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Stryper > Heaven and Hell > Reviews > hells_unicorn
Stryper - Heaven and Hell

A little more heaven than hell. - 80%

hells_unicorn, December 27th, 2010

Ronnie James Dio has been, and will likely always be my favorite singer, in any genre of music. It’s been very difficult getting used to the idea of him being gone, and the fact that there won’t be any more songs graced by the presence of his powerful pipes. But every now and again, something comes along that reminds me that even though he may be gone, his spirit will live forever in those who took inspiration from him and still remember all the things he did. Many have paid tribute to him since his passing, but the presence of Stryper among the bunch brings something unique into the affair.

In terms of their musical approach here, Stryper has forsaken the posh keyboards and production quality of their mid 80s days for something a bit heavier and meaner, though still fairly tame by standards of even the early 80s heavy metal scene. They do go a bit overboard on the drum levels, but the mixture of guitar work and the vocal assault actually come pretty close to the character that Sabbath themselves might have come up with had Tony Martin still been in the band at this point or if Ray Gillen were still alive. There’s a tiny bit of guitar ornamentation, bearing a slight similarity to Zakk Wylde’s early work with Ozzy, but mostly the guitar work stays faithful to the original and adds to things sparingly.

The point of contrast, and indeed the reason why I brought Martin and Gillen into the analogy (particularly the latter) is that Michael Sweet sounds rather squeaky clean in comparison to Dio. His voice, though indeed powerful and sufficient to imply a commanding stage presence, is much closer to the AOR singers of the 70s, but it isn’t completely out of place on a song like this. He hits the notes all perfectly and even adds a few screams at the end that are higher than what Ronnie put on the original studio version of this song, but his voice is almost perfectly smooth and free of the grit and grunt that makes for a textbook metal vocalist.

The up and coming album that this will appear on is sure to be a solid offering from a band that has made its mission to maintain some level of diplomacy between Christianity and metal music. But this song is a reassurance of sorts that in spite of arrogant televangelists and mega-church tyrants commanding the anti-metal brigades to do as they say and not as they do, that people like me can get a bit of joy out of this short life banging our heads and blasting out power chords and not feel completely out of place for keeping the faith at the same time. Whatever flaws exist in the execution of this song are more than made up for by it.