Album Review – Striker / Play To Win (2018)

Blending classic Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Power Metal and 80’s Hair Metal, one of the biggest exponents of contemporary Canadian metal music strikes once again with a brand new album, always playing to win.

Champions in blending classic Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Power Metal and 80’s Hair Metal, Canadian shredders Striker are back with another good album titled Play To Win, the sixth in their undisputed career and a follow-up to their two previous award nominated winning albums, their 2017 breathtaking self-titled opus Striker (nominated for a JUNO award, winner of an Edmonton Music Award and Western Canadian Award) and the WCMA + EMA award winning album Stand In The Fire, released in 2016. That means this Edmonton-based squad comprised of frontman Dan Cleary, guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Segger, bassist William Wallace and drummer Adam Brown has been on an absolute roll in the past few years, not only delivering first-class metal for our total delight, but also spreading their music live across Europe and North America with bands like Sonata Arctica, Dark Tranquility and Warbringer, along with festival appearances at 70,000 Tons of Metal and Bang Your Head Festival, proving why they’re already considered one of the biggest exponents in contemporary Canadian Heavy Metal.

Mixed and Mastered by Hendrik Udd at Hendrik Udd Recording Studios, and featuring not only an old school artwork by Elvis Amaral (HipnoFX Audiovisual), but also the fantastic Randy Black (Annihilator, Primal Fear, Destruction) as a session drummer, who by the way also recorded the album Stand in the Fire with the band, Play To Win will please all fans of traditional metal and rock, keeping the name of Striker relevant and strong in the scene. “Play to Win: if you want to win you have to play the game. Find the rules and break them. This is our 6th album and 3rd independent release. If we followed the rules and listened to the industry people we’d have gone absolutely nowhere. Play To Win is about listening to yourself, following your own path, and playing that 5th ace hidden in your sleeve. This album is designed to light a fire under your ass and get you moving, and we made sure to get the most modern, ear melting sounds possible. It’s all about where metal is going, not where it has been, and this is our soundtrack to success,” commented Tim about the album.

And Tim and Chris begin slashing and shredding their strings from the very first second in the opening tune Heart of Lies, where the band delivers their usual ass-kicking fusion of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, with Dan declaiming the song’s chorus beautifully (“Another victim to a heart of lies / Can’t see the truth behind those venom eyes / Another victim to a heart of lies / On deaf ears will fall the eagle’s cry”). Then leaning towards pure 80’s Hard Rock and Glam Metal, in special the crisp and passionate vocal lines by Dan, we have Position of Power, with William and Randy maintaining a solid and rumbling background throughout the entire song; followed by Head First, a good song that gets a bit too commercial at times, but that obviously brings Striker’s old school punch, sounding very rhythmic, groovy and melodic. In addition, Tim and Chris are once again on fire with their riffs and solos, making it a highly recommended addition to your road trip playlist.

Blending the music by Iron Maiden with Motley Crüe, Stratovarius and Van Halen, which in the end resulted in sheer awesomeness, Striker offer us the thrilling On The Run, showcasing a brilliant vocal performance by Dan while William keeps extracting that metallic sound we all love form his bass, whereas The Front is another classic song by Striker, also feeling as it was taken from an 80’s Hair Metal album. It’s a bit too smooth compared to the sonic massacre from their previous albums, but the crisp sound of the guitars and the precise beats by Randy make it very enjoyable and fun. The title-track Play To Win, a mid-tempo feast of rockin’ sounds, sounds even more inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock than ever, with the guitar riffs and solos by both Tim and Chris getting sharper and groovier, and albeit its lyrics are extremely cheesy, the message the band wanted to send is there (and that’s what really matters in the end). Then despite the excellent vocals by Dan, its tuneful guitar solos and a pleasant vibe, the power ballad Standing Alone never really takes off, getting way too mellow compared to what Striker are capable of doing.

