Stryper has spent much of its 28 years convincing people that a Christian heavy metal band is not a form of heresy.
But guitarist Oz Fox acknowledges that even some of the converts may raise an eyebrow over the group’s new album, “The Covering,” on which it takes on songs by Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Judas Priest and other acts who have hardly enjoyed the church’s endorsement through the years.
“We don’t feel like we have to answer to people; our authority is God,” says Fox, 49 (real name Richard Martinez), who co-founded the group in 1983 in Orange County, Calif. “We know that our walks and our faith is very strong right now, as far as it’s ever been. So for people to say that we can’t play those songs, even when we’re being careful with the lyrical content and whatnot, it’s like saying, ‘Don’t drive on that street because how do you know Christians made that street?’ It’s ridiculous.
“Once Stryper gets ahold of something just because of who we are and what our history is, it turns it into something else. It changes the whole meaning of the songs.”
Stryper chose the songs for “The Covering” from “a huge list” compiled by the band members — including recently returned founding bassist Tim Gaines — and made the final selection based on what frontman Michael Sweet “would feel comfortable singing.” The group also came up with one original, the album-closing “God,” that Fox feels puts the various cover versions in perspective.
“That song sums everything up by saying God needs to have mercy on us, because a lot of times we don’t know what we’re doing,” explains Fox, who also plays in a cover band called Playground in his home base of Las Vegas.
“It kind of connects the dots and is based on everyone’s different lives and what people have gone through ... and kind of gives you a little bit of a story of someone who is being redeemed, so to speak. It’s a pretty cool message that kind of sums up what you get from all the other songs.”
Stryper performs Saturday, April 19, at Harpo’s, 14238 Harper, Detroit. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 313-824-1700 or visit www.harposconcerttheater.com
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