Striker- City of Gold

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, November 10, 2014

Canadian heavy metal band Striker really surprised me with their sophomore effort Armed to the Teeth back in 2012, as while their influences were quite apparent and their style was familiar the hooks were there to keep me wanting to come back. Two years later the group is back with City of Gold, and they’ve significantly branched out in sound while continuing to throw one catchy riff after another at the listener. Heavy metal still serves as the base of everything Striker does, but they also incorporate power metal, thrash, and even a little glam/hard rock, making this album a much more diverse listen than its predecessor.

Armed to the Teeth was a fairly high energy release, but the instrumentalists seem to have truly taken it to the next level on City of Gold. There are plenty of high flying leads and guitar solos that will instantly grab your attention, and when the guitarists decide to head into full-on thrash and crank up the heavy they offer some of the best moments this album has to offer. Striker had some genuinely heavy moments before, but I don’t quite remember anything quite as intense as the leads on “Crossroads” and “Taken by Time” from any of their previous material. But it isn’t all about speed and bone crushing tonality, as the instrumentals branch out to incorporate melodic elements from power metal and glam/hard rock. I have a feeling that some listeners might not be as crazy about the slower songs where the rock side takes over, but I thought they were a nice change of pace and the band is able to put their own spin on it. The move into that melodic power metal style of riffing is subtle, and made Striker’s latest feel just a bit more distinguishable from the slew of other bands that go for this old-school heavy metal/hard rock sound. What’s most impressive about City of Gold is that its eleven songs have staying power and don’t get old, as I spent a solid five hours listening to this one today and never found my interest straying. There are likely to be some tracks that listeners find themselves going back to more than others, as not every single one is an instant classic, but cuts like the title track and “All For One” will likely have you hitting the repeat button.

Lead singer Dan Cleary is the only original member left in the band at this point, and his mixture of aggressive mid-range clean singing and soaring high ranges continues to be one of band’s biggest assets. I’ve always enjoyed the way that he utilizes the higher pitches, as rather than abusing falsettos to the point that they become grating Cleary heads towards these ranges to add flair to choruses and other passages during the songs. Over the years his performance has become more confident and only seemed to gain more energy and intensity, and he’s at the top of his game throughout City of Gold. There are some moments where backing vocals are added into the mix to fill out the choruses, but for the most part Cleary gets the spotlight and adapts his pitch to match what the instrumentals are doing, whether that’s the heavier thrash moments or softer hard rock ballads.

Striker had my attention before, but the steps forward they’ve taken on City of Gold prove they’re the real deal for anyone looking for killer heavy metal/thrash. Not only has the band gotten even heavier and more thrash oriented than before, but they also nail the glam/hard rock ballads without losing too much momentum in the process. There’s also a dash of power metal, and the way that all of these styles are intertwined makes this this album stand out. It doesn’t quite stand as my absolute favorite heavy metal record of 2014, but it’s not too far off and is one that has remained on regular rotation for the past few weeks. Well done gentleman, hopefully you get the exposure you deserve with this one.

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