|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: Stephan Galfas & Stryper|
|Record Label: Enigma||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1986||Artist Website: Stryper|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 40:54|
To Hell With The Devil, Stryper's best selling and arguably most well known and popular album, went on to achieve platinum status in addition to featuring two singles in "Calling On You" and "Honestly" that went on to receive significant FM radio and MTV airplay. Michael Sweet remains all world on lead vocals in displaying demonstrated power, range and dynamics with his copious voice. Michael also fills in on rhythm guitar and combines with Oz Fox for a bountiful amount of top notch dual lead guitar work. Robert "Visual Timekeeper" Sweet, as always, puts forth his trademark energy-laden performance on drums. Please note that Brad Cobb contributed all the albums bass tracks. To Hell With The Devil was recorded at a time when bassist Tim Gaines was not in the band, but when his replacement did not work out, Gaines was brought back into the fold in time to tour but not record the album.
Production values rank among the finest of Stryper’s career, polished but not so much as to take away from the bands abundant raw energy. The rhythm guitar comes across full and heavy and underscores a near perfect mix of lead guitar and bass. The drums pack the needed punch and power.
Please note that the album cover, displaying the bands logo over a black background, is not the most original. I find the more colorful but controversial limited edition "angel" cover to be much more appealing.
"Abyss (To Hell With The Devil)" is a short (1:20) instrumental album opener conveyed in a foreboding manner by keyboards.
The albums power metal influenced title track gets things going with a bone crushing heavy riff carried over pounding drums. After the rhythm guitar drops from the mix as the song reaches its first verse, it returns at the start of the second and leads the way to an anthem-like chorus with a great catchy hook. Oz tops things off with thirty seconds of fiery lead guitar work. Michael sings his guts out. "To Hell With The Devil" talks about exactly that:
Speak of the devil
He's no friend of mine
To turn from him
Is what we've got in mind
Just a liar and a thief
The Word tells us so
We'd like to let him know
Where he can go
To hell with the devil...
As previously stated, the commercial hard rocker "Calling On You" received significant MTV and FM radio airplay. I do not understand why in that it fails to rank among the albums better material, held back by a chorus that best can be described as ordinary at best. The main problem with the song is that it comes across almost too polished. It might have received a passing grade if it progressed at a faster pace while placing the rhythm guitar higher in the mix and giving its chorus a more aggressive delivery.
Opening to a drum solo and several seconds of lead guitar, "Free" slows to a hard rocking rhythm guitar sound as a trade off between Michael and the bands polished vocal harmonies propels its first verse. The song picks up in pace upon reaching a strong chorus in which just the right amount of echo is added to a forward mix of backing vocals. Following several seconds of crystal clear lead guitar work, vocal harmonies move back to the front of the mix and create a beautiful effect as the song repeats its chorus one last time.
The ballad "Honestly" - which reached top-40 status - was by far the bands biggest hit. And deservedly so. Keyboards underline Michael's immaculate voice during the songs first verse until the rhythm guitar kicks in upon reaching its bridge. A touch of rhythm guitar enters the mix to back a chorus showcasing a good commercial flavored hook. "Honestly" is a song representing God's love from Him to all of us:
Honestly, I believe in you
Do you trust in me
Patiently, I will stand by you
I will stand beside you faithfully
And through the years
I will be a friend
For always and forever
After "The Way" fades in to an edgy rhythm guitar, a touch of echo is added to Michael's voice during its first verse before deep sounding vocal harmonies introduce a catchy chorus with a simple but straightforward message:
Oh - what did you say?
Oh - Christ is the Way
Rockin' for the One who is the Rock
Oz - who penned "The Way" - cuts lose with one of his trademark pull-out-all-the-stops distorted guitar solos.
The keyboards introducing "Sing-Along Song" perfectly blend after several seconds with a crisp sounding rhythm guitar. The song moves through its first and second verse in upbeat fashion as Michael trades off with the bands vocal harmonies, the vocal harmonies in question fortifying a melodic based chorus with a huge infectious hook. Why wasn't "Sing-Along Song" released as a single instead of "Calling On You"? It has "hit" written all over it. "Sing-Along Song" comes across in the form of a metal-worship anthem:
Lift your voices higher
We wanna hear you sing
Let's lift our voices, to the King of Kings
Whoa-o-o-o whoa ooo la, la (repeat four times)
The pedestrian melodic hard rock of "Holding On" does not quite make the grade. Advancing to a restrained mix of rhythm guitar during its verse, "Holding On" hits a wall upon arriving at what best can be described as an average to good pop flavored chorus. The songs lyrics, however, are quite good:
If you're hurting and wanting more
No matter how it seems you can have it all
If you will just believe
That someone is there for you
To catch you when you fall
To make your life brand new
To give you all
I'm holding on to the One from above
The One that's secure, the One that has cured
My broken heart with perfect love
"Rockin' The World", to put it bluntly, does exactly that. Jumping out of the gate to an upfront mix of crunchy rhythm guitar, the song proceeds through its first verse at an upbeat tempo. After smooth sounding vocal harmonies carry its bridge, they lead the way to a non-stop hook filled chorus with a no-nonsense message:
Rockin' the world for You, Holy One
Rockin' the world for You, and Your Son
Following several seconds of sharp sounding lead guitar work, the rhythm guitar drops from the mix leaving Michael to repeat its chorus backed by just Robert on drums.
"All Of Me" is a syrupy keyboard based ballad that falls short of the mark due to coming across in a manner that is way too polished and commercial. Next.
The album ends strongly to one of its better tracks in "More Than A Man". Taking off to a hard hitting riff underscored by pounding drums, the song transitions to a metal flavored rhythm guitar sound that evenly drives its first verse and the energy-laden chorus that follows. Slowing in tempo for its bridge, Oz follows with several seconds of fiery lead guitar work. "More Than A Man" communicates great truth:
God, I will follow You because You died for me
Gave to me Your life to set me free
Anyone who asks shall receive
Jesus in your heart
It's time for you to start
Giving God all the glory
In closing, it is worth pointing out that To Hell With The Devil showcases some of Stryper's finest moments in the area of songwriting. Tracks such as “The Way”, “More Than A Man”, “To Hell With The Devil”, “Sing Along Song” and “Honestly” remain concert staples to this day. On the other hand, the album is also a bit uneven in that it is not uncommon to hit the skip button once or twice: I wish "Calling On You", "Holding On" and "All Of Me" had been replaced by tracks moving in a heavier and more guitar driven direction. While a very fine effort, a bit of continuity is needed here.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Abyss (To Hell With The Devil)" (1:20), "To Hell With The Devil" (4:07), "Calling On You" (3:59), "Free" (3:41), "Honestly" (4:08), "The Way" (3:35), "Sing-Along Song" (4:18), "Holding On" (4:15), "Rockin’ The World" (3:27), "All Of Me" (3:10), "More Than A Man" (4:35)
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Oz Fox – Guitars
Robert Sweet – Drums
Brad Cobb – Bass
John Van Tongren - Keyboards