|Musical Style: Modern Hard Rock||Produced By: Michael Sweet & Kenny Lewis|
|Record Label: Big3||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2005||Artist Website: Stryper|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 65%|
|Running Time: 39:50|
"We want to be a band that can go out and be heard by the 18-year olds and the 40-year olds."
Reborn, the first full length studio album from Stryper in fifteen years, can trace its origin back to when the band recorded two new songs - "Something" and "For You" - for its 2003 compilation Seven. Subsequently embarking on a coast to coast US tour to commemorate its 20th anniversary, Stryper followed up a year later with a very well done live album entitled 7 Weeks: Live In America, 2003. The next logical step for the band, naturally, would have been to record a new studio album but lead vocalist Michael Sweet had his heart sent on pursuing a solo career. As a result, Michael began work on a new solo record in April of 2004, and upon completing it three months later, began shopping it around to different labels.
In the meantime, Stryper bassist Tim Gaines submitted his resignation, and when the band reunited in September of 2004 for a performance at Disney World in Florida, it introduced its new bass player, Tracy Ferrie. Upon returning home, however, Michael felt that a new beginning for the band was starting to take shape and shared his idea with the guys (Oz Fox, Robert Sweet and Tracy) about turning his finished solo record into a new Stryper album. The three could not have been more excited. Subsequently, Robert was brought in to re-record most of the drum parts, while Tracy did the same for the majority of the bass tracks. Oz, in addition, added both guitars and background vocals to each song.
The best way to describe Reborn would be guitar driven modern hard rock projecting a somewhat darker feel when compared too much of the material in Stryper's back catalog: Guitar driven due to the manner in which the album rocks with consistent authority from front to back to an upfront mix of crisp sounding rhythm guitar. Modern in terms of the lack of emphasis the band places on its instrumental sound. Oz, for example, ends up making very little impact on lead guitar, allowed to cut loose with one of his trademark distorted solos on only one song. He does, however, combine with Michael for a great deal of crunch and momentum on rhythm guitar. Robert puts forth a non-stop energetic performance on drums, while Tracy does a good job contributing the albums precise bass lines. Michael remains first rate talent on lead vocals. One of the main strengths to the project, his vocal delivery comes across in a lower key in comparison to his work during the bands eighties heyday but proves no less notable.
Production values are quite strong, allowing for a near perfect mix of rhythm guitar to stand alongside a full and heavy sounding low end.
The album cover, featuring a photo of the four covered in what looks to be mustard colored paint, is, for a lack of better words, eye catching. Please note that lyrics were not included as part of the albums packaging, while the track listing on the back of the CD jewel case does not follow the order the songs are played back. (According to the bands website, the distributor will be remanufacturing the CD with the songs in the correct order- which automatically makes the initial version of Reborn a collector's item.) Folks, these are real simple things that, with a minimum amount of time and thought, you should be able to get done right the first time.
Reborn gets off to a good start with the modern hard rocker "Open Your Eyes". Beginning to a drum solo, a crunchy rhythm guitar slowly carries the song forward until it attains a chorus delivered at a strong upbeat tempo. I wish the band had built upon in instrumental passage limited to a few brief seconds of restrained lead guitar.
The excellent "Reborn" deserves to rank with the albums better material. Advancing through its verse portions at a hard hitting mid-tempo pace, the albums title track builds in momentum until it explodes with an abundance of energy for a great non-stop hook filled chorus. Michael's abundant voice really shines here. The only drawback to the song comes in the form of its lack of an instrumental section.
The drum solo initiating "When Did I See You Cry" gives way to an engaging trade off between a driving guitar riff and Robert's pounding drums as the song moves through its first and second verse. Picking up in pace, "When..." proceeds to a chorus with a catchy refuse to go away hook. Once again, an instrumental passage carries by an ordinary sounding guitar solo is to be found wanting.
When compared to the excellence of "Reborn" and "When Did I See You Cry", the ordinary sounding modern rock of "Make You Mine" falls a bit short of the mark. The song slowly plods along to a crisp sounding rhythm guitar before it transitions to a chorus that does not always hold up due to its pedestrian feel. The restrained lead guitar work carrying an all too brief instrumental passage further detracts from the songs appeal.
