Today in Christian Music, it's not uncommon for some rock bands to accomplish a Gold record, however, in the 80s, it was nearly unheard of until a band known as Stryper broke all of the rules in the Christian rock domain. The band began in 1982 as a band originally named Roxx Regime. Stryper quickly created a large fan-base in California while playing in an actual garage for the youth. Unlike most Christian bands back then, Stryper was picked up by a mainstream label, Enigma Records, while being distributed by Capital Records and Benson Records. Stryper began some trends that were later repeated by bands such as Poison and Cinderella, which consisted of harmonies and, at times, looking rather feminine. Soldiers Under Command was the sophomore release after their debut a year earlier, The Yellow and Black Attack.
Soldiers Under Command opens with the title track. Like many of the songs on this album, it's a very memorable song with a simplistic, yet effective, chorus. This song is a theme for what Stryper was doing at the time, which was fighting a media war while keeping their faith and following what God had planned for them. "Makes Me Wanna Sing" is an original praise and worship song as indicated in the lyrics, "Tonight's the night so let's lift up our hands/ Jesus, Jesus/ Makes me want to sing/ Jesus, King of Kings." This was the evolution of "cool" praise and worship music. The worship continues in the next song, "Together Forever." Another bold move that Stryper made was having a chorus with those familiar 50s "doo-wops" sung in the background, but it works surprisingly well in this song along with Michael Sweet's unique screaming.
"First Love" is a beautiful, enduring ballad. This song truly captures Michael's best vocal range. At the same time, the song ventures into a great musical with some heavy dose of classical rock. This song talks about the significance of having one's first true love, "There is no love/ like the love of your first love/ it will never leave you." Like so many songs in the 80s, it was almost impossible to find an album that did not contain a song with the word "rock." "The Rock That Makes Us Roll" is another to add to the list, even though it is another great song on this album. The music in this song reminded me of some great guitar solos found in Dokken's work.
"Reach Out" and "(Waiting For) A Love That's Real" bring the album down quite a bit, and they don't generate the same creativeness found in the previous songs. "(Waiting For) A Love That's Real" contains lyrics that just don't flow very well, although the chorus is very memorable.
"Together As One" is a personal favorite ballad of all time from Stryper. It develops nicely with some great piano work before evolving into a chorus that keeps the listener focused. One can actually hear the emotion that is implemented into this song. "Surrender" quickly takes the attention away from the previous song as it is a straightforward and in-your-face hard rock song. It's a bit slower than some of the songs found in the beginning, however it has some great guitar work from Oz Fox and drumming from Robert Sweet. The harmonies are great during the chorus as Michael and the band sing, "Freely Surrender/ Open up unto His Majesty/ Christ is the lover of your soul and He wants to give you all you need." Stryper provides another surprise on this album by giving us a hard version of the "Battle Hymn Of The Republic" complete with an explosive sound effect.
Stryper was just gaining ground when they released this album prior to their double platinum To Hell with the Devil project. I remember getting the album as an actual white record, which was pretty cool at the time. Stryper may never be known for their in-depth story filled lyrics, however, they will be known as the first Christian rock band to be associated successfully with MTV. Soldiers Under Command didn't receive the exposure that To Hell with The Devil did, but the music is heavier and the songs are a joy to listen to as we remember a time when metal once ruled the earth.- Review date: 10/06/2007, written by Wayne Myatt for Jesusfreakhideout.com
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