Stryken were often labeled a Stryper clone, more because of the similarity in their names than for their music or look. The fact is, Stryken were actually around since the late 70's with the name Stryker but changed their name to Styken when Stryper became popular. Stryken were also often criticized for their outrageous "armor of God" outfits, but as was the case with many early 80's metal bands, it was all just part of the show. In 1986 Stryken released their first single containing the songs "Rock On" and "Surprise" to be followed up in 1987 with their 8 song debut album titled "First Strike" both on Chrystal Records. An official CD release was not made until 2006 on Girder Music.

First Strike Stryken - First Strike (Retroactive/Girder Records) 1987/2006

1. "Crush the Head of Satan" (3:13)
2. "One Way" (2:39)
3. "The Answer" (5:04)
4. "State of Emergency" (2:37)
5. "First Strike" (2:38)
6. "Rock On" (3:14)
7. "The Young Men Have a Vision" (4:51)
8. "Riot" (5:03)
9. "Surprise" [Bonus Track] (5:50)
10. "Blitzkrieg" (2:30)
11. "Look Away" (2:32)
12. "I'm Alright" (3:42)
13. "Need Your Love" (3:56)
14. "Circus Man" (4:53)
15. "Right of Way" (3:41)
16. "Cross the Line" (4:25)
17. "Played" (2:19)
18. "It's Over" (4:29)

Back in 1987 I picked up a tape by this ridiculous looking band called Stryken. The cassette tape itself was red and the cover art featured a band dressed in what appeared to be hockey gear. Silly? Perhaps. At the time, it was all about the attitude and putting on a show and that is what Stryken were about. "First Strike" is classic heavy metal. This album features a ton of anthems and musical hooks. 

There is a ton of notaligic value for long time metalheads like myself. I can certainly see why modern metal fans may giggle and scoff at this band. They were more than a bit cheesy. I think that many modern metal fans have forgotten that metal was as much about fun and having a good time as it was about anything else. Yes, cheesy is sometimes fun. Stryken certainly offer that. Musically the band reminds me of Quiet Riot, or perhaps a more cartoonish material from Twisted Sister (if that even be possible). They do have a similar anthemic metal sound. The one song that I really have never cared for is the ballad "The Answer". While it is obviously a very heart felt song, it just strikes me as sounding like something you might hear kids singing in a Sunday School class and doesn't fit the overall feel of the album. Personally I prefer the heavier material like "Crush the Head of Satan", "Rock On" and the slow, plodding "Riot". Lyrically the band offers some fairly simplistic Biblical lyrics and anthems about crushing Satan's head. In the early 80's much of the metal world was "Shouting at the Devil", so Stryken stood in stark contrast.

The production on the original release was rather weak, but is helped quit a bit here by the re-mastering. "First Strike" has been re-released twice now. The first time was in 2006, complete with new cover art. That reissue offered better mastering as well. However, there is no doubt that the 2009 re-issue is a better sounding release than both the original and the '06 release. The new Retroactive Records re-release also offers more tracks with the entire nine song Blitzkrieg demo as well as the non-album track "Suprise". Girder's '06 release gave only "Surprise" as a bonus track. Where the '06 release excelled was in the packaging. Unfortunately the new Retroactive digi is very flimsy with one of those rubber nubs to hold in the CD. Both reissues are limited edition pressings.

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