STRIKE FIRST: War
Release year: 2022
Label: Rebellion Records
There seems to be a minor paradigm shift going on in oi!, at least as far as the visuals go. Dreary streets, beer, boots and braces are making way for covers that draw inspiration from mythology, warrior cults and ancestry. Take for example the cover and design of this album by US act Strike First (not to be confused with US band First Strike): the wolf on the cover, snout pierced by an archaic sword, brings to mind the Fenris-wolf of Viking mythology – although in the myth of the binding of Fenris, the sword did not pierce his snout. But I digress. The rune-like font used in the tracklist only strengthens this association.
Not that it’s a long way from bootboy pride to warrior ethos. Values such as pride, honour, dignity, loyalty and dedication are core tenets of both. So, in a way, this development could perhaps be seen as a rediscovery of what’s always lain at the core of oi!.
Yeah, end of philosophy class for today. Let’s dig into the album. War is Strike First’s debut album; Wolves from 2020 is more of a minialbum, I guess. Innovation has never really been a major part in oi! – evolution always seems to have been incidental, maybe even accidental. This applies to Strike First too: if you love the classic “US of Oi!” style, this’ll be right up your alley.
In other words, tough as nails bootboy punk rock is the name of the game. Unlike their European counterparts, US bands have often had a slightly more rocking feel to them. Not quite as brickwall; a bit more dynamic, a bit more rolling. This applies to Strike First very much: though there’s a hint of the likes of The Last Resort here, there’s an undeniable rock groove to this as well.
Drop some names, you say? Well, really: take your pick from US oi!. A bit of Stars & Stripes? Definitely. Some prime The Bruisers? Absolutely. Carry On sounds exactly like something Dropkick Murphys could have done back when they were still a good band. And so on. Strike First aren’t afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve: the album has quite a few clever winks to oi! classics of old integrated into some riff or lyrics line.
From these tried and true building blocks, elements which constitute the heart and soul of US style oi!, Strike First have constructed an album that is at the same time utterly classic in it’s sound, something oi! fans will feel right at home with, but also refreshing in the strength of it’s delivery. The riffs are hard, the vocals are rough, the choruses are catchy and there’s that authentic no-nonsense, defiant attitude so essential to oi!. And not too much polish; there’s certainly dirt under the nails and roughness to the edges here.
In other words, a worthy addition to the annals of oi!, American and otherwise.
The CD version of the album comes with the aforementioned Wolves minialbum as bonus tracks. This makes for a rather hefty listening session as the running time is close to 70 minutes. Who can sit through that with our modern internet age attention spans? Jokes aside, this makes the CD version a great way of getting everything Strike First have released thus far in one package.
Familiar to the core, but tapping that good vein, with War Strike First deliver a prime cut of classic oi!. Take it from me, this is an album you don’t want to miss out on.
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