With Christian metallers Stryper on the road in support of their latest album, God Damn Evil, both Jeff Podoshen and Zenae Zukowski caught them on tour in New York and Baltimore on the 8th and 13th, respectively. Since both were excited about seeing the yellow and black attack, we let each of them talk about their experience.
New York, May 8, Gramercy Theater (Zen)
Just two years ago, Stryper celebrated 30 years of To Hell With the Devil by touring all over North America twice, and now, they have returned to commemorate their latest effort, God Damn Evil. Their new album was released last month via Frontiers Records and it’s already receiving praise that this could be one of the best albums of the year. Between these two years, the biggest change we have seen, aside from Walmart not selling their new album in stores, is Perry Richardson (Firehouse). Richardson joining the group after longtime bassist Tim Gaines left last year. Aside from that, the Christian metallers were ready to deliver one energetic performance on May 8th at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City.
NYC hard rockers Thrilldriver opened up the night as they appeared to be a mix between Battle Beast and Royal Thunder, which has to do with vocalist/keytarist Zoe Friedman. Friedman won the crowd over with her Mlny Parsonz-like voice combined with a Noora Louhimo vitality as they went into songs such as “Carry Me,” “Madeline,” “Count Me In,” and Damian.”
When you take your personal faith out of the equation and open your mind, you will appreciate the spiritual variations people embrace. This of course, could be from anything from Satanism, Catholicism, or even the church of the flying spaghetti monster. With that said, Stryper haven’t been afraid to share their Christian beliefs for well over thirty years. However, they have executed it in a brilliant way, and people of all faiths have grown to love this band.
Thirty-five years later, they must be doing something right, since aside from a few breaks, the group have relatively maintained the same lineup. While their hair has toned down since the eighties, their yellow and black attire remain and they are one of the few bands out there that present a flawless stamina as well as keeping the stage brightly lit. Many bands from the eighties hair metal scene have disbanded over the years, which making them relevant today is commendable. However, Stryper is one of the few who survived and with their new record, God Damn Evil, only proves they aren’t going anywhere.
The group proved how unique they are as their performance remained consistently heavy, energetic, and each member looked genuinely happy to be there. This is why they keep coming back as well as their fans.
Baltimore, May 13, Fish Head Cantina (Jeff)
Stryper’s latest release, God Damn Evil, has been making major waves. As we reviewed here, the record is extremely heavy and particularly well crafted. Michael Sweet and company created a real winner, though not without controversy, most notably due to the album title.
I caught up with Stryper at the Fish Head Cantina in Baltimore, MD on Sunday, May 13, and the band was in their typical amazing live form. Clearly the word about God Damn Evil is out and the Fish Head Cantina was packed to the gills with fans. There was hardly any room to move at all inside the main tent area, as the cantina seemed to more closely resemble a can of sardines. That didn’t stop the crowd though even as it poured outside, the massive amount of middle aged Baltimore rock fans were loving every minute of the performance. And so much politeness!
The band began the show with one of their more recent favorites, “Yahweh,” which opens their powerful 2015 album, Fallen. It is an extremely uplifting tune and an excellent way to begin a show in a semi-outdoor venue that’s been drenched most of the day. They then transitioned into “The Valley” off the newest record to which it seemed most fans were already familiar with as so many around me were singing along, hands held high in the air.
Stryper’s setlist was mostly a greatest hits compilation with some cuts off God Damn Evil that also included “Sorry” and the title track, but given that many of the fans in attendance clearly remembered the glorious decade of the 1980’s, much of the performance was centered on taking fans back through songs like “Honestly,” “To Hell with the Devil,” and “Soldiers Under Command.” Personally I would have loved to have heard “Take it the Cross,” but I’ll hope for that on the next tour after the latest record matures a bit in the marketplace.
One of the reasons Stryper draws so many fans is simply because of the passion of the performance and the incredible musicianship. Robert Sweet on the drums is something special to watch and its so obvious he loves every minute of being up there. Oz Fox is dedicated and genuine as ever. Newcomer Perry Richardson had a giant smile on his face from beginning to end and really interacted with the adoring crowd so well. And, of course, Michael Sweet. The man can sing. I mean… really, really sing. Still hits the high notes without fail and still crushes his leads on guitar. It’s like this band never ages, and to be frank, I enjoy their last two records more than some of their earlier ones. Undoubtedly, the heavier sound has something to do with this.
You can find tour dates and ticket info here. I would suggest buying tickets in advance because these shows are getting packed. Don’t miss out.
STRYPER (NYC photos by Zenae)