Sound — 7
Stryper have never exactly gone away over the course of the past three decades; granted, there was a nearly six year hiatus around the new millennium, as well as the short lived and rather bizarre lineup that went out on the road back in 1992 when lead vocalist Michael Sweet went out on a solo career and guitarist Oz Fox stepped in as frontman for two years. However, Stryper have remained a cohesive unit since all four original members returned into the fold back in 2010 and the heavy metal group haven't looked back since. Some casual listeners may only remember the band for their bumble bee apparel from the earlier years and their Christian Metal approach (a description which Sweet greatly dislikes), however dedicated followers have recognized Stryper's occasional ability to channel their collective energies into formulating bold riffs and soaring vocal harmonies.
What Stryper attempts to do with their eleventh studio album and sixteenth release "Fallen" is improve upon the formula that delivered strong results on 2013's "No More Hell to Pay" by creating their heaviest sounding record to date, which allows for both the album's strongest moments and it's weakest ones. "Yahweh" is an anthemic hard rocker with drop tuned rhythm guitar and shows Sweet is still more than capable of reaching atmospheric high notes. There are elements of the early Stryper sound present, but the bulk is a modern active rock style that's not quite engraved in Stryper's DNA but still pays off in the long run. "Fallen" is the clear highlight here that is a choice unification of vintage and modern, centered around a grooving pace and a blistering chorus that does not disappoint. "Love You Like I Do" places more of an emphasis towards the harmonies that made tracks like "Free" and "Calling on You" rock radio hits back in the day, whereas a solid cover of Black Sabbath's "After Forever" proves to be another rewarding listen where Stryper takes a celebrated classic into their own - not entirely unlike what fans heard on 2011's "The Covering."
The entire album isn't a flawless presentation, however; perhaps it was a conscious decision or an attempt to tap back into the power ballad market that Stryper had a large share in during the late 1980s, but "Heaven" and "All Over Again" don't have that same feel to them. These tracks are underwhelming to say the least, especially when paired alongside the aforementioned "Fallen" and "Love You Like I Do." Stryper's decision to create their heaviest record to date did result in quite a few memorable fist pumping riff rockers that could find a comfortable home in their live performances, however it also set up a stark contrast if/when the band decided to venture into another area stylistically, specifically the contemporary pop rock ballad territory. This abruptly sends the high energy overtones of "Fallen" to a halt, a decision which damages the sound of the record as a whole.
Lyrics — 7
There's no questioning the vocal abilities of Michael Sweet. Between his commitments to Stryper, the hard rock frontman has spent time over the past few years collaborating with names such as Tom Scholz of Boston and George Lynch from Dokken prominence, which should speak for his largely preserved range and abilities. This allows much of that signature Stryper sound to remain alive and well throughout "Fallen," such as the manic primal screams and blissful choir-like vocal melodies. Ironically enough, what vulnerability that has been introduced into Sweet's vocal chords shines through on the previously noted power ballads, as he attempts to reach emotive highs that instead are equivalent to painful wails.
Overall Impression — 7
Stryper achieve some of their strongest anthems of the past decade with their latest installment "Fallen," however the record isn't a complete success. Although several moments are entirely memorable and couldn't be better tailored towards the evolving '80s heavy metal fanatic, Stryper finds the most difficulty when they stray away from the fresh material in favor of a few swan dives into nostalgic territory. It's this decision that most dramatically takes away from the end result found throughout "Fallen" as a complete body of work, although it is still a rewarding listen with just a few clicks on the skip button.