In the world of extreme metal, few subgenres are quite as exciting as thrash metal. There’s just something about the insane shredding, the break-neck speed and the soaring vocal melodies that put it head and shoulders over the competition. Though the genre was at its highest creative peak in the 80’s, the recent “nu thrash revival” of the last few years has really done a lot to push it into even more new and exciting territory. One of the bands rising to the forefront of this revolution is the Canadian thrash machine from Edmonton, Alberta known as STRIKER. Like fellow countrymen CRIMSON SHADOWS, they have recently signed to Napalm Records and with new album City of Gold are now ready for world domination.
One of the things about STRIKER’S sound that immediately stands out is their mixture of bone-crushing old school 80’s thrash and melodic 70’s NWOBHM. On opener “Underground”, it only takes 30 seconds for this to become incredibly obvious. The song starts out with a sweet brutal riff and then vocalist Dan Cleary lets out a wail similar to FLOTSAM AND JETSAM’S Eric Knutson’s and all hell breaks loose. This song is possibly the best on the album because of its awesome guitar work; from the solos to the brutal riffs, the song is insanely fun to air guitar to, it also features awesome vocals and a great chorus.
The other contender for best song on the disc is title track “City Of Gold”, a song with a perfect one-two punch a heavy, grooving thrash riff and an awesome melodic riff that work insanely well together all throughout. That riff also pairs perfectly with the song’s chorus, which is easily one of the best vocal moments on the record. The third track “Start Again” features insanely great guitar work and great vocals. The track also showcases guitarists Chris Segger and Timothy Brown’s knack for utilizing heavy, grooving thrash riffs to set up mind-blowingly awesome solos; these guys make an absolutely incredible guitar duo.
After starting off with the white-hot the murderer’s row of those first three the album begins to transition more into a classic metal style. Tracks like “Crossroads”, “All for One”, and “Second Attack” are also pretty effective, bruising thrash metal songs, but aside from those, the record tends to lose a bit of steam. On “Bad Decisions”, it starts off with a cool riff reminiscent of HAMMERFALL, but its cheesy hair metal vocals and chorus kind of kills the momentum. “All I Want”, “Rise Up” and “Taken By Time” are also less about the thrash and more in a NWOBHM style that sort of detracts from the album a bit.
There’s a lot of great stuff to love about City Of Gold. The album has a ton of incredibly awesome thrashing grooves and solos that remind me quite a bit of HAVOK. Unfortunately, one of the issues on the record is Dan Cleary’s vocals. On the more triumphant thrashers, his voice works perfectly and when it doesn’t, it certainly doesn’t detract from the song’s awesome riffs. One of the main problems is when his voice becomes the main feature. If there aren’t a ton of awesome, fast riffs blazing alongside, it tends to take away a lot from the song and creates some forgettable moments. I do love it when he unleashes that FLOTSAM AND JETSAM wail; those are definitely awesome.
Overall, City Of Gold is a great, great record from a band that’s still fairly young. Though this is an album that might be a grower for those expecting a full-on thrashing assault, after a few spins, the negatives become less important and it really could be one of the stronger thrash metal records you’ll hear all year. The guitar duo of Segger and Brown really has a lot of potential to do some incredible things in the future and are certainly worth keeping an eye on as they could easily become the next incarnation of Mustaine & Friedman.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Underground”, “City Of Gold”, “Start Again”, “Second Attack”
WRITTEN BY JOHNNY RINGÖ