Music Review: Stryper’s cover album a heavenly delight

Stryper, “The Covering” (Big3)

So this is what heaven is like for shred-heads — wall-to-wall 1970s and ’80s headbanging anthems, all turned up to 11, played by one of the most talented and inspirational bands of the hair-metal era.

On “The Covering,” Stryper sets scripture aside for a bit in favor of the sheer joy of plugging in, turning it way up and rocking out to a dozen classic rock tunes.

These are all songs the band grew up listening to and loving, and the treatment they receive here is reverential. The band adds its trademark layered vocal and guitar harmonies to each track, but sticks faithfully to the original arrangements, infusing each with the Stryper sound and style while showing proper respect to the originals.

The best of the bunch is an absolutely molten rendition of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” with a blazing keyboard solo by quasi-band member Charles Foley. On track after track, singer Michael Sweet summons up unfathomable high notes, some of which only dogs can hear.

The Scorpions’ “Blackout” sounds almost exactly like the original, minus Klaus Meine’s heavy German accent; it’s nice to finally hear this song sung in clear English. Black Sabbath’s “Heaven And Hell,” perhaps the greatest heavy metal song of all time, has made-for-Stryper lyrics like “The Devil is never a maker.”

More theologically problematic (but musically gratifying) is the inclusion of Judas Priest’s “Breaking The Law,” which doesn’t exactly take a stand against wrongdoing. “Shout It Out Loud” is more fluid and less pounding than the Kiss original, but the band’s harmonies on the choruses are sparkling.

Oz Fox is perhaps the most underrated 1980s guitarist, and he shines on this disc, flawlessly handling complex solos like the Randy Rhoads masterpiece on Ozzy’s “Over The Mountain,” as well as his own tasty interpretation of the dueling guitars on Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper.” And he channels his inner Eddie Van Halen with “On Fire.”

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: The lone Stryper original on the album, “God,” hearkens back to the band’s classic mid-’80s sound, with the galloping, syncopated bass and drums providing a frenetic foundation for the mayhem above. If “More Than A Man” and “The Way” had a baby, this is what it would sound like.

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