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Stryper & Petra in Puerto Rico

By: Anthony Martinez
Petra and Stryper, will be playing on the same stage the next June 6 in Puerto Rico. Undoubtedly, this will be a historic event.  These two bands, had never played together before. Petra and Stryper, are the two most successful Christian bands of all times.  

If you do not believe what I said above, do not stop reading. Then you will see a summary of the major achievements of these two groups.

Petra has been nominated  to twelve Grammys  awards, of which gained four (1990, 1992, 1994, 2000). 

Winners of ten Dove Awards. Inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame (2007), Inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2000), Inducted into the Hard Rock Cafe (1994). 

In 1982, More Power to Ya remained one of the five best-selling albums in Christian music, while Never Say Die remained in the top 20 – more than two years after it hit the shelves. At the end of 1982, the two albums had sold nearly 100,000 units combined. By the next summer, More Power to Ya alone had topped 125,000, a total nearly unthinkable for a Christian rock album just 12 months earlier. More Power to Ya would not drop out of the Top 40 Christian albums until June 1985, more than two and one-half years after its debut.

In 1985, by any measure, Petra was at the height of its success as it toured for Not of This World and prepared to record a follow-up album. No Christian rock band had sold more records, played before bigger crowds or had enjoyed such pervasive radio airplay.

Helped in part by a newly inked distribution agreement between Word and A&M that would give Petra and other Word-distributed bands placement in mainstream music stores for the first time, Beat the System sold more than 200,000 copies in four months, and by the end of the year, Billboard had certified Petra as the biggest-selling gospel music group in the country. When it debuted at No. 18 on the Billboard Top 40 Inspirational LPs chart in February 1985, Beat the System trailed both Not of This World (No. 6 in its 56th week on the chart) and More Power to Ya (No. 15 in week 115). Not for long: It leapt to No. 4 on the next chart, giving Petra two top 10 albums for the first time,  and by June it had taken over the top spot on the chart,  which it held for more than two months. In the end, Beat the System was one of the nation's top two Christian albums for nearly half a year.

For its career, Petra topped the million-record mark in 1985, with 900,000 of them sold in the four years since Never Say Die. At the time of its release, Beat the System was the biggest Christian rock record ever recorded and the third-biggest Christian album of the 1980s (trailing only Amy Grant's Age to Age and Sandi Patti's Songs From the Heart), even though it did not produce any radio hits. By decade's end, Beat the System's impact on the Christian sales charts trailed only records by Grant, Patti, Steve Green and Michael W. Smith. Finally, the band was nominated for a Grammy for the second consecutive year, again for Best Gospel Performance by a Duo, Group, Choir or Chorus.

Joining the MTV world, Petra also recorded its first music video, for Beat the System's title track, then went on tour again, playing what was considered "the biggest Christian rock tour of its time." Petra ultimately played to more than 500,000 people in the yearlong world tour, which ranked second in all of Christian music only to Amy Grant's. To capture the energy of the tour, the band recorded performances in Tennessee and South Carolina over three nights in November 1985 and released the final product on vinyl and VHS shortly after, dubbing it Captured in Time and Space.

The album was a farewell to Petra's first era of popularity and the sound it had cultivated with Volz's distinctive vocals. As constant touring took its toll on the band, Hartman and Volz began to disagree about Petra's future, both on stage and off. The tour, while it drew more fans than ever, was expensive, and it left Petra hurting financially. Increased competition from other Christian rock bands, for whom Petra had paved the way, led to lower-than-expected showings as the tour went on. As Hartman told CCM Magazine in 1986, "If I had to put it in a nutshell without getting too deep, I would have to say it's business. Greg and I agree on just about everything except business."

In 1985 Volz announced he would leave the band to pursue a solo career upon completion of the tour and release of the live album, leaving in doubt the future of the world's biggest Christian rock band.

With Petra hurting financially and Volz announcing his departure, rumors swirled that Petra would break up.

