Stryper's first album hit the streets during the Reagan years, which just goes to show you that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Roughly three decades removed from those carefree days of the summer of 1984, the members of Stryper have now taken a step down an increasingly common route of releasing retooled versions of their classic material from yesteryear.
While Stryper front man Michael Sweet freely admits that his motivation was largely related to licensing issues and gaining tighter control over the band's back catalog, those who can put their cynicism on hold will find that, despite the less than completely artistic motives for its creation, Second Coming plays out fairly nicely when you spin it.
Taking tracks from the band's first three releases (including To Hell with the Devil, considered their high water mark), the album's production lends the reworked compositions a welcome sense of fullness, immediacy and bass presence that were absent on the first two albums.
Just as importantly, its chronological sequencing works to place the band's artistic growth and expansion in that much clearer focus, not to mention that devotees who have lamented original member Tim Gaines being M.I.A. on the Devil sessions can now hear the prodigal bassist holding down the bottom end on those tracks.
Given that this album and its predecessor were constructed almost exclusively around cover tunes, skeptics will be relieved to know that Second Coming's two new cuts, the towering "Blackened" and the funky, Bad Company-inspired "Bleeding from Inside Out," can stand toe to toe with the quartet's classic work from the '80s.
Hard-core fans and completists will have already scooped up the album by now. Casual fans who do not already own once of the previous two compilations may want to pick this one up. Stryper have managed to remold their most dearly-loved compositions into incarnations that are actually, against all odds, superior to the originals.
BLEEDING FROM INSIDE OUT