What Would Jesus Jam? Christian Bands Who Found Secular Success
Save for a few modern screamo bands like Underoath and the rap-rocking P.O.D., few Christian rock bands have had has as much an impact in mainstream secular music than the Bible-flinging Stryper. In the mid to late '80s the band was the premier Holy Ghost-filled metal band during a time when most hair metal bands were either trying to talk dirty to you or take you down to paradise city. True, Motley Crue wanted us to shout at the devil but they would screw your elderly grandmother in a crowded grocery store if you didn't keep an eye on them. And we don't think the Lord condones needle drugs. Formed by the brothers Sweet in 1983, Michael and Robert, the band released five proper albums and EP's before calling it a day in late 1992 after Michael left the band for a solo career. Stryper actually stood for Salvation Through Redemption, Yielding Peace, Encouragement, and Righteousness. The band is perhaps best known for their platinum-selling To Hell With The Devil, which was heavily influenced by Judas Priest and the aforementioned Crue. The title track and the power ballad "Honestly" propelled the album out Christian bookstores and into the hands of gauntlet-wearing metalheads and black-shirted Bible-thumpers whose parents wouldn't let them buy mainstream metal records.
In many ways, Stryper was many young metal fans first taste of the dark stuff before they inevitably rebelled and started digging into the harder and more playfully devilish business that the genre is so well-beloved for. Today the reunited band includes all original members Michael Sweet, Robert Sweet, Oz Fox and Tracy Terrie from the classic line-up. Bassist Tim Gaines makes an appearance for the band's hits set during the live show. They released a new album, Murder By Pride, in July of this year and it thankfully rocks as earnestly as the old stuff even if the band no longer throws Bibles into the crowd to witness to non-believers. Plenty of Christian bands came after Stryper and made that same precarious leap from faith-based music to into mainstream faith-based music. You can mostly find the hardest rocking godly acts are in the punk and screamo scenes, with many of the practitioners being younger cats who are still on fire for the Lord. Sadly, most of them lose their religion as they see how much more lucrative it is to bury your faith. Buzz-rockers Evanescence was at one time a heavily religious group but as the money began rolling in, their previous message was muddle by pop-leaning drivel and confusing goth imagery. We compiled three of our other favorite bathed in the blood of Christ bands to commemorate the return of Stryper's famous yellow-and-black-striped hair metal to the Houston stage. Don't feel ashamed or alone if you find yourself tapping your unclean toes or bobbing your heathen heads, because we have been there too. DC Talk: The only way to describe DC Talk is as a sort of strange mish-mash of U2 and the Beastie Boys. They started out as a hip-hop biting multi-racial trio in the late '80s, and by their hiatus in 2000 they were a full-fledged pop-rock arena act. If the band reunited tomorrow they could easily fill up Reliant Stadium just as Bono and the boys did in October, no lie. Their 1995 single "Jesus Freak" is the by far the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" of God Rock.
Jars Of Clay: The Christian answer to jam bands like the Dave Matthews Band in the mid-'90s. Their dramatic acoustic single "Flood" helped their self-titled album attain platinum status, one copy of which Rocks Off's mother bought him for Christmas in 1996.
Carman: No Christian artist is perhaps as fantastical as Carman, whose somehow melded the video production of Michael Jackson and Prince while sashaying like Liberace. His concerts were elaborate affairs with video presentations, lasers, and praise and worship sessions led by the Jersey-talking former nightclub performer. His videos were legendary for him invariably fighting the Devil or other secular ghouls. Anyone growing up as a Christian in the late '80s was subjected to his long-form concert videos and overly dramatic Springsteen-esque ramblings.
Stryper plays with the Jonathan Salas Band, 7 p.m. at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, 888-402-5837 or www.hob.com/houston.
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