Album Review: STRIKER: ‘Striker’
Album Review: STRIKER: ‘Striker’
Review by Craig Grant. Welcome back to the 1980s, so put down your Atari joystick, pull up your tube socks and pump up your Reebok Hi-Tops because it’s time for the Canadian quartet Striker. Let’s imagine that you’ve never heard of Striker. Well, it’s all pretty simple as they play a stripped back but complex, modern version of 1980s hair-speed-thrash-metal, with lyrics so cheesy that they make you smile and urge you to point at random things while marvelling at the lack of bullshit.
This is the band that gave us the album, ‘Stand in the Fire’ and one that I picked as album of the year…and that was in February 2016. That album was so good as it was like a metal version of car chase music and we even got to the stage of watching Bullitt while listening to the classic from the album, ‘Escape from Shred City’. Then I thought it was so good that it must be completely over-dubbed, so we worked out where Striker was on tour and got a reviewer to go watch them to make sure they were the real deal. We tracked them down to Glasgow, Scotland and all I got was a picture of our reviewer stage bombing the band with a, ‘here’s Johnny’ grin on his face. Striker were the real deal; all talent and no bullshit. Go back another album to, ‘City of Gold’, and we have a band just finding their feet with a thick thrash sound but unmistakeably Striker. So, two great albums leading to this new release, which is the fifth in the bands history.
First thing you notice is that the album cover has been toned right back with a simple motif on a stark white background. No man-lion with a lightning sword like we had on the cover of, ‘Stand in the Fire’, and no luminous, steaming lion from the 2010 album, ‘Eyes in the Night’. It’s simple, straightforward and almost calming. But that’s where the self-titled album becomes a luminous death lion with a sword in sheep’s clothing because the first track hits you like a bag of bricks. The twin guitars hark back to the days of classic metal, all driven along with a throbbing bass and drumming that verges on aural insanity. The track, ‘Former Glory’, is the buckle up track and from there on it’s a ride through the Striker checklist: solos, solos chasing solos, riffs before we solo and gang vocals that have evolved to almost choral levels. Yes, it’s Striker. One track in and I’m already back thinking, ‘Is this for real?’ Not only is it real peeps but it’s a lifestyle choice.
Before we go on, it would be easy to dismiss Striker as hair metal. Yes, easy, but comparing this band to the 1980s lounge crooners in drag would be totally unfair. This is a progression through the last three albums to this point where production, tone, vocal and chant-driven lyrics are all perfect together. As a fan of this band I would urge you to listen to the last three tracks on this nine track album before you make any comment about where this band fits. In my opinion the only other band even close to this intensity and sound is the Tasmanian band Taberah. But no one comes close to the outro tracks on the album, ‘Striker’.
‘Over the Top’, is exactly that. A chugging riff and a simple drum track leads into 80s infused lyrics. Just imagine, ‘something…top, something…stop, but soooo far away’, then solo, bridge, solo, chant, solo. The outro on this track is like Symphony X but the guitar work is like Schenker when he was on his top game. That’s the appeal of Striker, you can pick out all the things that you hear from the best of your musical past but, this is no homage, it is a band who know what they are after and clearly spend a lot of time listening to their heroes.
Second to last track is, ‘Freedom’s Call’ and its shaping up to be a power ballad. But, long before you have time to rummage through that third drawer in the kitchen to find a candle, you realise that you have been rolled and its riff time again. There is no ballad here but we are engaged in a fight against a system that is, ‘rotten to the core’. That’s about the only lyric I got from this, even though the vocal is crystal clear, as I was listening to that riff which pulverizes the track. For something that started so smoothly this track is perhaps one of the darker songs on the album.
Last, and by no means least, in this trilogy of why you should buy this and every other Striker album, we have the final track, ‘Curse of the Dead’. Think of a time when thrash was more than just long, chugging riffs and actually made you want to run around the room. Well, here we are. This track is insane and it’s the, ‘Escape from Shred City’, of this album. Every guitar move, even squeak and grunt that can be squeezed out of the lead is there. The drumming is just continual double kick and it pushes this song on, the vocal lagging slightly, while the riff powers through.
Completely insane, totally over the top and utterly absorbing, but the album is all gone in thirty- three minutes. I enjoyed everything about this album, and the last album and the one before that. They all lead to this point with excellent production and colossal playing. The trick for Striker is, ‘where to next?’, but that’s just a reviewer that’s looking for his next Striker fix. This album is intense and dovetails beautifully into, ‘Stand in the Fire’, while improving everything while staying true to the cause. Awesome, love it. Get back to the studio!