positive messages and a signature sound remains alive and well.
Stryper, which consists of Michael Sweet, Oz Fox (guitars/vocals), Robert Sweet (drums) and Perry Richardson (bass/vocals), recently kicked off the U.S. leg of the band’s God Damn Evil Tour at the M3 Festival in Maryland. AXS spoke with Michael Sweet about the new tour, which includes an upcoming acoustic performance with Sweet and Fox at The Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA in this new interview.
AXS: Stryper recently kicked off the U.S. dates of the God Damn Evil Tour at the M3 Festival. What is it about M3 and these multi-band shows that makes them so special?
Michael Sweet: I think it’s because it brings everyone together; not only the bands but the fans as well. It’s an opportunity for us all to reminisce, enjoy the music and have a great time. For me, the best times musically came during the seventies and eighties. I’m sure there are people who might argue, but for me, those were the best and most fun times. The thing that also made that particular show so great was that it gave us the chance to show how talented our new bassist, Perry, is and what a perfect fit he is for us. He’s been such a Godsend to the band.
AXS: How has the reaction been to the new Stryper album, God Damn Evil?
MS: It’s been great. A lot of people had said that the album would bury us, or that our careers were over. So, it’s been interesting to see that the charts, reaction and reviews are all contrary to that. We gained a lot of new fans on this album. We did what we needed to do and felt right doing it. We stand behind and love the album, and really think it’s our best album ever.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Michael Sweet by Clicking Here!
When Stryper announced the title of its tenth studio album, God Damn Evil, there was some obvious push back. Many longtime fans were unsure if they could even say the name out loud. But the band’s formula for success in using the double entendre to get their message across is one that’s worked well for them over the past thirty-four years (most notably, on their monster 1986 release, To Hell With The Devil ), and this new album is no different.
With God Damn Evil (which will be released on Friday, April 20), Stryper continues to build on its mantra of shining light in a dark place. It’s an album that features the familiar Christian rockers’ signature sound, hook-laden anthems and thought-provoking messages, but it’s also one that takes a few chances as well.
From the opening track, “Take It To The Cross”; a soaring song that borders on thrash metal, to the modern heaviness and edge of songs like “Sorry” and “Lost,” Stryper continues to push the envelope of their musical creativity. The title track alone is an instant Stryper classic. With a bluesy guitar intro and fist-pumping chorus that’s certain to be a highlight of the band’s set on tour this year.
With a new album and full year of touring, Stryper is also welcoming new bassist, Perry Richardson (Firehouse / Craig Morgan) to the lineup.
Stryper is: Michael Sweet (lead vocals/guitar), Robert Sweet (drums), Oz Fox (guitars/vocals), Perry Richardson (bass/vocals).
AXS: How does God Damn Evil compare with some of the band’s recent albums like Fallen and No More Hell To Pay?
Michael Sweet: Sonically, it’s a little more meatier. We didn’t get into the “loud wars” because the louder you make it, the less punch and dynamics there are. We also tried a few different techniques with cymbals and mic placement as well as with guitar heads and cabinets. With this album, we went for something a little bit different while still retaining our classic sound.
AXS: You’re known for waiting until the last minute to begin work on writing songs for an album. Was that the same process you used for God Damn Evil?
MS: It was the same process. I don’t like writing for six months and then having thirty songs to pick through. I used to write like that back in [the] Eighties. Now, I enjoy working under pressure and starting from scratch. It’s hard to explain but it’s a formula I don’t want to mess with.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Michael Sweet by Clicking Here!
Unified is the sophomore release from Sweet & Lynch, the collaborative partnership centered around the talents of Michael Sweet (Stryper) and George Lynch (Lynch Mob).
The powerful combination of Sweet’s high-octane vocals and Lynch’s instantly recognizable guitar work, along with the propulsive rhythm section of James Lomenzo (bass) and Brian Tichy (drums), gives Sweet and Lynch a unique musical palette. The result is an album of traditional heavy metal grooves, hook-laden melodies, tasty guitar wizardry and positive messages.
I recently spoke to Michael Sweet about Unified and working with George Lynch. He also gave me an update on the new Stryper album and their new bassist, Perry Richardson.
Before we begin, I’d like to get your thoughts on the recent passing of AC/DC guitarist, Malcolm Young. How much of an influence did he have on you?
Like any other teenager and aspiring musician at the time, AC/DC was the pinnacle. Not so much from the sense of me trying to sound like Malcolm or Angus, but I played those songs in cover bands and to this day we still break into AC/DC songs at sound check.
