|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: Stryper|
|Record Label: Fifty Three Five||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website: Stryper|
|Tracks: 8||Rating: No Quote|
|Running Time: 28:44|
Stryper, as I am sure most of you reading this are aware, can trace its history back to 1982 when it was put together by brothers Robert (drums) and Michael Sweet (lead vocals & guitars) while initially under the name Roxx Regime. Talented guitarist Oz Fox was later recruited in 1983 and, following the influence of a friend by the name of Ken Metcalf, the band dedicated itself to God and chose a new moniker in Stryper (Salvation Through Redemption Yielding Peace, Encouragement and Righteousness). Bassist Tim Gaines, meanwhile, left the secular group Stormer after becoming a Christian and rounded out Stryper’s line up the summer of the same year when Robert offered him the gig. Stryper’s first demo, recorded while still under the name Roxx Regime and not yet featuring Christian lyrics, led to it signing with Enigma Records. Enigma, nevertheless, later found out about Stryper’s faith and subsequent change in lyrical direction but chose to back the band when they saw how big it was becoming in Hollywood.
The previously referenced change in lyrical direction in question, of course, can best be found on Stryper’s groundbreaking Enigma debut The Yellow And Black Attack (1984) in addition to the follow up releases Soldiers Under Command (1985), Too Hell With The Devil (1986) and In Go We Trust (1988). But before signing with Engima, and the gold and platinum albums and airplay on FM radio and MTV that followed, the band – while still known as Roxx Regime – put together another demo made up of 5 of the 6 songs that eventually appeared on The Yellow And Black Attack (“Loving You” is the lone hold out). It was on this release, however, that Roxx Regime began to take an openly Christian lyrical stance. Recorded in 1983 at Casbah Studio, the demo was re-issued in mid-2007 by Fifty Three Five Records, under the appropriate title The Roxx Regime Demos, in its original form and with no over-dubs and re-recordings.
The end result is Stryper as they were meant to sound- spirited, vibrant and giving rise to an abundance of all out youthful energy. And I cannot help but think the raw feel to the demos production proved crucial in capturing these elements. No, these are not a bunch of muddy and next to unlistenable demo recordings. That being said, you will find a certain amount of thinness here – the clarity to The Roxx Regime Demos does not quite match that of The Yellow And Black Attack – but the overall sound here more than holds its own (it actually proves surprisingly clean) and easily justified obtaining a copy.
What I truly appreciate about the project is the opportunity to experience Stryper/Roxx Regime in its earliest incarnation and the abundant talent and potential that went along with it. For instance, we get to hear the copious range to Michael Sweet’s voice (although a bit too much echo has been added to his delivery for my taste) for the first time along with the dual lead guitar work he shares with Oz Fox. Oz, as one would expect, is in top form, particularly on “Loud N Clear” and “Co’mon Rock”, while “You Know What To Do” allows Michael to showcase his melodic style of playing. Robert Sweet, at the same time, puts forth a proficient effort throughout (just wait until you hear his drum solo “Tank”).
After listening to TYABA continuously the better part of the past several decades (and getting used to “Loud N Clear” as the opening track), I find it quite an adjustment having things get underway with “From Wrong To Right”. Not that that is a bad thing because the song still stands out as one of the finest in Stryper’s repertoire, combining an abundance of driving mid-tempo impetus and a metal edged rhythm guitar sound while proving to be the bands signature track from a lyrical standpoint:
I’ve changed my ways from wrong to right
The devil never pays, no he robs just like a thief in the night
So many bands give the devil all the glory
It’s hard to understand, we want to change the story
The “rock” version of “My Love I’ll Always Show” represents one of the highlights to The Roxx Regime Demos. Making its initial appearance as a keyboard based ballad on the remixed re-issue of TYABA from 1986, the song now comes to life as an upbeat melodic hard rocker with a forward mix of rhythm guitar and terrific hook driven chorus. As a matter of fact, if Stryper had decided to record a seventh song for TYABA this would have made an excellent choice.
“Loud N Clear”, in comparison to TYABA rendition, fades in a bit quicker at the start while moving at the slower tempo and not exuding as much forceful energy. The vocal harmonies backing its chorus, at the same time, do not give rise to the same polished feel. Still, the song retains its significant chorus hook and instrumental section opening to a bass guitar solo followed by several seconds of pull out all the stops lead guitar from Oz.
“You Know What To Do” fails to open to the bands trademark vocal harmonies but rather immediately launches into a rhythm guitar based introduction. All in all, if I were to invite a comparison the demo version of the song comes across a bit more laid back but not quite as bluesy- something which in my opinion can be attributed to the lack of backing vocals in its chorus. I find the bands performance from TYABA to be stronger.
The Roxx Regime Demos showcases the best version of “You Won’t Be Lonely” this reviewer has heard. Still opening to a crisp sounding acoustic guitar, the song moves the rest of its way with the rhythm guitar right up front in the mix- giving it more bite and edge in the process. A number already very good to begin with really comes to life as a result. Check out the cowbell now added to its chorus as well.
“Co’mon Rock”, similar to “Loud N Clear”, loses some of its all out raw energy here. A four minute slugfest on TYABA, “Co’mon Rock” now advances at a reduced pace (even if slightly) but still retains its aggressively delivered chorus and instrumental section featuring a blazing stretch of lead guitar work. Great, great song no matter how you add it up. The band really shines here.
“Tank” is a very well done – though somewhat brief (:44) – drum solo allowing Robert Sweet to display his abilities.
“Honestly” stands out as Stryper’s biggest hit, originally appearing on To Hell With The Devil and reaching top-40 status. First and foremost, it must be noted that the song was not written and recorded back in the bands Roxx Regime days but, rather, a different version was added here as a bonus. You will find no real changes in that it remains a keyboard based ballad shored up by a hint of rhythm guitar during its emotionally charged chorus. The only complaint worth noting, on the other hand, is that it suffers from the worst production of all the tracks on The Roxx Regime Demos (too much flutter and tape his in the background).
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “From Wrong To Right” (4:01), “My Love I’ll Always Show” (3:29), “Loud N Clear” (3:43), “You Know What To Do” (5:04), “You Won’t Be Lonely” (3:56), “Co’mon Rock” (3:43), “Tank” (:44), “Honestly” (4:06)
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Oz Fox – Guitars
Tim Gaines – Bass
Robert Sweet – Drums
Jon Van Togren – Keyboards