STRYPER frontman Michael Sweet spoke to New Release Today about the controversy surrounding the title of the band’s latest album, “God Damn Evil”. Retail giant Walmart refused to carry the LP due to “concerns” over its name — this despite the fact that the group has been providing Christians with a religiously based alternative to mainstream heavy metal for more than three decades.

“With STRYPER, there’s always a story,” Sweet said (see video below). “And what we try to do is we’re not about controversy — we don’t sit down and say, ‘Hey, let’s be controversial,’ or, ‘Let’s create an album title that makes people go into shock.’ That’s not why we do it. It’s more about, ‘Let’s create a title and let’s write a lyric that makes people talk, makes people think, breaks down walls and destroys their preconceived ideas of that particular title.’ Like ‘God Damn Evil’. When you break it down and you think about it, if you stop and think about it, it’s just three words. And everything that goes into those words is what directs the meaning of those words. So, how you apply them, how you mean them, how you present them is how it’s going to be used. STRYPER is presenting them in a way as a prayer, as a request.”

He continued: “I’ve already said this, but it’s true — when we’re looking at Heaven, we’re saying, ‘God, damn the evil. Damn evil.’ People get caught up in, ‘Well, you should have used the comma,’ ‘You should have used ‘the,’ ‘You should have used this, ‘You should have done it this way.’ No, we shouldn’t have. ‘Cause that’s not what we wanted to do. Then that’s your interpretation of it — it’s not ours. So, with all due respect, that’s why we do what we do — to get people to talk and to think. It’s not about being weird or rebellious in an evil way, or trying to shake it up in a bad way. It’s not about that — it never has been. People thought that about ‘To Hell With The Devil’ back in 1986. That album got banned. Oh my gosh, it created so much controversy, and I look back on it now, and it’s kind of funny, if you really think about it. ‘God Damn Evil’ is similar; it’s just a different platform. We’re not at the level we once were, but we’re still trying to make people think and shake people up with what we do.”

Formed 36 years ago, STRYPER is the first overtly Christian metal band to go mainstream. The group’s name comes from Isaiah 53:5, which states: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”