There’s just something amazing about their power and simplicity, and Malcom was the driving force behind it. He was such an incredibly tight and responsive guitar player. He didn’t make a lot of noise in terms of his persona or stage presence, but if you closed your eyes and listened you would hear Malcolm above all.
Let’s discuss the new Sweet & Lynch album, Unified. How does it compare to your first release, Only To Rise?
For this album, George and I branched out a little and tried a few different things. It’s got some songs on it that are stretched a bit more in terms of creativity, particularly with songs like “Walk” and “Afterlife”. There’s nothing like that on the first album. The first album was comprised more of three and a half to four-minute songs geared toward hard rock/metal heads and radio. For this one, we had less of that in mind and made the album we wanted to make.
Was the writing process similar to Only To Rise, where George would send you musical ideas to work from?
Yes. Once we got down to it, George would send me ideas that were music only. The first time around they were less complete, but this time it was a complete song from start to finish. George is a guy who writes with a melody in mind, so it makes it easy for me to find them. George wrote all the music on this one and I wrote all the lyrics and melodies. It was a compete co-write.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Unified, beginning with the title track.
That song is based on our world today and what we watch on the news. Whatever side you’re on. And that’s the sad part when I say that we have “sides”, especially in America where we’ve become so divided. It makes no sense to me, so I wrote a song about it. Keeping in mind the hope that it might bring people a little closer together. That’s the whole point of “Unified.”
Read the rest of my
Interview with Michael Sweet by clicking here.
It was my senior year of high school in March of 1987 when rumors surfaced that Christian rockers, Stryper were coming to town. The band, which had already been generating a healthy buzz in both the Christian and secular/MTV worlds with the songs “Calling On You,” “Free,” “Honestly” and the title-track from their ‘To Hell With The Devil’ album, was out on tour supporting the release and would soon be rolling into The State Theatre in Easton, Pennsylvania.
Easton is a small town that borders the western end of New Jersey and lies somewhere in between the metropolitan cities of New York and Philadelphia. With a population of 26,000, the highlight of a night in Easton in 1987 consisted of listening to the freight trains rumble through the downtown or hanging out at the local McDonald’s on South Third Street.
Needless to say, when word got out that Stryper was coming to town it was a pretty big deal. And for a seventeen-year-old punk who had his own visions of rock stardom, it was also a dream come true. I had already worn out my cassette copy of THWTD learning it at guitar lesson, and now I had the chance of seeing the band perform it at a place within walking distance from my home. I immediately scrounged up every last dollar of lawn mowing money and the loose change from the sofa cushions and camped out in front of the venue. My reward? A single, front-row ticket to the show!
I remember the band’s performance that night was amazing. Stryper– Michael Sweet, Robert Sweet, Oz Fox and Tim Gaines—wore their classic yellow and black uniforms, threw bibles into the audience and sang songs about positivity with soaring vocals and an infectious dual guitar attack. That show and tour remain one of the biggest highlights of my teenage years.
Fast-forward thirty years. I am now a middle-aged man, but still a punk-kid at heart. Dreams of rock stardom have been replaced by coffee, deadlines and a word processor. I may be a little thick in the middle now and my hairline may have receded, but my love of guitar and all things metal is still overflowing. So much so that last night I drove two hours outside the safe confines of Easton to catch Stryper performing the 30th anniversary of ‘To Hell With The Devil’ at The Stone Pony in Asbury, NJ.
Oh sure, I’ve heard the band perform many of the songs from ‘To Hell With The Devil’ over the years –including most recently last April at the famous Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles, but never in a celebration-style format of the entire album being performed in its entirety from front to back by those same original members, and I was not disappointed.
From the opening sounds of The Abyss (which kicks off ‘To Hell With Devil’) to the title-track, “Calling On You,” “Free” and “Honestly”, it was a time capsule of youth and music. Some of my other favorites from the album included “Holding On,” “More Than A Man” and the always emotional, “All of Me”.
As if seeing the band perform their biggest album in its entirely wasn’t enough, Stryper also went into an additional set of songs from their 33-year musical arsenal. Tracks like “Yahweh,” “God,” “Soldiers Under Command” and “Caught In the Middle” were fist pumping and magical, while the band’s infectious versions of Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” and KISS’ “Shout it Out Loud” were met with equally enthusiastic response.
The band ended their two-hour performance with the dual encore of “Reach Out” and “Makes Me Wanna Sing”, both from their ‘Soldiers Under Command’ album and capping off a celebration that included a little bit of everything.
