STRIKER — Play to Win (review)

STRIKER — Play to Win album cover Album · 2018 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
voila_la_scorie
Last year I picked up my first Striker album, their sophomore album "Armed to the Teeth". Thinking it was a great album, I went ahead and bought "City of Gold". That was a great album as well, so next I got "Stand in the Fire". This pattern continued until I had all six albums.

Striker began as a speed metal band with vocalist Daniel Cleary sounding a bit like Bruce Dickenson back on their "Road Warrior" EP of 2009. It's my opinion that from "Armed to the Teeth" onwards, Striker has reached a consistency of producing excellent album one after the other while showing interest in expanding their style. Previous albums included speed metal, thrashy-sounding, intense tracks, trad-metal, and more recently songs with strong, catchy melodies such as "Heart of a Lion" from their self-titled album of 2017.

Their latest release of original songs (there was a live in studio album released in 2020) is 2018's "Play to Win" and this album shows the band embracing much more strongly the melody-driven approach. Though the opening track "Heart of Lies" sounds like the Striker we've come to know and love, it soon becomes apparent that there will be no intense, speedy songs of angst or fighting to stay ahead. This album gives us more slower songs (but no true ballads), more clean guitar, some synthesizer even (!), and loads of ear-worm melodies. Think back to the latter half of the eighties with bands like Warrant, TNT, Waysted ("Save Your Prayers"), Lee Aaron ("Bodyrock"), and other bands that came out of the glam metal era but without the cock rock approach to song-writing.

Songs like "Head First", "On the Run", "The Front", the title track, "Standing Alone", "Heavy Is the Heart", and "Hands of Time" - heck, nearly the whole album - have these great melodic choruses that just stick into your head and you wake up in the morning with them playing. In fact, the only track to really deviate form this is the heavy and ominous-sounding "Summoner".

If you're a fan of the more intense, speedy and aggressive Striker of past albums, this one will be a shock. I read that the band made a conscious decision to branch out with their repertoire and record an album of more melodic songs. For someone who went through high school with albums like "Whitesnake", "Dirty Rotten Filthy Sticking Rich", "The Great Radio Controversy" by Tesla, "Perfect Timing" by McAuley Schenker Group, and other bands that probably fit more into the melodic hard rock or melodic glam metal scene than the trad-metal scene, this album delivers a whole new selection of great songs to rock out with and sing along to.

When recently making a playlist of my favourite Striker songs, this album along with "Armed to the Teeth" had the most tracks selected. However, in the last couple of days I'm finding I like practically every track on here. In fact, I'm thinking to order this CD for my best friend who always loved this kind of metal more than the extreme stuff.
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