Striker - Eyes in the night 4.5/5
1. Full speed or no speed
2. Eyes in the night
3. We don't play by the rules
4. Never ending nights
5. The white knight
6. The voice of rock
7. Ice cold
9. Believer in me
10. Hang on
Okay, so by now we all know that the Great Traditional Metal Revival is in full swing, with young, up'n'coming bands all over the globe paying homage to the early/mid-80s traditional metal sound popularized by the likes of Maiden and Priest, but also featuring lots of nods to 'Thundersteel'-era Riot, early Vicious Rumors, and 'See you in hell'-era Grim Reaper along the way, only with everything played at maximum velocity. The list of accomplished newer acts in this vein runs long (White Wizzard, RAM, Enforcer, In Solitude, Cauldron, Split Heaven, Hibria, Armour, Steelwing, Skull Fist, Holy Grail, and so on). Of the many practitioners in this style, however, I'm not sure that any of them can equal the majesty and might of Alberta, Canada's Striker. In the scant 3 years of their existence, Striker have churned out a scorching 5-track EP called 'Road warrior' and now an even better full-length debut 'Eyes of the night', both available on Germany's Iron Kodex Records, who sadly appear to have no distribution to speak of in the United States. This one's worth the effort to hunt down, folks.
I don't have any scruples about confessing that I'm a total sucker for this style of heavy metal. I love the relentless speed, the soaring vocals, the pounding double-bass attack, the slicing'n'dicing galloping riffs, those massive twin guitar harmonies, the lack of pompous keyboardy crap, the pure unadulterated metal attitude, and just the total reckless abandon and youthful exuberance of it all. So what elevates Striker above the rank and file? As usual, it's the songs, stupid. 'Eyes in the night' is a concise, no-filler, 10-song, 43-minute affair characterized by breathless pacing, high intensity, and uniformly superb songcraft. Even the weakest songs on 'Eyes of the night' (I dunno, maybe "Ice cold"?) would be the best tunes on most new classic metal bands' CDs. To be sure, Striker stick pretty close to their winning formula (fast riffs, dueling guitars, screaming vocals, compelling melodies and singalong choruses), but there's just enough diversity from song to song to keep things interesting throughout. Predictably, the fastest songs are my favorites, with supersonic opener "Full speed or no speed" accurately summarizing the band's credo, track 5, "The white knight" annihilating everything in its path, and track 8, "Terrorizer" being a galloping ripper with a chorus that hits the bull's eye every time. But there's nothing remotely skipworthy or mediocre on display here.
The guitar tandem of Ian Sandercock and Chris Segger deserve particular praise for their enormous stockpile of stellar riffs, sparkling harmonies, and high-speed fretboard workouts. I do wish they'd go easy on the Zakk Wylde-type pinch harmonics in a couple of places, but that's really just a matter of personal preference. And while we're handing out accolades for individual performances, let's dig out a gold medal (in metal) for vocalist Dan Cleary, who just may be the best new singer to hit the traditional metal scene in years. In the liner notes, he says that Vicious Rumors' late, great Carl Albert is his strongest vocal influence, and I can hear that, but I would also say his voice shares much in common with Henning Basse (Metalium), Hibria's Iuri Sanson, Rob Rock, and even a young Dan Beehler (Exciter). Cleary knows when to wail, and when to let it rip with his main singing voice, and executes both brilliantly. And he also wears multiple hats in Striker, as Cleary garners the bulk of the writing credits, as well as being listed as producer and engineer of 'Eyes in the night'.
Yet another factor that Striker have working in their favor is their sense of humor. For example, their EP had a song called "The keg that crushed New York", which was basically about metalheads drinking beer and breaking stuff in the Big Apple. And when Striker's eagerly anticipated spring 2010 European Tour (which was to include an appearance at the prestigious Keep It True Festival) was canceled by the Iceland volcano fiasco, the band did not twiddle their thumbs or cry in their beer. Instead they wrote a song called, appropriately enough, "F**k volcanoes", which is actually a pretty killer tune that can be heard on their Myspace page. Here's hoping they include it in the next Striker CD. Who needs high-priced therapists when you can release your aggression by writing a song flipping the bird at Mother Nature's wrath?
The upshot is very simple: 'Eyes in the night' just may be the best CD released in this style since Hibria's earth-shaking 'Defying the rules' opus in 2004. If you are a fan of any of the bands mentioned in this review, or of high-quality 80s-style speed (not thrash) metal in general, then you owe it to yourself to check out Striker. Although European import prices for Iron Kodex releases are steep, both 'Eyes in the night' and 'Road warrior' are available for a reasonable price from the band in Canada through their official Myspace page. Don't miss 'em.
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