Instead, Hartman turned to former Head East vocalist John Schlitt, whom he had met on an airplane some years before but who had since converted to Christianity and left rock music altogether. Schlitt needed little convincing. He was introduced to Petra fans at a show in Australia in February 1986.

band and producer parted ways. To replace Brown, Star Song tapped the Elefante brothers – John, former keyboardist and lead vocalist for Kansas, and Dino, who had written songs for Kansas and had more recently produced albums for Christian metal bands such as Barren Cross. The combination of Schlitt and the Elefante Brothers significantly altered Petra's sound and set the stage for the band's greatest success.

The limb held, as Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out became one of the band's best selling, certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1998. After its release in October 1989, Petra Praise remained in the top 10 of Christian contemporary album sales for nearly a year. The artwork also won a Dove award, the band's second. In subsequent years, the album would be cited by such popular praise bands as Sonicflood as influencing their decision to enter the genre.

The success of Petra Praise opened the door for even greater success than Petra had seen previously. The Christian rock scene had exploded, and the critics of the past decade had largely been silenced. 

Beyond Belief was huge, the band's most successful release ever, peaking at No. 1 on the Christian charts and certified Gold by the RIAA in 1995. The radio single "Love" shot to the top of the charts and stayed there, becoming Christian radio's biggest hit of 1991.

It won the band its first Grammy, in the newly created best Rock/Contemporary Gospel Album category,  as well as Dove awards for Rock Album of the Year, Rock Recorded Song of the Year for the title track and Recorded Music Packaging of the Year. More historically, the Gospel Music Association for the first time honored a rock band as Group of the Year, as Petra beat contemporary artists 4HIM, First Call, Take 6 and BeBe & CeCe Winans.

The band was at the peak of its popularity, playing to sold-out arenas of 10,000 fans on yet another nationwide tour, and in CCM Magazine's year-end Reader's Choice Awards, the band swept to first place in eight categories, second place in four more, and garnered three times as many votes for pop/rock artist of the year as second-place finisher Michael W. Smith.

The Unseen Power album was a hit, allowing Petra to top 6 million records sold since its inception – the most of any Christian artist at the time. The newly formed Hard Rock Cafe asked the band for materials to include in its restaurant displays, another first for a Christian band. And Petra became the only Christian band to play Farm Aid when it took the Texas Stadium stage before 40,000 people in 1992.

Unseen Power garnered the band its second Grammy, again winning for Best Rock/Contemporary Gospel Album, and a Dove award, for Rock Recorded Song of the Year.

The wake up call album, was well received, as the album stayed on Billboard's Christian albums chart for more than five months and was the third consecutive Petra album to receive a Grammy for Best Rock Gospel Album.  The short-lived America's Christian Music Awards named Petra favorite rock group or duo and named Wake Up Call favorite rock CD, and the band won a Dove award for Rock Album of the Year. In the 1994 CCM Readers Awards, the band continued to clean up, winning Favorite Rock Artist/Band, Favorite Rock Album for Wake Up Call and Favorite Song for the radio hit "Just Reach Out."

No Doubt: The album opened at No. 2 on Billboard's Top Christian Albums chart but fell out of the Top 10 two months later. It peaked at No. 91 on the Billboard Top 200, lasting eight weeks. Its key radio single, the title track, barely cracked the 40 most-played songs for 1995. For the first time since the creation of the Rock Gospel Album category in the Grammies, Petra was nominated but failed to win, though it did pick up a Dove award for Rock Album of the Year, and CCM Magazine's annual Reader Awards placed Petra once again at the top as the fans' favorite rock band, with No Doubt their favorite rock album.

The Double Take album was largely rejected by critics and fans alike, and it sold fewer than 40,000 copies. When Double Take won Petra its fourth Grammy, for Best Rock Gospel Album in 2001, critics charged it was an example of the Grammy voters being "out to lunch."

With the band's future again uncertain, Petra received the highest of accolades from the Gospel Music Association as the first rock band to be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

In 2003 , For the first time since Petra Praise 2, six years earlier, the band broke onto the Billboard charts, peaking at No. 22 on the Christian albums chart. The album also garnered Petra its 13th Grammy nomination.

