Striker: ‘Play To Win’

Released on October 26, 2018 (Record Breaking Records)

Striker continue to evolve into one of the best “heavier” melodic bands of the last decade. I say “melodic” with a grain of salt as one listen to the opening guitar riffs on the opener “Heart Of Lies” or one look at Striker’s logo, and you’ll think that you’re about to listen to a thrash metal or rather heavy album. And to be fair, Striker were essentially a thrash metal band when they started out loving the longer extended tracks with lots of nuances and guitar shredding. With their previous self-titled album, Striker decided to shorten their songs and concentrate on more melodies. I likened their sound at that time to a mixture of Anthrax meets Eclipse. This time, Striker seem to be playing more power metal band in the Helloween vain but with an exceptional amount of melodies for such a heavy band.

I was shocked by how Striker were able to incorporate so many killer melodies in their sound on their last self-titled album, and they have actually outdone themselves on their latest record Play To Win. The melodies are even better than on their self-titled album released back in 2017. Cleary, who was no slouch as a lead vocalist to begin with, seems to have raised his singing to another level and should now be considered one of the best heavy metal vocalists out there. The vocal and guitar harmonies on Play To Win are sometimes out of this world. Yeah, I am really digging Play To Win! Although there are tons of killer melodies, Striker still have their trademark heavier guitar playing but its more in the Helloween style than thrash metal / Anthrax mode. I imagine for old school Striker fans, Play To Win may seem disappointing because there is so much emphasis placed on melodies rather than the all out guitar shredding that certainly guitarist Tim Brown was previously all about. However, Brown and his guitar mate Chris Segger (who returned to the band after taking a hiatus to “get married” and get a “real job”) work together to come up with some excellent guitar work from the heavier guitar riffs such as on “Heart Of Lies” and “Summoner” to some killer guitar solos like on “Hands Of Fire” to some brilliant guitar harmonies like on “Play To Win.”

Funny enough, when I first heard the song “Head First” via the group’s video for the track (see below), I wasn’t that impressed with it. However, since listening to Play To Win as a whole, “Head First” has stood out as one of the best songs on the album. There are so many great surprises on Play To Win from the lovely ballad “Standing Alone” to the melodic masterpiece of “Hands Of Time” (where the guys could give the Backstreet Boys a run for their money with their vocal harmonies) to the killer melodies on “Head First” to the title track, which is sure to be a concert staple with its sing along parts. There are no weak tracks whatsoever on Play To Win and don’t be surprised to see this record on Sleaze Roxx‘s year end top albums of the year. Perhaps the one negative that I can come up with for Play To Win is that there is no stand out anthem on the album. Nevertheless, the quality songs are there to be heard.

I have to get back to Cleary a little bit because his singing on Play To Win is simply outstanding. Over the last few months, I have criticized the singing of quite a few lead vocalists in my album reviews. Deadline, Wildnite and Plastic Tears come to mind to varying degrees.  However, when I listen to Cleary‘s powerful singing, I feel justified in doing so. Cleary just sets the bar so high for others to follow. His singing is simply brilliant on Play To Win and frankly rivals some of the best melodic rock singers out there. This explains why Canadian rockers Turbo Vixen got Cleary to sing on their debut album after losing their lead vocalist. I’d want Cleary to handle the lead vocals as well on my band’s album if I had a band….

Striker are now at a very interesting point in their career. I imagine that they have a solid thrash metal base from their first few albums so can be paired up with a wide array of bands in a live setting. However, Striker now have a sound through their last two albums that could see them paired up on bills with more melodic hard rock bands. It seems that Striker have found the perfect balance between power metal and melodic rock on Play To Win. I can’t wait to see what they come up with on their next studio album but for now, I am simply going to enjoy one of the best albums of the year.

Track List:
01. Heart Of Lies
02. Position Of Power
03. Head First
04. On The Run
05. The Front
06. Play To Win
07. Standing Alone
08. Summoner
09. Heavy Is The Heart
10. Hands Of Time

Band Members:
Daniel Cleary – vocals
Tim Brown – guitar
Chris Segger – guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

Additional Musicians:
Lindsay Robinson – gang vocals
John Kennedy – gang vocals
Nathan Schadeck – gang vocals
Randy Black – drums

Guitar, bass and vocals recorded by Dan Cleary
Drums recorded by Randy Black
Mixed and mastered by Henrik Udo

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, December 2018

Striker‘s “Head First” video:

Striker – Head First (Official Video)

See Striker Live this summer on the “Summer of Shred”. More dates to be announced!W/ Death Angel:May 14 – Oklahoma City OK – 89th St May 15 – Lubbock TX – Ja…

Striker‘s “Heart Of Lies” lyric video:

Striker – Heart Of Lies (Official Lyric Video)

See Striker Live this summer on the “Summer of Shred”. More dates to be announced!W/ Death Angel:May 14 – Oklahoma City OK – 89th St May 15 – Lubbock TX – Ja…