"City of Gold" smelled like another flavor of the week. Lots of publications called Striker's third album a modern masterpiece (translation: THE BEST THING EVER until the next bandwagon band comes along). Naturally, I was apprehensive before I first heard it, but this turned out to not be too bad, actually. Little more than beefy, high-voltage heavy metal alight with unrivaled power (and they manage to sneak in a few hard rock numbers that end up not sucking the big one, shockingly). The style and general execution are commonplace, but Striker's focus is on unloading a good time of heavy metal without trend-whoring their dignity to death. "City of Gold" is solid as steel, nothing like the run-of-the-mill plastic crap.
As composers, Striker is not the pinnacle of creativity in heavy metal. The holes in the compositional efforts limiting the band's antics, however, are mended by the group's adaptable presence, balancing colors of heavy metal, power metal, thrash, and a few hard rock influences. Blending from frantic, igniting numbers like "Crossroads" or "Second Attack" to traditionalized anthems is done without strain or sacrificing the hooking tension for an attempt to change things up-a luxury among their ilk. "City of Gold" is balanced upon a wavelength of upbeat, memorable choruses and shred-happy guitar work, matched by the high-flying vocals and explosive sound quality. No unneeded nonsense thrown into the machine, but when a blueprint has a consistency this innate, the artistic gobbledygook can exit stage left.
As performers, Striker is immaculate. These tunes, fine on paper, receive a substantial boost in quality by the notable acumen in delivering the metallic message. Influences from Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Dio et al. are obvious, but bronze-age tribes like Iced Earth and other power/thrash metal entities receive nods in the riffing styles and intensity elements. The great classic-styled vocalist (dude would sound excellent in Iced Earth) adds heat to the fast, riotous engines that are a dime a dozen throughout "City of Gold"; electric soloing makes the album even more like auditory lightning storming through the sky. These elements make up for the lack of uniqueness, which is ultimately reduced to a nuisance of such little gravity that the grade-A performances dwarf most of the record's deficiencies.
A few cuts rub me the wrong way, of course. "All I Want" rides the hard rock philosophies of sappy lyrics and forgettable riffs piled around an obvious attempt to breach into mainstream audiences; same goes for "Bad Decisions," but Striker gets the sleazy style right where they want it. Don't recall too much about "Rise Up," although it's no turd; just too basic to be more than an average tune. "City of Gold," barring its one or two duds, is pretty solid; somewhere between a hardy platter of heavy metal and a wicked good time. No masterpiece that one should deface sacred objects for, but for eleven songs of ballsy heavy metal, "City of Gold" and Striker are both too salty to be paltry.