Striker are the glorious spirit of 80s speed/ thrash reborn, but they’re also something more; certainly more than some kind of ridiculous semi-parody, these Canadian stalwarts adopt these influences and run with them and this, their third full-length, is their heaviest and most successful yet.
So: enter Striker. If you’ve got a hunger for even vaguely 80’s metal, you will like Striker. This is an unfairly blanket comment to make on the band and we’ll be addressing their personal merits shortly, but if you are this way inclined then you will enjoy this particular brand of 80s speed metal. If you played Brutal Legend and immediately downloaded Running Wild’s discography then this is the band for you, my friend!
So: City of Gold does a lot of things right. Opener Underground hits straight off with some fairly ridiculous melody, a theme which continues and is built upon throughout. I really like that they’ve picked a modern production rather than trying to emulate the 80s style. This gives it a decent weight and ensures that it doesn’t feel like a re-hash of ideas. I really like that they’ve gone all-out on vocal harmonies. If anyone was nostalgic for 80s vocals without anyone in particular in mind this should hit the spot pretty damn hard. It is this quality throughout the album which gives Striker a particularly satisfying quality; they’re not just harmonising on the bridge or chorus parts but over almost any passage that can hold a harmony. At the risk of sounding like a syrupy mess, the vocals are actually very strong and though the lyrics are thematically very similar – respect to the underground, overcoming issues – they’re certainly not trite or cliché-riddled.
The lyrics are positive, Crossroads in particular concentrating on self-discovery; here, lyrics often focus on a source of strength, either from their own identity (Underground and the refrain of All For One). Where the vocals are often doubled-up, they’re not plastered on top of the mix; the dual vocal lines have a very distinct power and are actually used very tastefully. In fact, the album is disarmingly mature in places; certainly not the self-indulgent 80s fetish display that it threatens to be. The vocals and guitar work come together very nicely and when the whole thing is in force it actually sounds rather heavy indeed. There’s an ego at work but it’s a group construction; the guitars know not to blather on aimlessly and the rhythm section perform their duties with gusto, though they’re never really drawn to the forefront.
If it seems like I’m praising the fact that Striker haven’t fucked up writing an album then I’m not, though I might be holding a little back because they’re very happy to write an obviously 80s album without re-working the formula too much. The acid test is thus; were this released in the 80s, would it be considered forward-thinking or just another common-or-garden speed/ thrash album? The aforementioned extreme mindset shines through as the defining point of the album; clearly this has been tempered by 30+ years of development since their obvious 80s influences. Striker are doing for this particular brand of 80s metal what Municipal Waste are doing for crossover thrash; re-visiting themes and clichés common to a snapshot of speed metal and re-invigorating it.
If you’re spending your evenings bickering about genres on the Metal Archives forums you might not dig this particularly. If you’re of that mindset, you may consider that this a triumph to not sound like they’re re-hashing old ideas.
This album may not sound out-of-place as a backing track to Power Rangers but it’s got a surprising power and it’s very charming. It defies the odds and not only delivers conviction, but deserves to be considered a respectable entry into the 80s metal canon – albeit a few decades too late. A win for Striker.