originally posted on Saturday, 15 June 2013
Thin Lizzy were among the top rock acts in their prime in the mid/late 70’s. Nowadays they are really just remembered for their song The Boys Are Back In Town and the odd person should also know the songJailbreak, but there was a time, particularly in the UK where when people would hear Thin Lizzy they would think of Whiskey in the Jar, The Rocker, Still In Love With You, Bad Reputation, the songs go on. The band enjoyed much success lead by the charismatic Phil Lynott on vocals and bass.
Starting out as originally a trio with mainstay drummerBrian Downey and guitarist Eric Bell, after three albums and Bell’s departure, future Irish guitar legendGary Moore was hired, only to also leave after a short time, so Phil decided to hire two barely twenty-year-old guitarists, Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham. These four members made up for the bands “classic” line-up. Brian Robertson would be the only member of this incarnation not to last, as he was replaced by the returning Gary Moore, then Snowy White and finally future Whitesnake guitar virtuoso John Sykes. The band would enjoy a great deal of success until their break-up in 1984. Any chance of the band getting back together (which almost did happen) was obliterated when Phil Lynott died after years of hard drug abuse on January 4th, 1986.
In the mid-90’s, John Sykes gave the band rebirth, with Scott Gorham as well as legendary journeyman drummer Tommy Aldridge and bassist Marco Mendoza. This incarnation toured numerously for years until John decided to leave, which prompted Scott to take over as the rightful mainman. In his new position, in 2009 he brought together a new band to be named Thin Lizzy, keeping Marco on bass, bringing back Brian Downey to his rightful thrown behind the drums, as well as hiring Irish singer Ricky Warwick and ex-Dio and Whitesnake and current Def Leppard Irish axeman Vivian Campbell. This incarnation toured the world and was taken more seriously as Thin Lizzy. Campbell had to return to Def Leppard and was eventually permanently replaced by Damon Johnson, formerly from Alice Cooper.
In late 2012, after years of speculating new material, Scott made the conscious decision to change the name of the band, not ending Thin Lizzy officially, but just releasing new music under another name so that it wouldn’t seen wrong to Phil Lynott. This band would be named Black Star Riders, made up of all but one of the members of the last Lizzy incarnation. Brian Downey couldn’t keep up with the touring at his age, so he was replaced by another journeyman Jimmy Degrasso.
This new band has released one album so far, in May of 2013, All Hell Breaks Loose hit the shelves. The album is made up of classic hard rock music similar to the style that Thin Lizzy were known to make. Having read other reviews and reception from the album, I find other articles on the album are comparing it too much to Thin Lizzy and this holds back their opinion on what actually is a terrific album. So I will say one last thing about Thin Lizzy in relation to this band, and that is this album is sure to please lifelong fans of the Irish classic rock band, but it has all the weapons possible to please any hard rock fan who never really listened to Thin Lizzy.
From this point on I’m treating the album as it should rightfully be treated, as a Black Star Riders album and not as a Thin Lizzy album. Any mentions of Lizzy are simply by comparison as if the two are completely separate bands…which they are.
The album starts off with the title track All Hell Breaks Loose. Starting off the way all good classic rock songs always have, with a good guitar riff. It has a good hard backbeat and a dark feel and intelligent chord changes that show Scott Gorham hasn’t lost his capability to write good music. The song is topped with a string busting guitar solo by Scott, which ends in a dual guitar lick. This starts the album off perfectly, showing the band is serious about making no nonsense hard rock. Hoodoo Voodoo, a track heard later on the album, is similar to this song in structure.
Bound For Glory picks the album up with its fast drum beat and upbeat almost inspirational singing by Ricky. I kind of hear it as being a Bruce Springsteen hard rock song (an oxymoron, I’m aware). It’s probably because the chorus sort of reminds me of Glory Days.
Something Irish rock musicians such as Thin Lizzy and especially Gary Moore did a lot when they made hard rock music was incorporate the Celtic styled music of their home country, the kind of music that has come synonymous with drinking and St. Patrick’s day and other things of the sort, but the Black Star Riders trackKingdom of the Lost brought the seriousness back in to the style, the way songs such as Gary Moore’sBlood of Emeralds did back in the late 80’s. Kingdom of the Lost brings in the tin whistle, fiddle and bagpipe sound required for Celtic music, which then come overcome by electric guitars playing riffs that are being played in a Celtic nature and Irishman Ricky Warwick singing his heart out as though he is about to go in to battle for his country.
The track Kissin’ The Ground slightly changes the sound of the album, with a bit of a more badass feel to it, having similar pace to the album’s title track, but sounding more upbeat in the nature of Bound for Glory. The song has a killer dual guitar solo that sounds like it could have been recorded in the 1970’s. This is followed by another song that sounds unlike most songs from the album, Hey Judas. This song sounds like it could have been a hard rock song in the 70’s, but also has some elements in its sound that give it a slightly more current feel (but only slightly), particularly with the sound of the guitar tones during the songs chorus.
The track Valley of the Stones mixes the hard nature of songs like the title track with the speed of Bound For Glory, reminding me of something of an Iron Maiden song in terms of its music. If you know Iron Maiden’s early stuff, you know it wasn’t so distorted but it was fast. That is sort of what the all around backbeat of this song reminds me of. It has riff and guitar solo that only Scott Gorham could have come up with though, making this song a true hard rock gem. This song is followed the by albums most upbeat track,Someday Salvation. This song can’t really be taken seriously as a hard rock song, but the open minded listeners are sure to hear what makes this song good.
Before the War is one last heavy hitter for the albums listeners, this time the band provides yet another different sounding song compared to the rest of the album. While the album has a few songs written in the nature of a battle anthem, this one can be taken the most serious out of them all. This leads in to the final track, Blues Ain’t So Bad. This song is the slowest paced song on the album, though contrary to its title, it is not a blues song. It has a dark night time feel to it, with slow and creepy sounding verses which lead into a good heavy chorus. The best part of the song, however, is the bluesy guitar solos, heard throughout the song. It is a curious song to end the album with, but it is still a highlight from the album.
What Black Star Riders have released is something rare among new albums by classic rock artists; a diverse, well thought out effort. Hardly any two songs sound alike. Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson’s song writing behind the album is something that should be taken note of by any current musician hoping to make a good classic rock sound (as I’ve mention in past articles, there are a LOT of bands out there looking for that classic rock sound). I’m not sure of the longevity of this album, I don’t know how long until it is forgotten. I would strongly hope that the band releases more material to keep them strong.
“Bloodshot” – on an album with so many songs that sound different from each other, it is hard to determine just what the highlight would be. Hell, I don’t even know what I’d call my favourite song from the album. I do find that Bloodshot carries aspects of a lot of the songs though; it starts off with an almost Celtic guitar riff, but leads into a full on hard rock song, which has a fast tempo to it, but has a seriousness in its music and singing.
8 (Out of 10)
|“All Hell Breaks Loose”||4:15|
|“Bound for Glory”||4:08|
|“Kingdom of the Lost”||4:43|
|“Kissin’ the Ground”||3:06|
|“Valley of the Stones”||4:15|
|“Before the War”||3:39|
|“Blues Ain’t So Bad”||6:15|