Are there any Stryper fans out there? Or ex-Stryper fans? I’ll bet there are very few new Stryper fans, but I think I’m one of ’em, and you will be too if you pick up their new release, “Stryper—The Roxx Regime Demos.”
Stryper, if you’ve never heard of them, was one of the most pioneering rock bands of the ’80’s. The reason you’ve probably never heard of them is that they were doing Christian rock during a time when people still considered it a contradiction in terms. These guys were a “hair band,” with the look of groups like Poison, Warrant, Dokken or maybe Motley Crue, but they might as well have been KISS to the millions of Christian parents who couldn’t handle the look back then. Stryper sought to “minister” to the kind of young people who liked the hard rock culture but weren’t into lyrics about Satan, death, sex, violence, and the like.
Due to both their look and their lyrics, I wasn’t remotely interested in anything they did, but found myself curious when their demo came across our Beliefnet desk. Their current CD has an intriguing story to it: Back before the brand managers and industry insiders got ahold of Stryper and influenced their look and sound, they were called “Roxx Regime,” and this album is a non-over-dubbed, non-re-recorded disc full of their original demos. Their tunes are vibrant and the music is not nearly as fluffy as, well, their old hairstyles.
From Wrong to Right” sounds as if Def Leopard could have covered it; “My Love I’ll Always Share” could have been a Journey song; “Co’Mon Rock” hints of The Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz”; “You Won’t Be Lonely” would be a fine opener for a Styx or REO Speedwagon concert. And “Honesty” pre-dated many of the power ballads that almost every secular band included in their sets.
Stryper had a relevant sound back then that I never really knew about. The band may not have been playing in our CDs, tapes, or 8-tracks, but it’s worth a listen now, especially for a person of faith. “No matter how we look, we always praise His name,” says one song. “If you believe, you should do the same.”
There are probably some cheesy Christians from my younger days that would make me laugh to hear it now, but Stryper’s message and their music–at least during the raw Roxx Regime days–was good then and endures decently well today. And for those who’ve always loved the band, this album will be an added nostalgic treat.