Thirty-five years ago on October 24, 1986, Stryper released their third studio album, sending the devil to hell and launching themselves to the top of the charts. It was the heyday of MTV and hair metal, and this album showcased what face-melting rock was all about. It was the first Christian album to go platinum by selling over one million copies and prompted a 30th anniversary tour in 2016 that saw the four original members performing the album in its entirety while wearing their original stage costumes.
So what makes this album so special? Let's start with the cover art. I had no idea how fortunate I was when I picked up my cassette copy from Beethoven's Records at Greentree Mall in Clarksville, Indiana, back in 1986. The label on the back noted that this was a "special limited edition cover" and went on to explain that the imagery, while possibly evoking misinterpretations, was intended by the band to illustrate Revelation 20:10, which states the devil would one day be cast into a lake of fire for eternity. This cover was changed for later pressings of the album and replaced with an all-black cover with the band's logo and the album title in red calligraphy, and while this was fine, the so-called "angel cover" remains the desired collector's item.
From its eerie instrumental opener "The Abyss," the album moves straight into the title track that to this day is a crowd favorite. A swaggering drum beat, killer guitars, and Michael Sweet's signature, glass-shattering scream announce that this is '80s metal as it was meant to be, loud, bold, and in your face.
From there we're given a generous selection of what the genre did best. There are the pop metal sounds of "Calling On You," "Sing-Along Song," and "Holding On." There are the ballads, including the MTV favorite "Honestly" and the tragically overlooked "All Of Me," which Michael sings almost entirely in the upper part of his range and works equally as a statement of a Christian's commitment to Christ or an exquisite love song between a man and a woman. And of course there are the no-holds-barred, sock in the chops, make-your-ears bleed rockers "Free," "The Way," "Rockin' The World," and "More Than A Man."
Enjoy some videos from this now classic album and if you're old enough, remember what hair metal was like in all it's glory. And hey, if you're not old enough to remember, consider this a history lesson...a history lesson that rocks!