I’ll fully admit that I have a soft spot for fun in my metal. After all, a man can only listen to Ulcerate growl about entropy, Triptykon purging Tom G.’s demons, and Kvarforth whining about how long it took him to clean out his bathtub after his fateful promo video (I don’t speak Swedish, so this is conjecture) so much, and even though I greatly enjoy all of those artists and listen to their great work regularly, sometimes a change of pace is needed. Enter Alberta’s Striker, and their excellent third album City of Gold.
While City of Gold is definitely fun metal, that means nothing if isn’t filled to the brim with well-written music. As it was both on my Top Ten list and good enough to get this little highlight, it should be obvious that Striker wrote a great batch of songs. They play modernized classic metal like Enforcer and Wolf, albeit with a heavier pizza thrash (Anthrax, Municipal Waste) influence than those two bands.
Dan Cleary’s vocals are one place where the Anthrax influence really shows, as he sounds quite a bit like Joey Belladonna, albeit with a more impressive range. The classic metal influence manifests itself wonderfully in the flashy yet substantial guitar solos, and while they may not be as innovative or technically impressive as Pyrrhon or Gorguts‘ insanity, they bring back that feeling of “Hell yeah, guitar solo!” that the classic metal bands had a knack for, with the best examples being “Bad Decisions” and the title track.
All of the songs here are great, but some are greater than others. “Bad Decisions” is the most obnoxiously 80’s metal thing I’ve heard all year, and I love every second of it. It’s definitely not for the lactose intolerant, but it’s a ton of fun and catchy as all get-out. “Crossroads” captures that life-affirming spirit that this sort of metal is so good at producing with a chorus that’s so cheesy and awesome that I can’t help but love it. Album highlight “Underground” is City of Gold‘s best merging of pizza thrash and classic metal: it’s catchy, concise, and one of the best album openers I’ve heard all year. “Underground” is definitely my favourite song on City of Gold, but not by a huge margin; the entire album maintains a high level of quality and memorability for its entire duration.
While it’s nice to be brutal and nihilistic sometimes, I think I speak for many metalheads when I say that we got into this genre because it’s a ton of fun and ultimately makes us happy. To wit: when most of us go to see something like Watain live, we’re not there to be a part of some serious “Satanic ritual;” we’re there to bang our heads and revel in how awesome life can be, if only for a scant few hours. Striker fully embrace this idea, and wrote an album of great songs celebrating it. And for that, they deserve your attention.
Tracks to Check: “Underground,” “City of Gold,” “Bad Decisions” and “Crossroads”