(Record Breaking Records, 2017)
Fun can sometimes seem like a precious commodity in metal these days. As musically powerful and lyrically inspirational a certain song may be, most of our favorite bands tend to take themselves a tad too seriously (if not a Tad Morose). We metalheads, of course, are often equally guilty of treating our favorite music as if it were a sanctimonious religious cult. Yes, the art form is amazing and deserves plenty of reverence. Yet a unique sense of humor and rebellious, joyous abandon are also most welcome qualities in metal. There are, thankfully, a number of noteworthy forbearers in this pursuit of metal-hearted fun -- from AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” giving us “The Jack,” to Motorhead getting “Killed By Death,” to Helloween's glorious “Heavy Metal Hamsters” and zany cartoon pumpkins – metal can and should sometimes simply be an obnoxious blast.
Then there's Striker. This young Canadian quartet thrives off an extreme sense of fun and exuberance, and their seemingly infinite source of positive energy. In fact, Striker’s metallic good will should, theoretically, be able to cure all the hatred and division in modern society. But if not, it's certainly safe to claim that they are among the greatest bands in metal today. Their songs are exhilarating, catchy, and uplifting, and their musical style is original while also sounding familiar enough to appeal to rivetheads and rockers of all varieties. Striker seamlessly fuse elements of thrash, power metal, hard rock, ‘80s glam, and a huge dose of NWOBHM into a magnificent sound. Their new self-titled fifth album continues the relentless strike, leaving the listener feeling breathless and gasping for more.
Now, Striker’s previous album, 2016's absolutely flawless Stand In the Fire, was this writer's unequivocal choice for Album of the Year. Stand…is, without a doubt, one of my top-five albums of this millennium, and it quickly has emerged as one of my favorite metal records of all time. Striker, the album, therefore has massive shoes to fill, and did it succeed in matching the superlative quality of its predecessor? Almost. The band is still exuberant and enthralling on Striker; this new album does not quite reach the stratospheric heights of last year's effort, if only due to it’s moderate brevity and having to follow a masterpiece.
Fans, both die-hards and newcomers alike, will still be feeling pumped and “out for blood” with Striker. Still led by lead vocalist and founding member Dan Cleary alongside guitarist Timothy Brown, the band's blend of rich melody and pummeling aggression sounds as natural as a soft-serve swirl cone tastes. Cleary’s vocals are pristine and wide-ranging while also displaying the versatility to shout with abandon and harmonize. In fact, Striker’s rarefied vocal harmonies often rival the metallic greats in that field such as Dokken, Lillian Axe, and the Galactic Cowboys. Brown's lead guitarwork is fleet-fingered and fluid while remaining tasteful and melodic; his riffs intricate and chock-full of memorable harmonies. Rhythm-wise, the backline team of bassist William “Wild Bill” Wallace and drummer Adam Brown provide the lock-tight bottom end without overpowering the band's patented melodies.
As far as Striker's top songs are concerned, this album opens in typical uplifting fashion with the mid-tempo anthem “Former Glory.” Striker's fantastic riffs and infectious vocal melodies are on prime display here. “It's my return to my former glory. Yeah, I'm back again!” That's right. “Born to Lose” is a speedier tune featuring some of the best guitar and vocal harmonies of the album. That chorus also is one of the catchiest one could ever hear: “Born to Lose/But I'm living to win.” The driving and thrashy “Freedom's Call” almost has a Running Wild or early Rage vibe going on. Most tunes here are speedy and simply irresistible fun and sing-able, such as “Shadows In the Light,” “Curse of the Dead,” and the charmingly belligerent “Pass Me By.” “I don't need you to bring me down./Be yourself when I'm not around.” That's some motivating, brilliant stuff right there.
With Striker one should never expect self-indulgent noodling, or whacked-out prog-rock breakdowns, or pretentious epics. But if you're looking for some straightforward, fun, and damn awesome, pick up Striker and just “Rock the Night” away.
--Review by Jonathan Kollnot