There’s not much that I can say or write about Canada’s STRIKER that hasn’t already been said or written. Year after year, album after album, the accolades and praise come in spades, and with good reason. I started to get onboard with 2014’s City of Gold, jumped in fully with Stand In the Fire (still my favorite), and last year’s self-titled record only cemented my love for the boys. So it was with great anticipation that I pressed PLAY on new one Play to Win (October 26, Record Breaking Records). Know what? I was not even remotely disappointed, and this one will certainly challenge the 2016 disc!! Vocalist Dan Cleary reaches that rarified air that few if any of his peers can breathe in, while guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Seggar swing for the fences like it’s a Heavy Metal Home Run Derby.
Right away the thunderous riffs and furious solos grab you by the short hairs on opener “Heart of Lies.” Some seriously killer Traditional Metal with a dash of Thrash (like that?) thrown in there for good measure is where this one’s listed on the menu. Next up is “Position of Power” and quite frankly this is one that has such an 80’s throwback vibe to it I was in heaven. This band never fails to make me feel like I’m in my old room back when I was 15, 16, or 17, albums scattered across the bed as I’m picking the next song for one of my legendary metal mix tapes. Believe me this one would have been on several back then. Just one of the many reasons I love STRIKER.
“Head First” changes the dynamic up while still managing to rock balls. Randy Black pounding the skins (yis, THE Randy Black, helping out) sets the tone with his sticks while bassist William Wallace lays down the thick bottom end pounding his strings in time with Black’s kick drums. Right away I knew “On the Run” would be a favorite. The silky smooth guitar on the verses coupled with that “Runnin’ through the night” call and response on the chorus is the kind of thing I just can’t get enough of. Goddammit, I need to see these guys live just once, and if I do I truly hope they play this number for me. I got a very JUDAS PRIEST circa 1982 vibe from “The Front” so naturally it made me wet. Plus the lyrics are true as all get out.
Now let’s talk about that title track “Play to Win” shall we? This is a dyed-in-the-wool anthem made for sing-alongs and shots of whatever your choice of liquor is, and another big moment on this disc, especially for Cleary. I dare any of you to listen and NOT have it in your head the rest of the day. And if you disagree I will call you a fucking liar to your face. And if we’re not in the same area I can FaceTime you to do so. Things simmer down for a bit with “Standing Alone,” and while not a full-on power ballad it definitely dips its toe in those waters, which is not even remotely a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s wonderful. This is just an extremely well-written and performed song, and one of the album’s best.
Like a brick through your windshield, here comes “Summoner” with its potent mix of the heavy and melodic, then “Heavy Is the Heart” shows up to dress your wounds from the cuts. This one’s got a great message about working hard and not stopping till you get what you want; fuck anyone who gets in your way or tries to stop you. Closing the disc is “Hands of Time,” a track I didn’t know what to make of at first. But on the very next spin it really spoke to me, in both music and lyrics. I think a lot of you will relate to this one when they hear it, because I sure do. All told STRIKER have done it again. They hath given unto thee one monster of a metal album that simply begs to be put on REPEAT. Get your copy of Play to Win, POSTHASTE!!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “On the Run”, “Play to Win”, “Standing Alone”, “Position of Power”, Heavy Is the Heart”