Reviewed: November, 2018
Released: 2018, Record Breaking Records
Six albums in six years. That is something almost unheard of, even in the modern era of production that considerably lessens the time needed to record and mix albums. Striker always seems to provide a new album right around when I start to wonder, “Hey, I wonder what Striker is up to?”. PLAY TO WIN is the band’s 6th LP and to my ears, one of their best. Rest assured, the band has not altered their sound. This is still classic metal, mixed with modern elements that continues to leave all pretenders in a cloud of choking dust.
For those seeking some elements that differ from past efforts, there is a more pronounced 80s feel on PLAY TO WIN. Choruses also seem to be catchier and more connecting. A great example would be the addictive “Head First”, with its stuttering rhythm and memorable chorus, a song that could have been a cornerstone of 1984. Guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Segger employ pinch harmonics, chugging riffs and powerful solos. They have made great leaps since the early albums, not that they were ever bad. “Position of Power”, one of the best tracks on the album, is a worthy example of this tandem at their best. The bass and drums are locked in to form a solid foundation that gives the album just enough bottom end to balance the bright guitars.
Not everything is a homerun. “Standing Alone” intro has the smell of mild filler, but is redeemed by the chorus. For all of vocalist’s Dan Cleary’s many strengths, including impressive range and passion, he seems hell-bent on a delivery rooted in the same volume and range for practically every verse and chorus. Many songs practically beg for some color and shade, softer vocals here a bit more dynamics there. “Heavy Is The Heart” opens with Cleary showing some of this versatility as he does offer a softer. lower register. Admittedly, with metal this good, it is minor complaint, but one that knocks things down a half notch for me.
The proof is in the consistency though, and Striker continues to deliver the goods on each album. Coming in at a compact ten tunes and runtime of 41 minutes, there are few wasted notes. Few are doing this style of metal better (maybe Skullfist) and it is great to see them having the opportunity to tour with other excellent bands. PLAY TO WIN is definitely one of the better albums I have heard in 2018 and a recommended listen for fans of Skullfist, Air Raid, or Wolf.
1. Heart of Lies
2. Position of Power
3. Head First
4. On The Run
5. The Front
6. Play To Win
7. Standing Alone
9. Heavy Is The Heart
10. Hands of Time
Dan Cleary – Lead Vocals
Tim Brown- Lead / Rhythm Guitar
Chris Segger – Lead / Rhythm Guitar
William Wallace – Bass
Adam Brown – Drums