Releasing a cover album is a tricky thing. Sure, you don’t have to write the songs, which saves time, but will your fan base like the album if the material is different than your regular works? That is a question that comes to my mind as I listened to Stryper’s latest release called, interestingly enough, The Covering.
Before I get to the review, in the interest of full disclosure, I will say I used to be a big Stryper fan. I even saw them in concert once when I was a sophomore in high school. Stryper was my first taste of heavy metal, they had cool looking guitars, and since I went to a private grade school, it was a little easier to stop my parents from complaining about the music since they were Christian. But, to this day I still say that Michael Sweet and Oz Fox play a mean guitar.
Back to the album, The Covering is performed by the classic line-up of Michael Sweet (vocals/guitar), Oz Fox (guitar), Tim Gaines (bass) and Robert Sweet (drums). The Covering, includes songs by classic hard rock and heavy metal bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Led Zepplen, Van Halen, Scorpions, KISS and a few others.
Overall it’s a good mix of songs that are performed pretty well. Like I said before, all the guitar work is very good, with a few exceptions. Most of the problems I had were with the vocals. Michael Sweet has a good voice, but needs to lay off the unnecessary screams. Almost every song includes and 80s Hair Metal type scream whether the song needs it or not.
The first track, Set Me Free originally by Sweet, is an older song that I’m not terribly familiar with, but I like this version. It’s a great opening track, it has a lot of energy and gets the album off on a high note.
Lights Out from UFO is probably the best cover on here. The guitars, vocals, they all work here. Good track.
I know I’ll get flak for this one, but Stryper’s version of Led Zepplen’s Immigrant Song is very good. It’s a short track and Michael Sweet’s vocals work well with the Robert Plant original. I really like this version.
The track I’m really surprised about is On Fire from Van Halen. This is really good too. They guitars are great, sure Eddie Van Halen is a better guitar player, but Sweet and Fox do a really great job I think. Also, since David Lee Roth never met a scream he didn’t like, Sweets vocals are perfect here.
I can’t say Stryper pulls of The Trooper well. I think the big problem I have is separating Bruce Dickinson’s vocals from this version. Sweet’s vocals don’t have the power needed in a song about war and death. You can’t be silky smooth when singing about people dying. Also, this is one track where the guitar work is not the best, specifically in the solo section. I will say, however, this is one of Robert Sweet’s best drumming performances I’ve heard.
It’s not that Styper’s version of Rainbow’s Highway Star isn’t okay, but do we need another version of this song?
The same goes for Judas Priest’s Breaking the Law. They have so many better songs to choose from. Breaking the Law is not one of the most exciting songs in Judas Priest’s catalog.
The rest of the album is just fine. Nothing special but nothing really bad either. Which in my mind, is the problem with a cover album. You can grow tired of them quickly since you are not discovering anything new. I found myself tired of the album after the first four or five listens, and I wanted to buy this. It’s not Stryper’s fault or their performance, it happens with albums like this.
I should note that there is one original track on the album called God. This song proves my point as it is easily the most energetic song on the album. It is something you could listen to over and over, as long as the Christian lyrics don’t bother you.
I think the best thing to do is pick the tracks that sound the best to you and buy them individually. The tracks I’ve listed above are a good place to start.