Black Star Riders
All Hell Breaks Loose
Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment
Reviewed By Justin Donnelly
Rising from the remains of Thin Lizzy with style
Although various incarnations of the classic hard rock outfit Thin Lizzy have been touring the globe for years, none of the members involved in the band have dared to record anything new studio material wise out of respect for front man Philip Lynott, who sadly passed away in early 1986.
And rightfully so too, as Lynott was Thin Lizzy, and replacing him would be a damn near impossible task given how synonymous his presence was within the group during their heyday (1971 through to 1983). So when the current version of Thin Lizzy decided to take things to take things to the next logical phase and put together some new material, it only made sense to give the band a new identity. And so, in 2012, it was announced that Thin Lizzy were to become Black Star Riders, and along with the assistance of legendary producer Kevin Shirley, announced plans to record a full-length album.
Here we are a year later, and Black Star Riders (who have now settled on a solid line-up consisting of The Almighty vocalist/guitarist Ricky Warwick, Thin Lizzy lead guitarist Scott Gorham, ex-Alice Cooper/Brother Cane lead guitarist Damon Johnson, ex-Blue Murder bassist Marco Mendoza and ex-Y&T/Alice Cooper/Suicidal Tendencies/Megadeth drummer Jimmy DeGrasso) have finally unveiled their debut effort, All Hell Breaks Loose.
For diehard Thin Lizzy fans, it has to be said that Black Star Riders’ debut isn’t so much a continuation of where Thin Lizzy left things all those years ago, but more an album that stands on its own. Sure, there are some clear Thin Lizzy influences dotted throughout the album, but it has to be said that Black Star Riders are anything but a tribute act.
The band opens up the album with the title track, All Hell Breaks Loose, which is the perfect track to set up the mood and overall vibe of the album. With its mid paced groove, slightly darker edge and punchy sound, All Hell Breaks Loose is a rock solid rocker that boasts some great riffs, a powerhouse performance from Warwick and some blazing solos from Gorham. Any lingering doubts about the band’s legitimacy are well and truly settled with this one track.
The follow up track, Bound for Glory, which was the first single lifted from the album, is obviously one of the few tracks on the album that features an obvious Thin Lizzy sound with its twin lead guitar injection. But while the comparisons to the legendary act and this new outfit are obvious on the musical front, Warwick still manages to give the song a sound of its own for the most part.
To some extent, Kingdom of the Lost and Kissin’ The Ground maintains some of the Thin Lizzy sound of old with the use of tin whistles and the unmistakable Celtic themes on the lyrical front on the former and Warwick’s vocal phrases on the latter, but it’s hard rockers such as Bloodshot, Hey Judas and the full-tilt charge of Valley of the Stones where the band make their stand with material that allows the classic Thin Lizzy sound to influence, but never dominate and give the listener the impression that Black Star Riders are simply rehashing past glories.
The easy going Someday Salvation is perhaps as close as Warwick gets to his own solo output, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but gives the song a feel that doesn’t quite fit on the album.
But where the band really gets to shine is where they step outside of their comfort zone and break into something quite unexpected. Hoodoo Voodoo is a cool mix of The Almighty (I’m thinking 1996’s Just Add Life) and funky influences, while the militaristic march of Before the War and the compelling storytelling from Warwick within the moody/guitar driven classic Blues Ain’t So Bad are the album’s real stand outs.
In the end, while there’s a Thin Lizzy connection within the group, Black Star Riders isn’t a poor imitation of the classic hard rock group. On the strength of All Hell Breaks Loose, it’s clear that Black Star Riders are way more than that.
Filled with quality song writing, impressive performances and a top notch production that gives the overall product the kick it so richly deserved, the band of classic rock journeymen have delivered a first class album, which I can only hope will only be the first of many.