Back to a heavier and more epic sonority, those talented Canadian metallers fire an electrified Heavy Metal and Hard Rock tune entitled Summoner, inspired by many classics by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and other behemoths from the NWOBHM, also presenting the best guitar work of the entire album in my opinion. In Heavy Is The Heart the band shows how to do a proper power ballad, bringing passion to the musicality without forgetting the always needed dosages of electricity and rage, again presenting an inspired Dan leading his bandmates from start to finish. However, the closing tune Hands Of Time is another generic song that sounds and feels extremely soft if you’re a longtime fan of Striker, lacking the same potency and kick from their already classic tunes. Put differently, it’s far from being a bad song, but as we all got used to a lot heavier riffs and faster beats by Striker it’s hard to truly relish it.

As a huge fan of their self-titled album released last year, which I personally considered one of the best metal albums of 2017, I felt slightly disappointed with the final result in Play To Win. Nothing to worry about, though, as I guess I’m being too harsh on the guys from Striker, almost “demanding” that they had released another Heavy Metal masterpiece instead of actually enjoying their new album. There’s still a lot of top-of-the-line music to savor in Play To Win, available from their official website as a digital download or as a special edition CD, as well as from iTunes and Amazon, and you can also follow the band on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel and listen to more of their music on Spotify (if you don’t do all that already). Striker are a band that keeps winning no matter what with each and every release (despite singing in their previous album that they were “born to lose”), and the flame of Canadian metal will remain alive and vibrant while we have those skillful metalheads from Edmonton among us, always playing to win.

Best moments of the album: Heart of Lies, On The Run and Summoner.

Worst moments of the album: Standing Alone and Hands Of Time.

Released in 2018 Record Breaking Records

Track listing
1. Heart of Lies 4:04
2. Position of Power 3:41
3. Head First 4:02
4. On The Run 3:52
5. The Front 4:02
6. Play To Win 3:49
7. Standing Alone 4:56
8. Summoner 4:04
9. Heavy Is The Heart 4:54
10. Hands Of Time 3:47

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
Chris Segger – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

Guest musician
Randy Black – drums (session)
Lindsay Robinson, John Kennedy and Nathan Schadeck – gang vocals

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Album Review – Striker / Striker (2017)

Canadian Heavy Metal has never been more vibrant and rapturous than today, thanks to the brand new rip-roaring album by one of the biggest names in heavy music hailing from the Great White North.

In case you’ve never heard of Canadian Heavy/Power Metal act Striker, there couldn’t be a better moment to get to know such distinct band and their classic mix of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock and 80’s Hair Metal. This Edmonton-based quartet, which was formed in 2007 and has toured across dozens of countries as headliners as well as support for major metal acts in their rising career, are unleashing their fifth studio album, self-titled Striker, a kick-ass follow-up to their two previous albums Stand In The Fire (2016) and City of Gold (2014), perfect for fans of the unparalleled music by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motley Crüe, as well as Swedish metallers Enforcer and Steelwing. After listening to this flammable metal album, I’m sure Striker will feature among your favorite bands of the past decade.

Featuring a neat, straightforward artwork by Rizky Putranto (Rish XXV), Striker is an ode to traditional metal, with no new elements or any type of shenanigans added to it, just plain good old heavy music. “This is our no bullshit album. We cut out everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary and kept everything short and to the point. We pray at the altar of heavy metal everyday, and there are some musical ideas that persist through time and some that don’t. We focused in on what keeps listeners coming back and got rid of everything else. You can’t climb Mount Everest dragging any useless shit with you; if you want to make it to the top, only bring with you what is absolutely necessary: Lethal Amounts of Shred”, said the band about their new album, and based on these words you can get a very good sense of what you’ll find in Striker.

