The Yellow And Black Attack!
Enigma Records, 1984
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/10/2003
Only recently have I come forward and publicly declared myself to be a "recovering Catholic" - something which has totally disappointed my mother, who is very religious. It's almost as if I had come home and declared I wanted to become a high priest in the Church of Satan.
Yet I think not all hope is lost for me. I still believe in God, though I have my own opinions about what the hereafter has in store for us. I still pray - although I don't do it often… and, no, my prayers aren't for a divine revelation of six numbers for Lotto.
And possibly the most telling sign of all: I still like Stryper.
I can't help it, really. Sure, Michael Sweet and company were camp even in their heyday. Though they weren't necessarily the first religious metal band out there, they were the most notable, both for their music (which swung between sappy ballads and semi-metallic leanings) and for their yellow and black stage costumes. Oh - and let's not forget their penchant for throwing Bibles out into the audiences at their shows.
But one thing about Stryper which I appreciated, even when I was practicing my Catholic faith, was that Stryper could be religious without being preachy. Their debut mini-album The Yellow And Black Attack! serves as proof of this - and, surprisingly, still sounds fresh nearly 20 years after it was first released.
Granted, drummer Robert Sweet usually kept a rather simple rhythm chugging out from his kit, and guitarist/vocalist Michael Sweet often seemed to rely too heavy on the falsetto vocals. But there was some serious musicianship behind the brothers Sweet, guitarist Oz Fox and bassist Tim Gaines, and they didn't have to be cramming a religious message down your throat either.
The opening track "Loud 'N' Clear" is solid proof of this, even with subtle religious overtones placed in the lyrics. Likewise, "You Know What To Do" is a powerful number which carries a pretty solid musical punch to it. Even the ballad "My Love I'll Always Show" is pleasing -- having a feeling like it is a love sonnet you're lucky enough to eavesdrop on.
If there is one weakness that Stryper shows on The Yellow And Black Attack!, it's the lack of real powerful lead guitar work from either Fox or Michael Sweet. Yes, there are some real tasty lines interspersed throughout the album, especially on "Loud 'N' Clear," but for a heavy metal band, Stryper seemed more concerned with laying down the rhythm without going to the flash. Let's face it: in 1984, metal was all about flash and image, as well as guitar solos which could peel paint. As much as I sit back and complain about how some songs don't have a strong enough rhythm section, I know that me complaining about not enough leads may seem a little hypocritical. So be it.
Admittedly, it has been a long time since I have listened to any of my Stryper albums -- and I don't really know what motivated me to dust off The Yellow And Black Attack! at this particular time. I do know, however, that I'm glad I did get a chance to rediscover it, as well as what made me want to listen to Stryper in the first place. It was all about the music - music which still sounds good today. And if someone gets an inkling to pick up a Bible and start reading because of their songs, all the better to Stryper.