Reviewed by Paul A. Rose,
Murder by Pride by Stryper
"Murder By Pride is one of Stryper’s most thematic of all, and like a phoenix reborn from its ashes, Stryper rises up in this album to reclaim their place as the definitive Christian metal band."
There are some bands, like the Newsboys, DC Talk/Toby Mac that are constantly redefining themselves, moving between genres and styles effectively, drawing their fans with them. And then there are bands who do better to return to their roots, rediscovering and revitalizing the very thing that keeps their fans attention. Stryper is one of those bands. And they’ve done it again.
After the disappointment that was Reborn, which, let’s face it, was primarily a Michael Sweet solo project that was shoe-horned into a band resurgence, the boys in yellow and black have returned to the well to recapture the sound and lyrical style that made them superstars in the first place – in the Christian ghetto as well as the larger “real” musical world. The key is to be completely Christian and completely unashamed. Stryper almost always managed to walk that balance effectively, and their influence is seen in newer bands like Decemberadio.
Murder By Pride is Stryper’s welcome back love letter to their fans and, hopefully, their new beginning. The CD kicks off with a signature Stryper song, “Eclipse for the Son”, which is self-reflective and strong as it sets the tone for the album’s theme. Proclaiming that, “I want to make a difference/I want my life to make some sense,” admitting that they’ve been walking down the wrong streets, and need mending for their bloody feet, the band is ready to trade the Eclipse of their false pride and fame for the Son.
“4 Leaf Clover” takes up the world’s preoccupation with fantasy and luck and turns it on it’s ear – reminding us that there is no luck, but personal decision and faith that makes the difference – whether it’s “no strength in a unicorn/no luck in a 4 leaf clover…” and “No death when it’s over”
The third track is an incredible rendition of Boston’s “Peace of Mind” that manages to bring a fond reminisce of the original single from the classic rock band and at the same time create a great new, heavier version of the song that became the band’s first single to radio. Meanwhile, it serves to continue the album’s theme of finding purpose – and in this case peace – in following Christ .
“Alive” is a new, powerful love ballad with all the strength of the band’s previous efforts. This song is a bit sadder, more like it was written by Caedmon’s Call’s Derek Webb in his lovelorn days than Michael Sweet, “the morning sun doesn’t shine... there’s no wind in my hair/no warmth from the sun’s glare/cause you don’t love me anymore…” But the song rises up with hope at the end, revealing that the sadness was only a dream, “You still love me.”
“The Plan” continues the band’s search for redemption and rebirth, “Where do I go from here? I have to crucify myself. I want to live again… I want to be the man/The one I know you see/I want to live the plan”
The title track cements the idea of the album, drawing everything together, but at the same time being one of the most personal (and scary) tracks, reminding us that we “gotta live/Always murdered by pride,” not just serving the Lord on Sunday. “Saturday night's a lie, I follow every cue/Sunday is sanctified, I smile and take the pew/Monday it’s back to school - Am I learning, not at all/Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday I just crawl”
But “Mercy Over Blame” turns the tables, shifting the story from our brokenness to His forgiveness, “Forgiveness a gift/Bitterness a chain/ The ugliness we sift/His beauty still remains… When we all reach Heaven/There will be no shame/'Cause when we stand before Him/He will know each name/It’s all about believing/He died and took the pain/When we all reach Heaven/It’s Mercy Over Blame”
“I Believe” begins as a softer side of Stryper, slowing down the tempo, but not slipping into ballad-y sweetness, then surges into a strong chorus, leveling out somewhere in the middle. The lyrics alternate between the creeds and building on the theme of redemption, with mentions of the need to fight sometimes. While the lyrics are strong, the sound is more like Michael Sweet’s solo efforts.
“Run to You,” “Love Is Why,” and “Everything” manage to continue the theme of the album, managing to go deep into some Christian themes while still making them accessible to the listener, probably the strongest sign that this is one of Stryper’s most personal albums. Their struggle becomes ours because it is reflective of our own struggle, just on a much larger (or at least more public) scale.
The album is capped off with a complete remake of “My Love (I’ll Always Show).” And before you complain, do we need yet another remake of the song, let me explain. It is a TOTAL remake of the song. The sound is completely different. And while many of the words remain the same, many more are changed. Most people with a sense of history know the struggles Stryper faced being accepted by the church and their quotes time and time again that they wrote their ballads to serve as dual love songs – both between two people and between us and God. Well, this remake serves to completely cast off that fear. Sadly, that may make it the only single some Christian radio stations will play. But stating explicitly that, “You’re my loving Savior and the only one I’ll ever need… As long as I’m with you, my love I’ll always show…” leaves no doubt – or should, and it is a fitting way to end this album.
By Pride is one of Stryper’s most thematic of all, and like
a phoenix reborn from its ashes, Stryper rises up in this album to reclaim
their place as the definitive Christian metal band. Further, the album’s
strong theme of redemption and rebirth reminds us that even Christians can
be blinded by pride and caught up in the quest for glory for themselves instead
of the creator. Luckily, it also reminds us that if we die to ourselves (or
get Murdered By Pride), we can still be reborn in our Christian faith and
God’s forgiveness to serve Him anew, no questions asked.
A. Rose, Jr. is a writer-producer working in Southwest Florida. He
served as the Senior Television Editor for Infuze Magazine (limited archives
available at http://infuzeremembered.1330productions.com/) and has also written
articles for RelevantMagazine.com. He is currently co-writing a teen zombie romance
film, Undead Heartache, that he hopes to begin shooting soon. You can follow
the film’s progress at UndeadHeartache.com.