INDIANAPOLIS — A staple of 1980's hair metal says he's starting....finally... to lose his hair. That's life, though, for a lot of us. "Thank God we're not defined by our hair," Michael Sweet said. He and his band Stryper have instead been defined by taking a distinctly different path with their musical style than most of their peers chose.
The Christian metal group that became the unlikely kings of 1980's MTV before hair metal fell out of popular favor is not only still touring. Stryper has also been putting out new, original music for much of the past two decades — a comeback that followed a decade away from the spotlight. You'll hear some of that music, along with their old school headbanging and balladeering hits, when Stryper plays The Vogue in Broad Ripple on Tuesday, May 17.
Sweet and brother (and drummer) Robert Sweet first formed a band 40 years ago, and they did so after reconnecting with a faith they had briefly left behind. "Hard rock and heavy metal... most people think its a natural thing to sing about sex, drugs and Satan," Michael Sweet said. "We were a group of guys who you were your typical hard rock/metal band on the strip in Hollywood. We lived a lot, and we decided to devote our hearts and our lives and our band to God, and we never looked back."
The success of the EP "The Yellow and Black Attack" and the album "Soldiers Under Command" in 1984 and 1985 respectively helped get Stryper tour dates with the likes of Bon Jovi. That led to criticism from all sides — Christian fans who thought Stryper was selling out, and the secular world who thought the band was too Christian to be mainstream. But the band's popularity became universal with the release of "To Hell With the Devil" in 1986.
The album not only featured the hit songs "Free", "Calling on You", "Honestly" and the title track, it coincided with Stryper's first widely-promoted music videos. The videos became a staple of the top spot on the daily "Dial MTV Countdown" where fans voted for their favorite videos every day by calling a toll-free number. Stryper seemed to be on or near the top of the list for the rest of the decade.
After a well publicized break in the 1990's, the band reunited in 2000 and started making new music again later that decade. Eight albums have followed — three more than they made before the breakup. "That day may come that I can do this anymore, and until that day comes, I want to do as much of it as I can," Sweet said. "That's why I do so many side projects. That's why I do solo projects, and that's why I do all the music with Stryper. I can do it, I have the opportunities to do it, and I want to take advantage of that."