Striker Live at Complex in Glendale, CA
Photos by Matt Nielson
It is easy for a touring band such as Iron Maiden and Metallica to feed off the energy of arena crowds of 20,000-plus and larger every night. Frequent Invisible Oranges readers have likely attended just as many shows with much lower turnouts. You initially feel bummed about a show that deserved a wall-to-wall pit but for one reason or another, the community didn’t turn out that night. The band you came to see then emerges, and proceeds to command the stage with the energetic fervor befitting a sold-out headlining festival appearance, and you walk out riding high with respect for the band that busted their asses for a small-but-gracious crowd. This exact scenario played out when Canadian speed-metallers Striker performed on the outskirts of Los Angeles on Tuesday, January 14.
The evening’s festivities began with local bruisers Ironaut. Bassist/vocalist Erik Kluiber (ex-Gypsyhawk, ex-White Wizzard) formed the band at the end of 2014, and the power trio has been a prolific presence on local club shows since their formation. Their two self-released EP’s comfortably straddle the middle ground between the heavier stoner-metal of acts like The Obsessed and the meat-and-potatoes hard rock of Black Label Society. Kluiber’s growling vocals propelled a twenty-minute set loaded with reverb. Drummer Ivan Najor especially impressed, raining down hard with a combination of brute force and precision on every drum smash.
Locals Madrost, the next performers, are familiar to frequent attendees of L.A. thrash and death metal bills. The group – led by guitarist/vocalist Tanner Poppitt - has so far released two full-length albums of respectable deathly thrash that shows potential for greater things, but frequent lineup changes have hindered their ability to break out of the crowded Los Angeles underground scene. This show was not one of their better performances. Flashes of metallic brilliance were hindered by what came off as under-rehearsed sloppiness. Poppitt’s vocal screams are almost blood-curdling at times, and he is a masterful shredder on death metal guitar solos loaded with flash and technicality. The brief moments where those traits shined were the highlights of an otherwise frustrating set.
Striker then took the stage, setting the mood by filling the small room with fog and a flood of neon lights. The audience maxed out at about forty headbangers. Striker conducted themselves as if an overflow crowd was spilling out the door, and the crowd returned in kind with a similar level of enthusiasm. The group started their set with “Former Glory,” the lead-off track off their as-yet-unreleased new self-titled record. Heads were banging and fists were in the air as if the track was a long-time fan favorite staple.
Vocalist Dan Cleary hit the soaring high notes of his studio output, leading Striker through a crowd-pleasing set of rippers consisting of several new tracks, and favorites from the rest of the group’s catalogue. The biggest rock stars of the night were the dueling twin guitar attack of Tim Brown and touring second guitarist John Simon Fallon (also of Canadian thrashers The Order of Chaos). Both guitarists traded off the blazing solos that pepper the band’s melodic speed-metal assault. Fallon was a very charismatic presence, beckoning and motioning to the crowd like he was on the big stage at Wacken. He would make an excellent addition to the band should they choose to add a second guitarist full-time.
Striker’s hour-long set of anthems was greeted with a warm response and chants for more at the end. The group returned to the stage for the cherry on top, sending the die-hards that came out home with a rousing cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Desire.” The crowd may have been small on this evening, but Striker performed with a gusto that if replicated on a killer opening slot later in 2017, will ensure that the room is full next time they come to town.
Striker is still on tour. Do yourself a favor and see them.
Jan 27 - Grizzly Hall, Austin, TX
Jan 28 - Rudyards, Houston, TX
Jan 29 - Siberia, New Orleans, LA
Jan 31 - Jack Rabbits, Jacksonville, FL
Feb 01 - Haven Lounge, Winter Park, FL
Feb 07 - The Earl, Atlanta, GA
Feb 08 - Fubar, St. Louis, MO
Feb 09 - Reggie's, Chicago, IL
Feb 10 - Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis, MN