In fact, about the only thing missing from Stryper’s Stone Pony set was their monster hit, “Always There For You” from their 1988 album, ‘In God We Trust’. But after experiencing the band many times over these last thirty years –both from small towns to the big cities–I can honestly say that it made no difference.
For me, Stryper will always be there.
Stryper Set List (Asbury Park, NJ)
Abyss (To Hell With The Devil)
To Hell With the Devil
Calling on You
Sing Along Song
Rocking The World
All Of Me
More Than A Man
Battle Hymn of the Republic (pre-recorded)
In God We Trust
Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath cover)
Shout It Out Loud (KISS cover)
Caught in the Middle
Soldiers Under Command
When multi-platinum, Christian rockers Stryper donned their iconic yellow and black costumes and kicked off their 30th Anniversary To Hell with the Devil Tour in September, they were greeted by legions of fans longing for one more taste of the band’s biggest album.
For most, this was the first time they’ve seen the band’s original line-up in full gear performing deep cuts like “Holding On” and “All of Me” in nearly three decades. A once in a lifetime opportunity to be sure.
For metal fans who may not be familiar, Stryper’s “To Hell With The Devil” album is a masterpiece of 80’s metal. The Grammy-nominated, third studio release was also the first to achieve platinum status as well as giving the band — which consists of Michael Sweet (lead vocals/guitars), Robert Sweet (drums), Oz Foxx (guitars) and Tim Gaines (bass), crossover appeal to mainstream metal with songs like the title track, “Honestly,” “Calling On You” and “Free”.
For this tour, Stryper will be performing To Hell With The Devil in its entirely from start to finish, followed by another set of the band’s biggest and most well known hits.
I recently spoke with Michael Sweet about the To Hell With The Devil: 30th Anniversary Tour, his upcoming projects and some memorable moments of his career.
When you look back on the To Hell With The Devil album now with thirty years of perspective, what thoughts come to mind?
It was a special time and definitely the highlight and heyday of the band. I’ve always said that it was the album that took us from performing in theaters to arenas, and the song, “Honestly” literally took us from gold to platinum status. It was our biggest, most celebrated and popular album to this day, and just the fact that we’re doing it now with the original line-up thirty years later is mind boggling and I love it!
How has reaction been to the new tour?
It’s been fantastic. We start with a little video documentary of the band and its history. Then we come out and do To Hell With The Devil in its entirety. Then we take a five-minute break and come back out and do another full set after that. It’s almost a two-hour show.
What’s it been like revisiting some of these songs?
It’s been great. There are actually a few songs, like “Holding On,” “All of Me,” and “Rockin’ The World” that we haven’t played since the 80s. Playing them now every night is a reminder of just how cool those songs are and how much we missed playing them. The crowd loves them and the response has been phenomenal.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from To Hell With The Devil, starting with Honestly. Can you tell me how that song came about?
I had a Roland keyboard sitting in my garage that always inspired me to write piano ballads. I remember sitting down at it one day and playing some chords. It actually came together fairly quickly and wound up becoming the song that charted the highest of any we’ve ever released.
At the time, did you know it was going to be special?
I had a feeling about that song and the whole album actually. When we started tracking and listening back to the mixes I had a gut feeling it was going to be big and a turning point for the band.
How about the track, To Hell With The Devil?
Rob wanted to give the album that title, so I wrote the music and Rob and I wrote the words together. It’s an iconic title that a lot of people remember us for and a catch phrase people love to say. It’s a powerful statement because we believe that’s where he [The Devil] is going. The original album cover was very controversial because there was a pentagram being pulled from Satan’s neck and it upset a lot of the Christian bookstores that were carrying it. We wound up changing the artwork.
Calling on You.
That song is a good merge of pop sense and metal. It’s got this edge along with a great melody and harmonies. It was the first video we made for the album and the first that went to #1 on Dial MTV. It’s been a staple in our set since the 80s.
Your most recent solo album, One Sided War also received a lot of critical acclaim. Do you have plans to tour to support it next year?
Absolutely. I’m going to do some acoustic shows next year as well as ones and a full band. I’ll also be starting a new Sweet & Lynch album in February and I can’t wait to do it.
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?
Right now, I’m working on some songs for Joel Hoekstra / Michael Sweet super group project. I’m also thinking about another new solo album already.
You’re one of few artists from the era who continues to write, record and create new music. What’s your reasoning behind it?
You know what it is? I’m still just as excited about it now as I was when I was sixteen. And it’s not just about the touring and performance as much as it is the writing and recording. Creating. I’m passionate about it.