On March 5, 2014, Petra was recognized by SESAC with the Legacy Award.

During its 33-year career, Petra influenced countless artists in and out of the Christian scene. Petra was the only Christian band to play at the 1992 Farm Aid concert and the first Christian band to be included in the Hard Rock Cafe. In 2000, Petra was the first Christian rock band to be inducted to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. "The doubts about popular music mixing with Christian lyrics have mostly vanished due to their 25-year track record of proven ministry and changed lives. Petra was a true pioneer for our industry," GMA President Frank Breeden said at the time.

In 2004, CCM readers inducted Petra into its Hall of Fame, with the magazine noting:

Few artists had as much influence in the formation and growth of what has come to be known as "contemporary Christian music" as did Petra. ... As one of the movement’s trailblazers, Petra bore the brunt of the controversy, enduring picketers, protesters and public denunciations by prominent Christian leaders. (It is, perhaps, a telling sign of the Christian community’s former resistance to Petra that the band won a Grammy before they ever won a Dove Award!) Still, all rabble-rousers aside, Petra managed to create some of Christian music’s most treasured recordings.

Formed in 1983 as Roxx Regime, the band soon changed their musical message to reflect their Christian beliefs, and the band's name was also changed to Stryper. They went on to become the first overtly Christian heavy metal band to gain acceptance in the mainstream.

Something that not many know is that in 1982, while the band name was Roxx Regime, Metallica band was opening for Roxx Regime. Note that neither of these two bands had released an album.

Shortly afterward, they released the EP The Yellow and Black Attack on July 21, 1984. During this period, Stryper opened for bands like Ratt and Bon Jovi, leading some fans and critics to claim that they were not a true Christian band. Stryper's first full-length album, Soldiers Under Command, released on May 15, 1985, was the band's first gold record. Capitalizing on this unexpected success, and in an attempt to make up for the EP's extremely limited release (fewer than 200,000 copies), their record label Enigma re-released The Yellow and Black Attack on August 10, 1986 with two new tracks and new cover art.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 1985 that "the band gets sullen fans of Twisted Sister cheering and poking stubby 'one way' fingers heavenward—a refutation of the double-fingered 'devil horns' salute of many metal groups".

Stryper's third album, To Hell with the Devil, was released on October 24, 1986 and went platinum after spending three months on Billboard's album charts,  eventually selling more than 2 million copies. In addition to being Stryper's most successful record, it was both the first contemporary Christian music and Christian metal album to achieve this feat. "Calling on You", "Free" and "Honestly" were hugely popular MTV hits in 1987—so much so, that "Free" and "Honestly" both became most-requested songs on the show Dial MTV. They were also the second Christian band to get any airplay on MTV, Degarmo & Key having been the first with their song "666." "Honestly" is Stryper's highest-charting song, peaking at No. 23 on the Top 40 charts. The album received a Grammy Award nomination.

Bassist Tim Gaines did not participate in the recording of To Hell with the Devil, and for a short period of time prior to the release of the record he was replaced by Matt Hurich. Hurich was not with the band more than a month, although he was outfitted with a yellow and black striped bass and a racing costume. Brad Cobb played bass on the album. However, when the promotional photos for the album were being shot, Gaines returned to the band and subsequently participated in its successful world tour. In 1987 the band headlined the Dynamo Open Air Festival in the Netherlands. There is one To Hell with the Devil promotional photo of the band with Matt Hurich that was used in print advertisements. Prior to his time in Stryper, Hurich was in Leatherwolf. In 1989 he performed with his Stryper bass in the group Divine Right, which featured Kevin Brandow (Petra) on lead vocals and guitar.

In the summer of 1986, Kenny Metcalf left touring with Stryper and Brent Jeffers replaced Kenny Metcalf on keyboards and toured with Stryper until 1990.

