The Covering

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Rather than subject yet another album of original material to the by now customary chorus of generalized abuse from the anything but God-fearing heavy metal community, the Lord's own leather-clad bumblebees, L.A.'s long-suffering Stryper, decided to produce an album of favorite covers for 2011's suitably named The Covering. One can almost imagine the "stryped" ones challenging: "Let's see those blasted heathens bash these beloved heavy metal classics!" And you know what? Well played, boys, well played.... Much as Michael Sweet's angelic, soaring vibrato remains a love-it-or-hate-it acquired taste (it's just too chorus-boy clear), who can really resist sneaking a listen to new interpretations of towering pillars of the metal genre like Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell," Deep Purple's "Highway Star" (keyboards included!), Iron Maiden's "The Trooper," Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law," and Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song"? Less obvious selections included here vary somewhat more between good (the Sweet's "Set Me Free," the Scorpions' "Blackout," UFO's "Lights Out," featuring a note-perfect Michael Schenker guitar solo karaoke) and not so good (Ozzy Osbourne's "Over the Mountain," Kiss' "Shout It Out Loud," and an eerily wooden stab at Van Halen's "On Fire"), but the only really odd choice is Kansas' "Carry on Wayward Son," for obvious reasons. If anything, these versions only sin (sorry, couldn't resist) for being too faithful to the original sources -- but then what more would you expect from a Christian metal band than, well, FAITH? And as proven by the lone original cut on hand, the closing "God," faith is something Stryper clearly has plenty of, no matter how marginalized their career has been by commercial misfortunes and constantly swimming against heavy metal's godless tide.

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