Off the heels of an excellent EP that was released last year, Canadian heavy metal band Antioch returns with “Antioch II: First Strÿke”. This shows the band take a distinct step forward both in terms of forging their own identity and their level of Judas Priest worship (somewhat of a contradiction, but it rings true on this record). From the opening scream of “The Strÿker Rides” (which is a great up-tempo opener in the vein of “Rapid Fire”) you know you’re in for something inspired by the Metal Gods. The band’s vocalist, Nicholas Allaire, has his own interesting mid-range voice that sounds nothing like Halford, but he also does an excellent job emulating the high-pitched, almost growly vocals that were prevalent on "Painkiller". Though the vocals are impressive, they would benefit from being mixed a little more loudly.
Musically, this album also follows the path of the Priest. In particular, the record is based around the “Screaming For Vengeance”/ “Defenders of the Faith” era, which was filled with incredibly hard-rocking riffs (admittedly there are exceptions, such as the "Painkiller-influenced "Venomspitter"). “Iron Serpent” is one of the best examples of this, as it is driven by a strong beat, alongside a catchy, anthemic chorus. This song is definitely the best on the album because it sounds like it was written to close out their live shows. In other words, it is high energy, easy to sing along to, and overall is a lot of fun. After these first two songs, the quality of the album takes a serious dip. Everything sounds passionate and competent, but the remaining songs lack the hooks that the first two songs had. “Enhammered” shows a lot of promise in the chorus because of the way it intertwines Allaire’s singing with backing vocals, but the remainder of the track does not stick out.
Another difficulty with “Antioch II: First Strÿke” is that the production isn’t the best. I’m no advocate of the loudness war, but this album would benefit from being a bit louder and better mixed. There are a lot of interesting things going on at any given time, but the production doesn’t really highlight that. This might even be a case where adding another guitar track or two to beef things up would make a substantial difference. Overall though, it does feel like the band has gained a bit of an identity with this album. Even though it is firmly rooted in the Priest-worship category, there are not many bands that emulate that 1982-1984 sound so convincingly, and with a bit of refinement in the production and songwriting, Antioch is likely to turn a lot of heads.
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"The Strÿker Rides"
4.0/5 or 80%.
Written by Scott