Stryper's fourth album, In God We Trust, released on June 28, 1988, also went gold, and the song "Always There for You" briefly entered the lower levels of the pop charts, peaking at No. 71 despite it being another massive hit on MTV. However, the sound of the album was more pop-oriented than previous releases and a number of critics, as well as Stryper fans, criticized the record for being over-produced. In addition, the image of the band was moving even closer to the glam metal look of the era, giving fans something else to criticize. These factors led to lower sales, and the album spent only five weeks charting on Billboard. The second single and video, "I Believe in You", peaked at No. 88 and a third single "Keep the Fire Burning" failed to chart. As with the previous album, Tim Gaines did not participate in the recording (Brad Cobb once again played bass) but later rejoined the group for another world tour. In God We Trust garnered two GMA Dove Awards for "Hard Music Album" and "Hard Music Song" for the title track.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 1985 that "the band gets sullen fans of Twisted Sister cheering and poking stubby 'one way' fingers heavenward—a refutation of the double-fingered 'devil horns' salute of many metal groups"

Stryper is recognized as the first openly Christian heavy metal band to gain recognition in the mainstream music world.  Mark Joseph states "The Yellow and Black Attack was propelled by the group's success in Japan, which was largely due to an endorsement of the band by famed rock critic Masa Itoh, the man who ruled the Japanese hard rock/metal scene, who many fans looked to for his evaluation of bands. Itoh had heard of Stryper, gotten in touch with their manager Daryn Hinton, and liked what he heard. When he gave the band a positive review in Japan's heavy metal bible Burrn! magazine and played the album on his radio show, Stryper suddenly found themselves at the top of the metal heap in Japan with a record that was outselling Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, and every other metal band." This led to the band signing with CBS Sony in Japan.

Stryper has sold over 10 million recordings worldwide, and it is estimated that two-thirds of their albums were bought by non-Christians.  2011 Stryper won the readers choice award for Best Christian / Gospel Artists & Bands. Kim Jones of About.com states "With 44% of the vote, hard rock legends Stryper beat out all of their competition to be named the Best Christian Hard Rock Band, bringing to mind the old adage, 'like a fine wine, some things just get better with age.'"

Ian Christe, author of the heavy metal history book Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, mentions the album To Hell with the Devil in his book as one of the landmarks of the glam metal movement.

The song "To Hell with the Devil" appears on the Rhino Records release The Heavy Metal Box, a compilation mainly of secular Classic Metal bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Metallica, as well as hair bands like Twisted Sister and Poison.

The Marvel comic series Runaways refers to Stryper as being a Christian glam band in Vol. 4 True Believers.

UK band Half Man Half Biscuit refer to Stryper in the chorus of their song "Christian Rock Concert" from the 1991 album McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt.

In the 2009 film Whip It, Ellen Page's character "Bliss" distinctively wears a Stryper t-shirt throughout the film, which originally belonged to her mother, Marcia Gay Harden's character, and is referred to by the daughter as the only cool thing, that you own.

On the Bloodhound Gang song "Lift Your Head Up High (And Blow Your Brains Out)" on One Fierce Beer Coaster the lyric "Or do you own a record by Stryper?" is a part of a list of reasons for doing what the title of the song suggests.

In the 2013 film Pain & Gain, Dwayne Johnson's character, while at a gun shop, pretends to be doing security work for the band in order to have access to select weaponry available only to law enforcement.

The No more hell to pay album sold around 9,600 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at position No. 35 on the Billboard 200 chart. and it was the No. 2 Top Christian Album sold the same week. On the other charts, it was the No. 6 most sold album on Top Rock Albums chart, the No. 3 Top Hard Rock Albums, and it came in at No. 6 on the Independent Albums chart

Without doubt, Petra is the biggest Christian rock band, and the most successful, more successful than Stryper. Moreover, Stryper is a band more liked by the present generation, And Stryper is the most successful Christian band into the mainstream.

The question many people are doing is, What will be the opening band?
Stryper will be opening for Petra? or, Petra will be opening for Stryper?

The official poster for this show, is headed by Stryper. I'm a big fan of Stryper, but Petra should have leaded this Show.

Anyway, this will be a historic show. The two biggest Christian rock  bands  of the history, will be in the same stage, maybe it's the only time they do, taking into account that these two bands are to culminate his career.

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