Black Star Riders band photo

BLACK STAR RIDERS – All Hell Breaks Loose

Black Star Riders - All Hell Breaks LooseEverybody knows that Thin Lizzy equals Philip Lynott, right? I mean, just take a look at the songwriting credits and you’ll find that Lynott was the main songwriter of the band with only some inputs by the rest of the band. But if you ask the rest of the band, they’ll state that almost every Lizzy tune was a group effort, even the ones that were only credited to Lynott. Be that as it may, the fact is, Thin Lizzy was Lynott’s baby and his vision and a Thin Lizzy without Lynott is impossible. Like a Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger, a Whitesnake without David Coverdale, a Kiss without Paul Stanley or Gene Simmons… well, you get the idea. After Lynott’s tragic death back in 1986, only 36 years old, all chances of a Thin Lizzy reunion went the same way. Although, that didn’t stop former Lizzy members John Sykes, Scott Gorham and Darren Wharton to start-up the band once more, only this time as a Lizzy tribute band, touring the world and playing Lizzy classics. The guys’ own bands (21 Guns – Gorham, Blue Murder – Sykes and Dare – Wharton) had failed to make it big, so I guess that decision wasn’t that hard to make. And they were good – very good, Sykes vocals sometimes sounded so much like Lynott it was scary. But everyone wasn’t happy about it – many a fan screamed sacrilege and blasphemy, that they were dragging the Lizzy name through the mud. I couldn’t agree less – this wasn’t a reunion without Lynott, only a tribute – and the closest thing we would get to hear those songs live again. Besides, they were actually bloody damn good!

The band went on hiatus between 2001 and 2004 and in 2009 John Sykes left the band and they disbanded for a year before Gorham decided to bring the band back to life again, now with a new line up – almost. Still in the band, Gorham, Wharton and bass player Marco Mendoza (Ex Whitesnake) was joined by original Lizzy drummer Brian Downey, ex The Almighty vocalist Ricky Warwick and ex Dio and current Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell, however Campbell was quickly replaced by current Guns N Roses guitarist Richard Fortus due to scheduling issues and the band was set out for some major touring. It was this line up that decided that they had gone as far as they could and now wanted to release some new music, which of course started a loud outcry from fans all over the world – and this time they were right. As a tribute band, they were ok, but to release a new album with no Lynott present would have been disrespectful – and luckily enough, they band realised this in time. And that is why we now have a band called the Black Star Riders.

But before a new album was to be done, more line up changes had to be made. First out was Fortus, due to his commitment to Axl Rose’s band – who was replaced mid tour by Damon Johnson (ex Brother Cane, Alice Cooper) and when the album was about to be recorded, drummer Downey realised he couldn’t commit a 100% and was replaced by Jimmy DeGrasso (Y&T, White Lion, Suicidal Tendencies, Megadeth) and also Wharton left. This  is the line up that has recorded the new album with producer Kevin Shirley (Europe, Black Country Communion, Dream Theater, Journey, Iron Maiden) at the helm. Now, with this kind of history, it really doesn’t matter what the band is called, you will be compared to Thin Lizzy anyway, which is kind of unfair. So I’m gonna try my hardest to review this album on its own, because frankly, how on earth could anything top or even equal anything Thin Lizzy has recorded in the past? Well, it can’t. That said, the first listen to this album was a very nice surprise. And the by the second listen, I was totally floored. I never thought that the guys would be able to create such an amazing record together. A Good one, yes. but this great – no way.

As an opener the title track is perfect. With just small traces of Lizzy the song stands on its own two feet and paves way for the rest of the album. First single “Bound For Glory” is just magnificent and sounds like a mix between Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake’s “Guilty Of Love”, “Kingdom Of The Lost” is brilliant and has this Celtic sound that Thin Lizzy was famous for, a mix of Lizzy’s “Emerald” and Gary Moore’s “Over The Hills And Far Away” if you will, “Kissin’ The Ground” is a straight forward hard rock tune, “Hey Judas” is awesome and total Lizzy and “Hoodoo Voodoo” is a brilliant hard rock number with most of the Lizzy sound absent. They go all Lizzy pop in the brilliant “Someday Salvation”, there is some killer hard rocking groove in “Before The War” and the album’s last track “The Blues Ain’t So Bad” is just fantastic and one of the finest moments here – groovy as hell with some heavy jamming in the end. I also like Shirley’s production here. He has managed to get the band enough hard rock in the sound but still the beautiful melodic twists that Lizzy always managed to provide themselves with. The name change was the best thing they could have done, not only to keep Thin Lizzy’s legacy intact, but the fact that they now have many more ways to go – with a name like Lizzy they would have limited themselves with only one road to travel – now the sky’s the limit. Of course, this sounds a helluva lot like Lizzy anyway – singer Warwick is really close to a clone at times – but now they have mixed the obvious Lizzy sounds with some that are not, both in songs and in sound and they’re all better for it. I am impressed, to say the least. There are no doubts at all that this album will come up when we sum up for the Album Of The Year title. And now I look forward to this summer’s festival gigs more than ever. Thin Lizzy is dead – Long live Thin… err.. Black Star Riders!

Jon Wilmenius (9/10)

Track list:

01. All Hell Breaks Loose
02. Bound For Glory
03. Kingdom Of The Lost
04. Bloodshot
05. Kissin’ The Ground
06. Hey Judas
07. Hoodoo Voodoo
08. Valley Of The Stones
09. Someday Salvation
10. Before The War
11. Blues Ain’t So Bad

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