Album: Stand in the Fire
Release Date: February 5, 2015 Worldwide
It’s not often that I am unexpectedly and pleasantly surprised when discovering bands that are new to me – however, every once in a blue moon an album is released that surpasses expectations, kicks some serious ass, and sets a benchmark for others to follow.
Formed in 2008, Striker are a very impressive four piece based in Edmonton that are placing Alberta, Canada squarely on the global metal map along with Calgary’s Kobra and the Lotus. Their sound is highly reminiscent of mid-eighties metal and conveys many of the trademarks evident in both traditional and hair metal bands of that era. Dan Cleary’s stellar vocal work is reminiscent of Joacim Cans of Hammerfall and he soars effortlessly over Tim Brown’s equally stellar guitar work. Adam Brown and William Wallace lock down an extremely tight rhythm section to create a truly astute line up. In terms of contemporary comparisons, they seem to flawlessly blend the aggressive riffing of Primal Fear with the finesse and melodic sensibilities of Firewind. Throw in some very subtle hints of early Ratt with a heavy dose of NWOBHM and the end result is Striker.
Album opener Phoenix Lights, based on the famous UFO sightings in March of 1997 in Arizona, is a solid mid-tempo rocker that flows nicely with some aggressive riffs and very melodic leads. This track really sets the stage for the rest of the album as Striker takes you on a journey through some of the most concisely executed and memorable traditional/power metal that I have heard in a long time.
Out For Blood picks up the pace nicely with an amazing chorus and segues into a beautifully crafted lead section that will stick in your head for the next few weeks. I was pleasantly surprised to hear a saxophone dovetail perfectly with Tim’s bright leads for the solo section. This is an aggressive, adventurous track that highlights Striker’s ingenuity and creativity.
Too Late is an impressive piece of retrospect and nostalgia with a modern twist. They tip their hat to early Def Leppard and even Out of the Cellar era Ratt with their impressive melodic sensibilities. This track will stick with you for days and stands as a strong testament to their proclivity for finely crafted melodic metal.
The title track, Stand in the Fire, is the heaviest and most aggressive track on the album. This song is essentially a resounding “fuck you” to adversity and a call to stand up for yourself and your beliefs. I’ve always loved the self-empowering lyrics of bands like Manowar and Lost Horizon that espoused us to live life on our own terms and be the best that we can be for ourselves.
The Iron Never Lies is a monster in terms of pace and melody with another uplifting message for us to find the strength within ourselves to forge our own path and be the best at our own chosen endeavors. This song is aggressive when it needs to be, but then segues into a contemplative and melodic chorus. This is another track that will stick with you for days to come.
Escape from Shred City is a short but tasteful instrumental with memorable, melodic leads throughout. It’s always a pleasure to see contemporary bands within the traditional/power genres keep this tradition alive. Some of my favorite songs are instrumentals and Striker have created something that can stand with Megadeth’s Into The Lungs of Hell or Iron Maiden’s Transylvania.
Outlaw is perhaps the fastest track of the album with elements of Iron Maiden’s trademark galloping rhythm section along with some subtle thrash overtones.
Locked In continues where Outlaw left off and slows the pace in terms of speed but keeps the heaviness flowing nicely. Some very strong, Primal Fear-esque riffing flows into yet another melodically driven chorus. Have I mentioned that Striker can forge some kick ass melody?
United is a mid-paced, fist in the air anthem with an impressive sing along section that will go down very well in a live setting. Striker blends some of the trademarks of classic Judas Priest anthems along with the more rock oriented Iron Maiden tracks as well as overtones of Motley Crue and Ratt once again to create something both classic and contemporary.
Better Times is another fast paced track with the heaviest chorus on the album. Short but sweet and full of attitude with some killer backing vocals. This is another track that will go down very well live.
Album closer One Life is a mature, somber piece that is vaguely reminiscent of a more up tempo version of The Road Goes On Forever by Fates Warning. They save their most ambitious work for the last track as the atmospheric acoustics morph seamlessly into some very heavy riffing and some amazing lead work that leaves the listener looking to the future of a band that will surely break new creative ground.
If you like your metal traditional with power metal overtones and subtle hints of early to mid-eighties glam, then you will love Stand In The Fire. My hope for this band is that they continue to push themselves into new territory and really carve out their own signature sound. They have already made great strides in regard to re-invigorating the hallmark metal sounds of the 80s with their own contemporary perspective. Striker has definitely thrown down the glove in regard to contemporary traditional/power metal with conviction and they have a very bright future ahead of them.
Iconoclast’s Rating: 9/10