STRIKER – In It To Win It
November 7, 2018, 11 days ago
“One of the big things that we always believe is that if you don't raise your hand, you'll never get picked.” Those are the words of Striker guitarist, Tim Brown, talking about the theme behind their new album Play To Win. Continuing to throw out their cards with reckless abandon, this is the third album in three years from the Canadian heavy metallers, as the band has worked at a tireless pace since going independent in 2016.
The title Play To Win encapsulates all about what Striker is about, going for the gold, aiming to be the best. “We want to be a band that's out there being successful. We want to be a band that can headline festivals and play stadiums and arenas in the future. So that's what we're aiming to do and that's kinda why we titled the album Play To Win is because we want to be winners.”
The heavy metal machine has been nonstop since forming in 2007, having released six full-length albums, beginning with 2010’s Eyes In The Night. The energetic and well-spoken guitarist entered the fold in 2013 and has also played with Shadowblade, Sixguns Over Tombstone, and Kobra And The Lotus. The metallers were growing weary of the label experience as Brown explains, “My experience with labels, it doesn't matter what size they are, it's almost always the same. And not just my personal experience, but every band that we've toured with or all the bands that we've met on the road that are on different levels, you know, I hear the same thing over and over where it's when the band is signed to a label, it's not what they thought it was gonna be. I'd be surprised if you could find a band these days that signed to a label and it was better than they expected or more than they were expecting or even at the very least what they were expecting.”
Striker’s last release with a full-fledged label was 2014’s City Of Gold with Napalm Records. Since then, they created their own label Record Breaking Records to issue their material. It’s given them the freedom to do what they want, which was “huge” for them, and allowed the act to cutout the middleman and deal with the fans directly. As for creative freedom, that was never really an issue, however receiving constructive criticism was rare.
“We have definitely had input from labels saying, ‘Oh, you know, you should take another kick at writing some songs. We don’t like these ones,’” reveals the axman. “And it's very frustrating when they don't offer constructive feedback. It's just like ‘three, five, and seven on your album. You have any other songs?’ It's like what don't you like about them?”
Whether it’s being to hold to put a thrashier song on an album as a means of providing “better” material, Brown believes it is more important to be true to yourself as an artist. “At the end of the day it’s art right? And art is supposed to be you expressing yourself and you know, why should you have someone else telling you how to express yourself? That's not how it works.”
And there definitely are some newer, expressive ways the band employed on Play To Win and two tracks will certainly divide listeners – the synth-backed ballad “Standing Alone” and the finale “Hands Of Time, which sounds a bit like a theme to an ‘80s Breakfast Club drama.
“We wanted to try some new things with this album”, explains Brown. “We write a ton of music so it sort of gets boring to work on the same types of songs over and over and over. We felt as though we kind of reached the limit of what we could do with sort of those sounds that we'd been relying on like, and it was like well, let's try some new stuff and see what happens. I mean, we're huge fans of all kinds of bands that have those kinds of songs. I mean, if you look at bands like Metallica or Scorpions, Skid Row, whatever, their biggest songs are always the ballads. Metallica, ‘Nothing Else Matters’, just a monster song, a huge song. You have to be dynamic in your writing. You have to have the soft, you have to have the hard and have the heavy with the light. And so it's all about balance.”
There was some slight hesitation to include the songs on the record due to the possibility of negative fan response, but the band remained steadfast in its vision with Brown concluding, “If you’re going to limit yourself based on what others think of you, then it’s not really your art anymore is it? It's someone else's art. And I think if you're limiting yourself and writing music that way, you're no longer an artist here. You're doing it for the wrong reasons.”
On the flip side of the coin, “Summoner” is the heaviest of the cuts found on Play To Win.
As the guitar monster explains, there was a bevy of inspirations that fueled the Striker cauldron.
“We’re stuck in a van for way too long (laughs), for thousands of hours and there's no better way to kill time by just putting on some tunes,” he says. We were on tour with Dark Tranquillity and for whatever reason on that tour we got super big into Toto. So there's a lot of those sort of influences on the album. But like I said, at the same time we're also listening to, you know, put on the Toto and then after the Toto is done put on some like super brutal death metal and just rock out to that. We wanted to have an album that sort of had a song from every kind of influence that we have, which is kind of hard to limit yourself, but try to make each song sort of unique.”
Having different types of songs was important for Striker and they weren’t afraid to take chances as Brown simply states, “We wanted some controversy.”
Going against the grain, believing in yourself, self-empowerment are all themes that define their lyrics, but especially on Play To Win.
Brown agrees, “Some good advice I heard for writing lyrics is write what you know and one thing that we know obviously is being independent. When we first went independent, everybody’s like, ‘no, that’s a terrible idea. You have to be on a label, don’t do it.’ Doing things yourself, the self-empowerment, these kind of themes are really important to us and they are how we operate there, how we live our life.”
The most pointed of the cuts is “Heavy Is The Heart”, which features the lyric “you don’t need to know the reason why I do the things I do.” That is a striking (no pun intended) line, but it’s not directed to anyone particularly. The band wanted the lyrics to stay general and ambiguous.
“We didn’t specifically write any songs specifically about any one particular experience person or anything, but we wanted it to be more universally appealing,” says Brown. “Yeah they do have some inspiration from certain events and things like that, but overall we didn’t want the songs to have narrow interpretations of what they could be.”
Striker plays music for the love it and that passion contributes to why they work at such a fast pace. They usually get cracking on new songs whenever they have time off. Brown enthuses, “When I was a young kid in high school, my favorite thing to do was come home from school and pick up the guitar and just play guitar until I went to bed. And the same can be said for the other guys in the band. Playing guitar has always been a source of fun and freedom, escape. Our thing is making music, playing, practicing, you know, we just love making music and since we're independent there's no one telling us, ‘oh no, you need to wait.’ If we wanted to release another album, we just do. And we're very fortunate that we're in a position that we can do that.”
For more on Striker visit Striker-Metal.com.
(Photos by: Dana Zuk)