Guitarist Tim Brown doesn’t waste time and starts firing electrifying Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll riffs and solos from the very first second in Former Glory, a song about enjoying life and being the best person you can, where frontman Dan Cleary keeps up with the greatest vocalists in Hard Rock delivering sheer awesomeness through his melodious voice. Sounding like a hard rockin’ version of Anthrax, in special due to its cutting riffs and demented vocals, Pass Me By presents a kick-ass fusion of Heavy Metal with old school Thrash Metal, with drummer Adam Brown pounding his drums mercilessly, therefore adding more stamina and heaviness to the overall musicality. And the first single of the album, Born To Lose, is in my humble opinion a newborn Hard Rock hymn, bringing all elements that make heavy music so thrilling, such as the metallic guitar lines by Tim, which  together with the rumbling bass by William Wallace (not the Scottish warrior) take the song’s impact to a whole new level.  Add to that already fantastic formula the song’s catchy chorus and a high dosage of adrenaline, and there you have not only the best song of the album, but also one of Striker’s most sensational creations to date.

Cheating Death is a short and atmospheric bridge to the incendiary Shadows In The Light, a dancing tune that lives up to the legacy of old school Hard Rock ignited by the potent bass punches by William, also offering the listener beautiful guitar solos and thrilling beats; followed by Rock The Night, another song by Striker that was born to be a classic. Dan is fantastic on vocals, supported by the song’s powerful backing vocals and the precise instrumental blasted by the rest of the band from start to finish, not to mention its extremely cheesy but entertaining lyrics (“You always seem to be on my mind / I can’t let you go / I can’t let you stay / You always seem to be a mystery to me / I can’t let you go / I can’t let you stay / The more that I think about you / The more that I know what to do / There’s something out there and it’s calling me / To rock the night / You’ve gotta bring them to their knees / There’s something out there and it’s calling me / To rock the night / Yeah you’ve got to make them see / What you can be”).

Over The Top, a fast-paced, potent Power Metal extravaganza where Tim and William are absolutely on fire with their stringed axes, brings forward elements of the traditional Heavy Metal played by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden combined with the Melodic Metal by Stratovarius, and the result is obviously beyond awesome. The same can be said about the second to last track of the album, titled Freedom’s Call, which will pump you up once again with its perfect balance of the heaviness of Power Metal with the harmony of Hard Rock. Needless to say, Dan doesn’t stop impressing with his puissant voice, never getting tired nor sounding uninspired. And the unstoppable Striker fire more of their kick-ass metal music for our total delight in the superb Curse of The Dead, where Adam takes the lead with his frantic beats whereas Tim keeps delivering his amazing riffs. Moreover, guest guitarists Simon Fallon and Adam Grimmelt only make things even more fantastic with their spot-on solos, turning the song into another memorable moment of the album.

In a nutshell, Striker not only have released a mighty Heavy Metal album, but they have also made us at The Headbanging Moose really proud of being Canadian. You can get in touch with Striker and their fiery metal music through their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud, and in order to put your metallic hands on this first-class album all you need to do is go to the Napalm Records’ webshop to grab the CD or the LP version of it, as well as on CD Baby, on iTunes and on Amazon. If you manage to get the special edition of the album, you’ll also be treated to Striker’s cover version for Ozzy Osbourne’s Desire, from his 1991 classic No More Tears, one of the four songs co-written by the most beloved badass in the word, Lemmy Kilmister (R.I.P.), showing how much the band loves old school heavy music. We’re all born to lose, but if we work hard and have the new rip-roaring album by one of the biggest names in heavy music from the Great White North as the soundtrack to our endeavors, we’ll surely win in life and rock the night.

Best moments of the album: Former Glory, Born To Lose, Rock The Night and Curse of The Dead.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Record Breaking Records

Track listing
1. Former Glory 3:59
2. Pass Me By 3:33
3. Born To Lose 3:58
4. Cheating Death 0:53
5. Shadows In The Light 3:29
6. Rock The Night 4:30
7. Over The Top 4:38
8. Freedom’s Call 4:30
9. Curse of The Dead 3:49

Special Edition bonus track
10. Desire (Ozzy Osbourne cover) 5:27

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

Guest musicians
Simon Fallon – guitar solo on “Curse of the Dead”
Adam Grimmelt – outro solos on ““Curse of the Dead”
John Kennedy, Dave Arnold, Chris Segger, Lindsay Robinson, Clayton Parent and Tyler Dory – gang vocals