Since 2010, Edmonton, Alberta’s Striker has released five records – including its latest self-titled disc – and Last Rites has not reviewed a single one of them until now. Shame on us, because Striker is one talented band making some pretty god-damned good metal, and it’s good fun to boot.
Striker plays a mix of styles that range from hair metal to thrash metal. In any given song, you are just as likely to hear Dokken as you are Iron Maiden or Metallica. The whole package is polished with a thoroughly 80s aesthetic, almost as if Mutt Lange produced it. The leads are smooth as silk, the vocals are multi-layered, every-chorus is huge, and every song is an anthem.
That much polish can make a band sound soft (it certainly it took its toll on Def Leppard), but Striker, I think, has a bit too much steel in it to grow too soft. For one thing, there is double bass all over this record that gives even the more rock-oriented moments a sense of driving power. Furthermore, underneath the sticky-sweet solos and melodic fills there are usually enough muscular riffs to give each tune a solid core.
As good as Striker is at melodic hair-cum-trad metal evinced by such tunes as “Rock the Night” and “Over the Top,” I do find myself more drawn to the harder-hitting numbers, such as the album’s last two tracks, “Freedoms Call” and “Curse of the Dead.” The former combines the bouncy bombast of Helloween with the sharpest edges of 80s Priest and a maybe a little Slayer a-la “Raining Blood” in the breakdown, while the latter is pounding, power/speed metal reminiscent of Thundersteel-era Riot with off-the-rails Megadeth-styled leads. Vocalist Dan Cleary has no problem delivering his big hooks over harder, faster material, and the band clearly has chops to spare, so restraint avails Striker very little. The group has a huge sound, and it sounds best when it plays full-tilt.
There is one tack on Striker that sticks out like a sore thumb, and that is “Pass Me By.” Take out the soaring leads, and Cleary’s high, melodic vocals, and this is a Hatebreed tune, replete with gang choruses, tough-guy posturing, and jump-da-fuck-up riffs. And guess what? Striker pulls it off; “Pass Me By” is still a good tune, incongruous as all Hell, but catchy and memorable, just like every other song on the record.
If there’s a knock on Striker, maybe it’s that the record favors style over substance; there’s nothing particularly deep here. Lack of depth, however, has never ruined anyone’s good time, and Striker has the style bit down about as well as any band ever has. Every note of this record is perfectly placed and perfectly performed.
For those whose tastes lean toward the extreme, Striker might be a little too poppy to suit you, but if you can find it in yourself to un-clench your fist a bit and give Striker a chance, you’ll be treated to what will undoubtedly prove to be one of the most infectious and most fun metal albums of 2017.