Stryper: ‘In God We Trust’

Released on June 28, 1988 (Enigma Records)

Growing up in a church setting, I was very familiar with Stryper, even before they hit big on MTV and their album To Hell With The Devil. They were one of the favorite bands for two of my best friends, who had seen them in concert several times during our high school years. I didn’t dislike them. I liked the singles that were played on the radio and on MTV, but I was not impressed with the band overall.

Things changed when I went to college. Being tired of the music that was being played on radio and at the CD stores, I purchased the CD In God We Trust in the  university bookstore discount bin.  The band was not together anymore, and although I thought some of their stuff was cheesy, I started to dig their back catalog. It’s the “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” theory. Not wanting to listen to the popular music like Hootie and The Blowfish, I wanted something with an ’80s feel to it, even if it wasn’t something I enjoyed the first time around.

In God We Trust was the band’s follow up attempt to the successful To Hell With The Devil and in his book, singer Michael Sweet called the album the band’s attempt to be an over produced record, and was not a fan of the overall product, although the album was a success, being played on MTV constantly and selling well.

The opening song, the title track, is a good opener for the album, with guitars coming in from a distance and then blaring into the forefront. The vocals are high and strong, like many of Sweet‘s work on the records, but only has two verses right after each other. The rest of the song is guitar solos and choruses. “In God We Trust” was not a great song musically, but it does well as an opener to the album.

The second song, the hit “Always There For You” is one of my favorite of the Stryper singles. The song is somewhat similar in structure to “Calling On You” from the previous album, and in his book, Sweet mentions he literally wrote this album’s songs by listening to the last album, just trying to give the record label the same songs, but with more production. This song was a hit on MTV because it was not just a preachy song, it could have been about friendships or  relationships, which resonated with the listeners, instead of some of their other songs, which was up front about God.  Even though this song was played at every church event I attended (and in the car of my buddies), this song never got old for me. It’s a good harder edge pop song.

“Keep The Fire Burning” is a song that was also played all the time at church events, but not a favorite of mine. This is one of the songs that I felt made Stryper cheesy at the time, with the lyrics being bland and full of “Christian Speak,” like “keep from turning.” The song is more pop than hard rock. The drumming of Robert Sweet was always a turn off to me as a drummer, with just basic kick/snare mid tempo beats, and rarely using the ride cymbal. I did not expect every drummer to sound like Rush, but I felt the drumming was just boring on the record (I never saw them live, but watching the DVDs years later, I can respect his playing more and the first Stryper EP showed how good his drumming is on that release).

“I Believe In You” is the “Honestly” of the album. This song is a good ballad though, and I actually like it more than “Honestly” (“Honestly” was played everywhere from church, the local radio stations, to the roller skating rinks). The song is very similar to Kenny Rogers‘ hit “She Believes in Me.” Michael Sweet‘s voice in this song is nice, and I sometimes get tired of the high range songs, and this song shows that he has a different range to him, and not just screaming. The song is a short three minutes, which those fans that do not like ballads, won’t have to sit through long on the album. This song is one of my favorite ballads by the band, right behind 2009’s “Alive” from the Murder By Pride album.

The next track, “The Writings On The Wall,” is a harder song on the album. The drumming is better and the guitar solos are nice, which is something that was the signature of Stryper‘s sound — the melodies and solos. The only beef I have with this song is one part of the lyric where Sweet sings “The God that Stryper serves…. ” I have never been a fan of artists putting their names in the songs. To me, that is bad songwriting that comes off being a lack of imagination. However, this song is a deep cut that some (including me) forgot about. I liked this song, hearing it for the first time in years.

Track six is called “It’s Up 2 U.” This is an arena type song, which I could picture the band playing at Christian festivals and arenas when it came out.  It is a mid-tempo song, with Michael‘s voice not as high as on other tracks, and shows the over-production that the band was trying to achieve, especially right after the second chorus with the computerized vocals.

Track seven, “The World of You And I,” is one of the surprising deeper songs that I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t remember listening to this track when my buddies always played the album (maybe because they hated ballads), but listening to it today, it is a hidden treasure on the album. It has an acoustic feel at the beginning of the song, with a few time changes during the track, from mid tempo to the normal Stryper beat that they usually incorporated.  However, Robert Sweet‘s hi hat fills double in parts of the song that makes the song full, and  is different from his signature style. This is one of the better songs off the album.

“Come To The Everlife” has been voted in certain fan polls as the least favorite Stryper song, and it’s easy to see why. The song has strong keyboards in it, along with a grinder style tempo that made me think of the band Extreme. The lyrics are boring to me, and even the chorus is lame. I have listened to many Christian music acts, and have heard some bad ones, and this one is one of them. If the listener was going to skip a song off the album, this is the one I bet most would skip over.

“Lonely” is another song I don’t remember listening to when the album was released, but it is a decent ballad. There are nice guitar solos on the melody, and it has a typical ’80s ballad feel to it. Michael Sweet‘s voice is nice to listen to on this track.  The song is not overtly religious, which the non-Christian listeners would enjoy, without the Biblical overtones of many of their songs.

The album ends with “The Reign.” This is a nice ender of the album — a song that’s almost considered speed metal or punk. The song is short, at less than three minutes long, and is just solid , driving metal. The band was known for ballads and pop songs, but this song is for the harder fans. It’s a nice track to end on for rockers.

In God We Trust is a mixed release for me. I like the ballads on it, along with a few deep cuts, but overall, there are tracks I would just listen to and then put away the CD. I would not play the whole thing in its entirety, even today, after not listening to it for years. One funny aspect of the packaging of the CD is that there is a listing of other artists on the label, where the fans could order other recordings. The reason I mention this is my CD copy has acts like Poison, Hallows Eve, and even a band called Bitch listed, right next to the other Stryper releases. One would think that the label would keep this to only its other Christian acts similar to Stryper.

The album is a short one, just under 40 minutes with 10 tracks. Although I preferred To Hell With The Devil and Soldiers Under Command as some of Stryper‘s best work, it is hard for acts to follow up a mega hit album, like Stryper tried to do. Fans know what they are getting with the Stryper brand — Christian lyrics with melodic guitar solos (except for the Reborn album where the solos were absent). Although this was not Stryper‘s strongest album, it still sold well and has its following. This album, in my opinion, is able to be listened to in small amounts at a time. Even though I would not listen to the whole thing all the way through, it still has some good aspects to it, which is still better than some of the other Christian acts’ entire catalog.

Track List:
01. In God We Trust
02. Always There For You
03. Keep The Fire Burning
04. I Believe In You
05. The Writings On The Wall
06. It’s Up 2 U
07. The World of You and I
08. Come To The Everlife
09. Lonely
10. The Reign

Band Members:
Michael Sweet – lead vocals, guitar
Robert Sweet – drums
Oz Fox – lead guitar, vocals

Additional Musicians:
John Van Tongeren – keyboards
Billy Myers – keyboards
Brad Cobb – bass
Steven Croes – synclavier programming

Produced by Stryper and Michael Lloyd
Engineered by Dan Nebenzal and Carmine Rubino
Mixed by Stryper, Dan Nebenzal, Carmine Rubino and Michael Lloyd

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Lance Lumley for Sleaze Roxx, June 2018

Stryper‘s “Always There For You” video:

Stryper – Always There For You

Stryper – Always There For You