After an acoustic guitar propels the stylish semi-ballad "Passion" through its first verse, it picks up in pace at the start of the second before the rhythm guitar steps forward and backs an infectious chorus delivered in an emotionally charged manner. The only missing piece to the puzzle is the songs lack of an instrumental passage.
"Live Again" is perhaps the albums heaviest track. A crunchy rhythm guitar with a slight bluesy feel pushes the song ahead in an overriding fashion until it culminates for a strong hard hitting chorus. The band could have easily expanded upon an instrumental section held back by a few brief seconds of lead guitar.
A crisp rhythm guitar drives "Wait For You" at an uninspired sounding mid-tempo pace until it gains impetus for a chorus I might describe as marginal at best. The "nuh-nu-nu-nuh-nuh" backing vocals gracing the song following its first chorus, moreover, come across downright cheesy. The drab lead guitar work carrying a fleeting instrumental passage also fails to make the grade.
"Rain" opens to more syrupy vocal harmonies - "bu-bu-bu-bu-buh-bu-bu-bu-bu-buh" - before slowly advancing through its verse to a touch of acoustic guitar. Once the rhythm guitar enters the mix, the song to pick up in pace for a chorus coming across with way too much of a slick commercial feel. I cannot help but think "Rain" would stand out in the more noteworthy manner if backed by a good guitar solo.
After a hard rocking mix of rhythm guitar slowly drives "If I Die" forward, it gains momentum prior to attaining a chorus with a strong radio friendly hook. If Oz was ever going to cut loose with any relevant lead guitar work now would have been a good time to do so.
"10,000 Years", a very fine rendition of "Amazing Grace" done Stryper style, is this reviewers favorite track off Reborn. Jumping out of the gate at an upbeat tempo, the song progresses in an energy-laden manner until it peaks upon reaching a chorus with a catchy hook that will pull you in and refuse to let go.
The album closes in a very strong fashion to an updated version of "In God We Trust", the title track to the bands fourth studio album. A pounding riff takes the song through its first verse before it picks up in pace and quickly moves through the second, the bands trademark vocal harmonies entering the mix in time to support a good melodic flavored chorus. As with the original, "IGWT" effortlessly flows to a distorted over-the-top guitar solo from Oz. He should have been cutting loose like this throughout the entire album!
The best way to sum up would be to state that on the basis of the strength of the music alone Reborn deserves a minimum grade of 75/100. While I find that the album includes seven very good songs in "Reborn", "When Did I See You Cry", "Passion", "Live Again", "If I Die", "10,000 Years" and "In God We Trust", the rest of its material rates from average to good at best. In the end, I find myself hitting the skip button a few too many times. Major deductions, furthermore, are made due to the lack of emphasis Stryper places on its instrumental sound in addition to the problems associated with the albums packaging. Finally, the overall feel I get from Reborn is that it is less of a Stryper album and more of a Michael Sweet solo album. With that in mind, I cannot help but encourage the band on any future material it records to include elements of the “classic Stryper sound”: Move in a melodic metal/hard rock direction while allowing for lengthier guitar runs from Oz and Michael while bringing back more of the bands trademark vocal harmonies.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Open Your Eyes" (4:02), "Reborn" (3:26), "When Did I See You Cry" (3:34), "Make You Mine" (4:01), "Passion" (3:48), "Live Again" (3:28), "If I Die" (3:44), "Wait For You" (3:21), "Rain" (3:41), "10,000 Years" (3:14), "I.G.W.T." (3:17)
Michael Sweet – lead vocals & guitars
Oz Fox – guitars & backing vocals
Tracy Ferrie – bass & backing vocals
Robert Sweet - drums
Kenny Lewis & Peter Vantine – Keyboards
Lou Spag – Bass
Derek Kerswill - Drums
Larson, Michael. "Stryper: Reborn Again." Heaven's Metal 59 (2005): 8-11 & 15.
Van Pelt, Doug. "Stryper: Existentialism By #'S." HM 115 (2005): 38-39.