at Skjærgårds Music & Mission Festival, Norway, July 7, 2006

In the 80s Stryper ruled the Pop/Rock-Metal scene along with bands like Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, Ratt, Quiet Riot, and WASP. However, something significant separated Stryper from these bands: namely, their very bold Christian faith and approach. Stryper was the first Christian Metal band that made it big in the profane market. They’ve sold more than 8 million albums, and it wasn’t just Christians who purchased those.


In the very early 90s, the members of Stryper disbanded due to various reasons, but in 2003 (20 years after they first started up) they decided to reunite for one more tour — a tour that spawned the very enjoyable live album 7 Weeks: Live In America. Last year, in 2005, they released a new studio album, Reborn, an album that did not fail to remind old fans of Michael Sweet’s (main composer, singer, and guitar player) great skills in writing edgy Rock songs with strong melodies.

These days, they still have some shows up their sleeves, and on the 7th of July, they finally (for the first time in ages) found their way to Northern Europe. In June, they cancelled their dates at Sweden Rock Festival and the Sauna Open Air Festival in Finland. Therefore, they were welcomed to Scandinavia, at the Skjærgårds Music & Mission Festival, to play their first show in Norway ever!


Oz FoxThe Skjærgårds Music & Mission Festival is a Christian music festival where the average age of those in attendance is approximately 16 years old. Those profane Stryper fans who travelled from abroad, with not much knowledge of the festival (… or the Christian faith), might therefore find the whole setting a bit odd — and those who in a good old festival spirit tried to find a beer tent, searched in vain.

Another odd aspect was that the band did the sound check on their own, right before the gig. The waiting audience therefore had to watch the band get their sound right before they went off the stage, just to reappear minutes later to kick of the ball.


But, from there everything else was pure pleasure! Not surprisingly, the band leant heavily on their 80’s production, picking songs mostly from the stunning releases Soldiers Under Command and To Hell With The Devil. The Yellow And The Black Attack and Reborn got represented with just one song each. From the latter, “Open Your Eyes” was chosen, probably the evening’s heaviest moment, still it fit the rest of the set more than nicely. It was a bit strange, though, that no song from In God We Trust was played, not even the title track which the band actually re-recorded for Reborn.


Anyway, the band was brilliant. Michael Sweet did an excellent job as a front man, and it did not sound like the years have taken any toll on his voice at all. He sang impressingly well, and even hit the last notes of the difficult vocal arrangement of “To Hell With The Devil.” A killer performance from A to Amen.

 Tracy Ferrie

Michael also demonstrated brilliant finger-running skills on his yellow and black flying V guitar. Good, old Oz Fox on the other guitar fell behind a couple of moments, but still he proved to everyone that he was very capable of taking care of his share of Stryper’s truck load of heavy guitar riffs. Fox also won the evening’s medal for The Coolest Posing.

New bass player, Tracy Ferrie (who replaced Tim Gaines), did his job very well. He, along with Oz, also handled the backing vocal task notably well. The other half of the rhythm section, skinsman Robert Sweet, was cool, charming, and as skillful as ever. Robert played on a green drum set for a change — as he had to leave his yellow and black one back in the USA — this did not, however, prevent him from beating the Hell out of the skins.


The young, mostly Christian audience responded greatly to the band. Even though a lot of the kids probably never had heard of Stryper before, the band made the festival crowd dedicate their attention towards the stage. Anyways, the whole show was food for young Christian minds. Stryper are well known for throwing Bibles to the crowd, and this night was no exception. And, as the chorus of “To Hell With The Devil” was sung, the Devil sure would fear to tread anywhere close to the four digit-sized choir who really meant those words.

Michael Sweet also made sure to regularly point his finger towards the sky, to remind everyone on to whom Stryper address their gratitude and affection. If anyone in the crowd missed that during the songs, they could not fail to notice as the last “encore” of the evening was a moment of prayer.


Michael SweetThe evening was full of highlights. Along with the aforementioned “To Hell With The Devil,” “Calling On You” was a great success. It is always cool when the jumps of an enthusiastic audience make the floor move. It is even cooler when you remember you are outdoors, and it’s the ground that’s shaking!

Stryper has so many cool riffs, and on this night one could be pretty sure that quite a few in the young audience, previously ignorant towards guitar-based Rock, were turned into Metal believers. Songs like “Free,” “Loud ‘N’ Clear,” “Soldiers Under Command” (with a nice acapella intro), and “The Way” were superbly performed. It’s such a shame that Stryper are performing so few shows these days. If you get the chance, go see them — for Heaven’s sake.

PS: As a side note, the festival arrangers did an excellent job in handling the press. Their helpfulness and concern were beyond what any journalist could ever expect.

Sing Along Song
The Rock That Makes Me Roll
Reach Out
Calling On You
Loud ’N Clear
Open Your Eyes
The Way
To Hell With The Devil
More Than A Man
Soldiers Under Command


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