STRIKER – “We’ll Make It A Harder Sax Solo Next Time”
February 4, 2024, 3 weeks ago
“We went with Josh mostly because we thought his productions for deathcore albums were so sick.” Fans of Striker would shudder to hear such words, but vocalist Dan Cleary wanted to try something different with the band’s seventh full-length album. Six years – and their longest layoff between records – since 2018’s Pay To Win, Edmonton’s fiery metallers are finally back with Ultrapower, out now via their own label Record Breaking Records.
Self-producing their own records since 2016’s Stand In The Fire, the Edmonton metallers decided to branch out and bring in Josh Schroeder – known for his work with Lorna Shore, Mental Cruelty, Tallah – to helm the production duties of Ultrapower.
Rest assured, the album is 100% Striker without an ounce of deathcore in sight. Cleary explains the rationale behind using Josh, “We thought, hey, why don’t we just try recording with him and see what happens, you know? We thought we would have a lot of crazy heavy stuff on the album. I mean, we had some crazy heavy ideas, but in the end, it all just sounds like Striker.”
And that is Ultrapower to a tee – it’s a buffet of Striker’s influences, but all cobbled up in a heavy, power metal and hard rock showcase with a sense of humor.
Case in point is the song and video for “Give It All” – their second track ever featuring the use of a saxophone. Randy Villars handled the sax duties and his credits include playing with Bootsy Collins and New Kids On The Block.
“For that video, we just wanted to do something funny and something ‘high class’ looking while also being very low class individuals ourselves, as you can see from the video,” laughs Cleary. “The saxophone player was Randy Villars, who, as you've mentioned, played on a New Kids On The Block album and also played with Bootsy Collins, which is sick. We gave him the track to record, and he nailed it. He even said it was really easy to play, so we thought that was pretty funny, guess we'll make it a harder sax solo next time.”
On the other side of the coin is Striker at their meanest and heaviest with Cleary’s personal favorite, “Blood Magic”.
“It’s just so different with its intensity and King Diamond like,” responds the singer. “It was just like, ‘how many solos can we cram into this thing?’”
For the “Sucks To Suck” video, Striker decided to hit the mat and feel the bumps and bruises of pro wrestling.
Cleary on the concept, “So, for the ‘Sucks To Suck’ video, we decided to go to a local wrestling event here in Edmonton. It’s Top Talent Wrestling, and we ended up talking with one of the guys there. Pete [Klassen, bassist] had the idea that maybe we could do a video where we go learn to wrestle. We did three days of training and then one day of shooting for the video. Once you see the video, all the bumps are real, and we took some serious hits. Everybody was hurting by the end of it, it was all for the glory of shredding.”
On the album title itself, there wasn’t a huge thought behind it; “Ultrapower” just sounds cool.
“To be honest, we just like the name,” answers Cleary on album title. “We thought it was funny and it's a really cliché kind of metal title, so that’s really the gist of it. We’ve always loved album titles that are sick like that, for example, British Steel or, you know, to keep going on the Judas Priest stuff, Painkiller. It's just sick when the title is badass like that.
‘80s movies are paid a tribute with “Thunderdome” and it’s not their first honoring Mad Max as the band’s debut 2009 EP was named Road Warrior.
“‘Thunderdome’ is definitely lyrically inspired by Mad Max,” says Cleary. “When we wrote that song, those were the only lyrics that seemed to fit. Sometimes that happens when you write something and come up with a demo idea, and it just happens to make it into the final product. The chorus had the idea ‘two men enter, one man leaves,’ and yeah, we just went for it. It’s got some AC/DC stuff; it’s got a little bit of Ozzy influence in it and stuff like that with the choir in the background. It's the spiritual successor to The Road Warrior from our first EP for sure.”
Striker has now been independent since 2014’s City Of Gold was released through Napalm Records.
When asked about the positives of being independent, Cleary laughs, “There’s not much benefits now.” He goes on to reflect, “We were disillusioned from our last deal which was with Napalm Records and it wasn’t necessarily their fault, we had larger expectations of what getting signed to a label meant. But it was like, ‘oh, you still need to hire a booking agent and touring manager,’ which are two different things we found out and we thought everything was going to be taken care of when we signed. There are also other bands on the roster, so you’re not receiving all the attention as well. The benefits is that we can do what we want and work on our own schedule.”
The guys were also one of the early contributors to this genre now dubbed the New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal. How does he feel about the genre and how does Striker fit into it?
“It’s great,” responds Cleary. “There’s so many great bands and I love seeing guys like Traveler and Riot City get out there and play shows. Because that’s really what’s it’s about – being able to go out and play shows to spread your name and music. It’s funny though because I feel like we’ve gravitated from that core sound. We don’t like that vintage sound, we like the modern production and having the music sound as best as it can. In the ‘80s bands like Def Leppard were trying to make the best sounding album, not sound classic. You know 1989 Metallica would have recorded with Nickleback drums if that was the best thing going at the time,” he laughs.
Striker has been around for 17 years now with seventh full-lengths under their belt. Does it feel weird to be considered a “veteran band”?
“It does feel weird,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll meet younger people and they’re like nervous meeting me, but I’m not like that at all, I’m just hanging out so it’s strange. But I suppose it’s the same when we were touring with veteran bands and I was like, ‘these guys are so cool,’ but I’m sure they never thought much of it.”
The artwork (by Al Perez / Ramone Sketch @ramonesketch) has this big sketchy, motorcycle design that is different from their past works. As it always is with Striker, it fits the big energy and good time feel of the band and album.
“We just wanted something that would reflect the album,” he says. “We’re kind of doing a hot rod NASCAR type thing just for fun. We’re not taking it too seriously; we're just out here having fun with it. We thought the artwork should reflect that, and it definitely is perfect on the T-shirt.”
On the touring front, the band is hoping to get something working in the U.S. for the fall and would also “love” to get back to Europe.
Find out more about Striker and order Ultrapower at striker-metal.com.
(Photo - Dana Zuk)