Striker Take Long Shots And Still Score
If a thrashy opening track like 'Phoenix Lights' can be said to lull one at all, it might be into a false sense of security. Modern speed metal drums? Check. Oodles of loud, fast guitars playing very trad harmonies? Present and correct. This is Striker after all. We know what to expect, don't we?
Don't be too sure. Building on their impressive vocal harmonies, an AOR element creeps into this album, notably on 'Too Late', where the guitars take on a Scorpions tinge and Dan Cleary veers into Mike Reno territory.
Closer 'One Life' builds up slowly from acoustic beginnings, the increase in volume and tempo telling the story of escalating conflict in a way one would normally associate with progressive rock.
'Out for Blood' even has saxophone, which I never thought I'd hear on a trad metal album. Tim Brown attributes this to the song being inspired by classic cop dramas, the soundtracks to which usually feature sax, and surprisingly it works.
Fear not, though: on 'Stand in the Fire', Striker emphatically do not sound like they're about to wimp out the way The Treatment did. The loud and fast guitars are still omnipresent (even 'One Life' goes full throttle by the end) and still combining NWOBHM, thrash and power metal in a way that makes it hard to pin down who had the greatest impact on Striker's sound.
There are still party anthems like 'United' and 'Better Times' where you can picture exactly when Cleary's going to point the mic at the crowd when they play them live. There's even an instrumental called 'Escape from Shred City', from which no guitar nut would want to escape.
For too many years, the music press found it all too easy to sneer at new bands with a classic metal sound that they were 'stuck in the past' or that they were 'narrow'. This was a double standard, because bands that blatantly wanted to be Skynyrd, for instance, never got tarred with that brush. Nonetheless, it is true that genres need to be refreshed regularly with new influences.
By taking the music we know and love to unexpected places, Striker offer both an interesting listen and a new hope of breaking the now-rebuilt media 'dam' first identified by Biff Byford. Old sounds with new twists? I'll drink to that.