I was pretty surprised to hear that Stryper were doing a covers album, called plainly enough, The Covering. As a Christian myself, I've noticed that their 'message' has been watered down or flat out obscured at times, but now that they can't make a play for mainstream success, I'd have thought they'd settle down to holding on to the fans they've got. Perhaps I've misjudged the situation and the majority of their fans do not share their beliefs.
Stryper have always been great musicians, and Michael has an amazing voice. The thing that's always let them down is the songwriting in general, and the fact they have too many ballads, specifically. I saw them at Rocklahoma, and while I got to see the song I most wanted ("Rock That Does Not Roll"), I knew they would do at least two of the three that are obvious standout tracks at the end, but I left rather than go through an hour of ballads first. So, a covers album makes some sense, you already look through the list and know the songs are killer. What I found interesting is that there were obviously lyrics that they couldn't bring themselves to sing. For example, the whole verse about "Nobodies gonna take my girl" is gone from "Highway Star"-- they do the verse about the car twice. But, he still sings "I've Got Speed Inside My Brain." In "Heaven and Hell," "You've got to bleed for the dancer" is replaced by "Look for the Answer" twice. I'm not sure if he didn't want to sing the one, or if he hoped to fill the other with hidden meaning. Yet, they sing "Breakin the law." I'm sure in interviews, they will explain how they caused these things to mean something spiritual to themselves. I hope they at least have the integrity to say "You knew these were covers, we did them because we like the music." But then, why change any words at all ?
Enough of that though, as I said, I am a Christian, and any reader of these pages knows I go to Zombie concerts and love all sorts of metal, so I think it's clear I am happy to enjoy music without thinking about the words too much. The songs on this CD are all really well done covers. Sometimes they stick to the originals, sometimes they change the arrangements, sometimes, as a guitarist, I can hear that Oz is playing a razzed up and embellished version of the original solo, but all of it equates to everything a covers album should be, versions of classic songs done by great musicians, and playing to 11. I don't think a covers album should be subtle, it should try to inject more energy to the original songs. There is one original on the CD, called "God," and I guess playing these covers had them in the right frame of mind, because it's the best Stryper song I've heard for a long time.
The tracklist shows one thing - Stryper have always been rooted in metal, and they know their stuff. I wish they could have done it a little different though as I'd have loved to hear them play "Miracle Man" or "Holy Smoke."
The packaging is cool, the front cover shows an angel who looks like he's been out drinking all night and lost a bar fight, only his black eye turned a goldy-green color. The inside looks like a comic book with some vague message about God. I know the Bible pretty well, and I read it five times and could not work out what they were trying to say. It looks like Stryper throw rocks at the angel and then God appears.
If you like the original songs covered here (and if you don't, I assume you were searching for the Justin Bieber homepage and somehow ended up here), you will love this CD. They cover some songs by pretty great singers: Ian Gillan, Dio, Bruce Dickenson, Robert Plant, but the covers always sound great, the playing is tight and respectful to the originals, and it's just a flat out enjoyable way to spend 53 minutes and 28 seconds of your day. For the record, the covers are:
Set Me Free (Sweet )
Blackout (Scorpions )
Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath )
Lights Out (UFO)
Carry on Wayward Son (Kansas)
Highway Star (Deep Purple)
Shout It Out Loud (KISS)
Over The Mountain (Ozzy)
The Trooper (Iron Maiden)
Breaking the Law (Judas Priest)
On Fire (Van Halen)
Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin)