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A&E >  Music

It’s the ‘Final Battle’ for Stryper, but not the final tour

By Ed Condran For The Spokesman-Review

“The Final Battle” sounds like the swan song of an album for veteran Christian-metalists Stryper.

“A lot of people assume that because of the title of the album that it’s our last album and that this is our last tour,” Stryper vocalist-guitarist Michael Sweet said. “But it’s not our final anything.”

“The Final Battle,” which was released in 2022, is about Armageddon. “The material is about something much bigger than our band,” Sweet said from his Plymouth, Massachusetts home. “We don’t plan to hang it up. When the time comes we’ll announce that it’s our last tour and when we announce that, it will be our final tour. We won’t be like other bands who claim it’s their last tour when it’s not.”

Sweet, 59, is referring to such recording artists as Kiss, which is on its latest farewell tour, and Cher, who has had her share of farewell jaunts.

“I don’t understand how you can tell your fans that you’re on a final tour and then a few years later you come back on the road again,” Sweet said. “If I were a fan of a band that did that, I would be really upset since I was deceived.”

Deception has never been part of Stryper’s sonic attack. Stryper, which formed 40 years in Orange County, California, has been as transparent as any band.

The straightforward Stryper is a metal band that sings about their faith in God. Sweet grew up on such iconic metal acts as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. However, Sweet was born again in 1983. Sweet and his brother, drummer Robert Sweet, formed Stryper and remained consistent with its guitar-driven worship to God. Unlike many Christian metal bands, Stryper crossed over to the secular world in 1986 with its third album, “To Hell with The Devil,” which went triple platinum.

“It all has had to do with God’s hand since no Christian-metal band found success like we did,” Sweet said.

Stryper, whose members wore black and yellow during the band’s salad days, made a few videos and were surprisingly embraced by MTV, which broke songs from “To Hell with the Devil” a generation ago.

“What helped us tremendously was the start of something called ‘Dial MTV,’ ” Sweet said. “The fans called in and requested songs. The fans made it happen for us, not the program directors at MTV. Thanks to those fans we shot past Motley Crue and Bon Jovi to the top of the album charts. We took it and ran with it and part of the appeal is that when you got down to it we always put on regular rock shows like Van Halen.”

But there were some obvious differences from Van Halen. Stryper’s lyrics were nothing like what Van Halen’s provocative David Lee Roth penned. Van Halen would toss out backstage passes to select female fans while Stryper threw Bibles into the audience. In Spinal Tap fashion, a fan sued Stryper after being struck in the head by the good book. However, the case was dismissed.

“Some people did get hurt when we threw out Bibles back then,” Sweet said. “We still toss out Bibles but we do it in a careful manner. We are a kinder, gentler Stryper.”

The Bibles, which are emblazoned with the Stryper logo, are not for sale. “They’re free,” Sweet said. “People have asked if they could buy our Bibles but no, they’re not for sale.”

It’s not the only way Stryper strives to not gouge its fans.

“Unlike a lot of bands we cannot take advantage of those who support us,” Sweet said. “We do our best to not be in the red but we’re not going to inflate prices just because we can. A Stryper shirt might be $35 unlike a Kiss shirt, which is $65. We make less money than other bands but we have a conscience.

“We do meet-and-greets, but it’s not like Bon Jovi where a fan might spend $5,000 to meet Bon Jovi. That’s ridiculous. A fan will do it because they’ll do whatever it takes to meet their favorite band. Fans might save five years for that $5,000. That’s exploiting fans and that’s just not right.”

When Stryper performs at the Knitting Factory, expect the band, which also includes guitarist Oz Fox and bassist Perry Richardson, to showcase a number of tunes from “The Final Battle” as well as songs from its 16 other albums.

“We certainly have a lot to choose from,” Sweet said. “That’s the best part of being together for so long and creating so many songs. But we’re not done yet. We’ll be making more music.”

When asked about when the final tour and album might be, Sweet laughed. “I see us playing together for another 10 years as long as we’re still on this Earth,” Sweet said. “There’s no reason to stop. God has given us such an opportunity and we’re going to make the most of it.”

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