Of all of the highlights of your career as an artist, are there any that stand out to you as most memorable?
As an artist, the one that pops in my mind instantly is the first performance I had with Boston [Note: Sweet performed as singer and guitarist for Boston from 2008-2011]. I remember it was a very sad night because we had been celebrating Brad Delp’s life and I was really nervous because I was stepping up to the plate and singing songs for Brad. I wasn’t sure how the fans would accept it, but I just remember singing the first song and hearing the crowd roar. It was a special, emotional moment for me. Of course with Stryper, there are so many. Just the days of performing in some of these venues, traveling and seeing the world together as a band. There are so many special moments.
Michael Sweet’s new solo album, One Sided War, is packed with hook-laden songs that transcend the tasty fretwork and soaring vocals we’ve come to expect from the Stryper frontman.
On the new disc, Sweet is joined by a plethora of seasoned musicians, including guitarists Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake) and Ethan Brosh, bassist John O’Boyle and drummer Will Hunt (Evanescence). Newcomer guitarist/vocalist Moriah Formica accompanies Sweet on a tasty duet, “Can’t Take This Life.”
In addition to the new solo album, Sweet—along with the rest of Stryper—is gearing up for a tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of that band’s monster album, To Hell with the Devil.
I recently spoke with Sweet about One Sided War, Stryper’s upcoming tour, gear and more. You can check out our chat below.
You consistently release great new music. How important is it for you to keep creating?
It’s everything to me. Many artists seem to lose their drive and passion for doing it as they get older. They’ll say things like it’s not really worth it to make new albums. But the thing about me is that it feels as though I’ve gained more drive and more passion. I just love what I do.
How does One Sided War compare to some of your previous albums?
It’s obviously got some similarities to the sound of some of the other things I’ve done in the past because I can’t escape the sound of my voice or the style of my guitar playing. But I always try to bring in new ingredients and substance to give it a different flair. I always say it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and I mean it. But that’s not meant to be a slam on the other projects. I just go into each project trying new things—using new equipment and trying different mic and amp techniques to improve upon the last project. I never sit down and think about what I want to sing or play. I just do what comes from the heart.
You can read the rest of my
Interview with Michael Sweet by Clicking Here!
It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since Christian rock giants Stryper released To Hell with the Devil. The monster album, which features the dual-guitar attack of Michael Sweet and Oz Fox, spawned several classic tunes, including “Calling on You,” “Free,” “Honestly” and, of course, the title track.
These days, you’ll still find Stryper doing what they do best—delivering their uniquely infectious music and message to a fan base that’s hungry for both. Stryper’s latest release, Fallen, continues that trend and is considered by many to be their heaviest album to date.
Stryper is Michael Sweet (lead vocals/guitars), Oz Fox (guitars/vocals), Timothy Gaines (bass/vocals) and Robert Sweet (drums).
I recently caught up with Sweet and Fox before Stryper’s sold-out show at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood to discuss the 30th anniversary of To Hell with the Devil, new music, gear and more.
Stryper are about to play another sold-out show at the Whisky A Go Go. You guys have played there quite a bit over the years and even recorded a live album here. What do you like most about the venue?
MICHAEL SWEET: The Whisky is a legendary place. I remember the first time I played there; it was with Kevin Dubrow and Dubrow (they weren’t called Quiet Riot at the time). We’ve all been playing there on and off over the years with Stryper and with our solo projects. There’s a lot of history there and something special about it. It’s really small and there’s no place to put your gear. It’s a bit of a zoo—but it’s still the Whisky!
You’ve called Stryper’s new album, Fallen, as the band’s heaviest album to date. How have the new songs blended in with the classic Stryper hits?
SWEET: Perfectly. Our albums are all a little different, but when we play those new songs live, they all blend well together. It’s the same energy and there’s no trickery with the live production. We open with “Yahweh” and have also added “Fallen” and “King of Kings” to the set.
OZ FOX: “Yahweh” is such an epic song.
SWEET: It’s a larger-than-life song that’s got everything. It’s got a little bit of an [Iron] Maiden, [Judas] Priest and Metallica vibe and is also Stryper-ized. It’s a really cool tune.
Let’s talk a little about the 30th anniversary of To Hell with the Devil. What goes through your mind when you look back on that album with so much perspective?
FOX: I still can’t believe 30 years have passed. It’s a memory that just keeps going. I was actually just looking at the picture of us from Japan in the suits on our way over here today and was blown away.
You can read the rest of my
Interview with Michael Sweet and Oz Fox by Clicking Here.