Although Christianity and heavy metal seem like they would mix together about as well as oil and water, such logic hasn't stopped people from trying to marry the mindsets. During metal's golden era in the '80s, it was California-based bozos Stryper who broke out of the church pack with a fire-and-brimstone backhand wrapped in yellow-and-black-striped spandex. At its peak, the cheesy group headlined arenas and enjoyed a fervent following in the non-Christian heavy-metal community. Despite its heavier-than-thou sound, Stryper was even booked to play one of Disney World's early versions of its annual "Night of Joy" Christian-music festival. That acceptance paved the way for other metal acts with cross purposes.
The modern-day equivalent of Stryper is the much more credible San Diego-based quartet P.O.D. (Payable on Death). The less sensational band has built a fanatical fanbase by humbly mixing rap-metal dynamics with the teachings of Christ. It is currently riding high on top of hardened play-lists across the country, behind the single "Alive."
No wonder P.O.D. is one of the big draws at this weekend's "Rock the Universe" Christian-music fest at Uni-versal Orlando. The band will be competing for the fold against Disney's concurrent and now two-night "Nights of Joy" event. (See What's Happening listings for details.)
Styper vs. P.O.D.
Stryper: Stryper's brand of Christ metal was generally ballsy stuff, full of meaty power chords, rapid-fire drums and the requisite screeching guitar solos courtesy of legend-in-his-own-mind Oz Fox. But a lot of true metalheads had a huge problem with singer Michael Sweet's dog-whistle range and less-than-manly delivery. Not to mention that his brother -- drummer Robert Sweet -- looked like a girl.
P.O.D.: P.O.D. rocks hard with a very up-to-date rap-metal assault that sounds at home on radio stations and car stereos, right next to the likes of Limp Bizkit and Korn. But there's no anger expressed here, it's all about good, clean fun. And don't let yourself be fooled by the picture -- the dreadlocks make them seem heavier than they actually are.
Stryper: They were four white guys sporting way-too-big hair, yellow-and-black-striped suits and -- gasp -- makeup (all God approved). The style earned Stryper attention in the beginning, but soon even the band grew tired of looking like a bunch of morons and ditched the bee costumes in favor of a more mainstream off-the-rack rock star ridiculousness Visit www.Stryper.com to continue the downward spiral.
P.O.D.: Unlike the clowns in Stryper, P.O.D. plays it street-smart, choosing to dress more like the disenfranchised youth that attends its concerts. These guys are also flash dreads and wear their ethnicity on their sleeves (which is much easier to color-coordinate than day-glo yellow).
Stryper: If there was ever any doubt about Stryper's proselytizing crunch, the band crushed it by throwing miniature copies of The Bible out at their concerts. Read into the title of Stryper's 1987 platinum-certified smash "To Hell With the Devil" to suppose the truth: "We are angry with said arch enemy of their Lord and saviour Jesus Christ and want to sentence him to ... house arrest." Way to make a stand.
P.O.D.: While Stryper played hard ball, the blokes in P.O.D. are happy utilizing a soft-pitch approach, allowing listeners to make up their own minds in a positive environment. The band is famous for talking to fans one-on-one after the show, counselling kids who also listen to Korn, offering wisdom like, "You judge for yourself. You listen to it and tell me how your heart feels." Heavy.
Stryper: Thanks to a handful of decent songs, Stryper was able to crossover into the mainstream metal market, enabling them to tour with non-Christian acts like TNT and Loudness. A lot of good that does them now -- even though the band still performs together occasionally (like at the annual Stryper Expo), there's not a big market for has-been God-rock. Hope you didn't give all of that money to the Lord.
P.O.D.: P.O.D. is one of the more promising bands on the rap-metal scene, enjoying unprecedented success on both sides of "The Bible." MTV has pushed them, as have movie studios that already hired the group to add their heavenly touch to "Any Given Sunday" and "Little Nicky." WJRR 101.1-FM is currently spinning P.O.D.'s current single, "Alive," 10 times a week.
Stryper: Stryper's diehard flock -- Soldiers Under Command, they affectionately called 'em -- was filled with very confused people, namely geeky fans whose parents would not let them go to see a real rock show and instead sent them to the next-best Christian substitute. Add to this madness the underlying homoerotic symbolism of heavy metal and you've got yourself one fucked-up collection of worshippers.
P.O.D.: Since P.O.D.'s approach is more subtle, the band's audiences are filled with just as many non-Christians as Christians. But the music is still as heavy as rap-rock gets, and the ecclesiastical crowd is into the typical metal mayhem (moshing, crowd surfing, sweaty shirtlessness). Look at it this way: Getting killed in the P.O.D. mosh pit just might get you into heaven.
Stryper: Since the big break-up in the early '90s, the four former members of Stryper have led very low-key lives, playing in forgettable projects like Sin Dizzy. Guitarist Oz Fox wound up throwing newspapers and loading trucks before working his way up to the warehouse supervisor position. Mike Sweet became a park ranger at before reentering the music world with his nonresurrecting solo record in 2000.
P.O.D.: P.O.D.'s seventh record "Satellite" hits store shelves Sept. 11. The highly anticipated CD should debut in the top 10 of "The Billboard 200" album sales chart its first week out, much like 1999's platinum-certified "Fundamental Elements of Southtown." On Sept. 14, the band performs on The "Tonight Show With Jay Leno." Find more fun facts on P.O.D. at www.payableondeath.com.
Stryper: The faithful now congregate at church or at the annual Stryper Expo, where the truly hopeless spend their disposable income on complete bullshit. Just how collectible can a washed-up Christian-rock act's merchandise be? Japanese copies of "To Hell With the Devil," which features "beautiful" angel artwork, have sold for as much as $500. The world waits impatiently for a reunion.
P.O.D.: Although the hard-working band has already released six albums to date -- just as many as Stryper -- there are currently no plans for a P.O.D. Expo. This group's star will only continue to rise behind the much-anticipated "Satellite." There's no stopping this high-powered youth group.
Stryper: "Stryper stopped on our sixth record, the number of imperfection. For a band who put 777 on everything, we should have a seventh record. We were about achieving a goal; it wasn't just a paycheck or doing music. It's affecting the culture in which we live. Tons of bands made music; Stryper made history." -- Robert Sweet , in 1997 fan-club interview
P.O.D.: "We grew up with all the old-school rock & roll: AC/DC, Led Zepplin, Cheap Trick. We were totally ignorant of Christian music, and when we did find out about it, it was like, Ã?Man, this is whack.'" -- Wuv, drummer for P.O.D., in March 30 issue of Rolling Stone