Stryper Biography

Christian heavy metal quartet from Los Angeles, California, formed by the Sweet brothers in 1983. Originally known as Roxx Regime, this band featured Michael Sweet (4 July 1963, Whittier, California, USA; vocals), Robert Sweet (b. 21 March 1960, Lynwood, California, USA; drums), Timothy Gaines (b. Timothy James Hagelganz, 15 December 1962, Portland, Oregon, USA; bass) and Oz Fox (b. Richard Alfonso Martinez, 18 June 1961, Whittier, California, USA; guitar), playing standard, Americanized hard rock. Devising a carefully constructed image and marketing strategy, they subsequently changed their name to Stryper and dressed in matching yellow and black outfits. The name came from the Bible quotation ‘by his stripes we are healed’, although it was also an acronym for Salvation Through Redemption Yielding Peace, Encouragement And Righteousness. They were now a band with a mission - to spread the word of God through rock music, and become the total antithesis of the satanic metal movement. Signing to Enigma Records, they attracted widespread media attention, which generally focused on the ‘novelty’ factor of their spiritual inclinations. A debut mini-album, The Yellow And Black Attack!, featured standard hard rock, with simple lyrics and high-pitched harmonies, while live shows climaxed with the band throwing bibles into the audience.

Gaines was replaced by Matt Hurich following the release of 1985’s Soldiers Under Command, but by their third album Stryper had built up a loyal army of fans and the excellently produced melodic rock contained within widened their appeal. To Hell With The Devil peaked at number 32 on its three-month stay on the Billboard album charts, although they attracted criticism when it was revealed that session player Brad Cott was responsible for the bass playing on the record. In God We Trust saw the band mellow, with more emphasis on pop rock singalong numbers and the resultant exclusion of driving rock. The album was a commercial disappointment, failing to build on the success of the previous release. It did reach number 32, but only stayed on the Billboard chart for five weeks.

Stryper took time off for a radical rethink, before entering the studio again with original bass player Gaines returning to the fold. Oz Fox ventured into production during this time and oversaw the recording of the debut album by fellow Christian-rockers Guardian. Against The Law emerged in 1990, marking a return to a more aggressive style. The yellow and black stage costumes had been jettisoned and the lyrics were considerably less twee. However, by this time, most of their original fans had moved on and the album sold poorly. When Michael Sweet quit in 1992 not even divine intervention could rescue Stryper, and the band quietly faded away the following year. Michael Sweet has released several solo albums, while his brother and original bass player Tim Gaines joined Rex Carrol in King James. The original members of Stryper reunited in the new millennium to play some live shows and record a new album.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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