Black Star Riders – “Heavy Fire” (Nuclear Blast)
Formed as the full time band legitimately continuing the mighty legacy of the legendary Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders certainly came under some heavy fire at the beginning from those who didn’t want the untainted reputation of Phil Lynott to be potentially parodied, despite having guitarist Scott Gorham, by recording new material under the name Thin Lizzy. And so the Black Star Riders were born, named after the outlaw gang from the film “Tombstone”, but more importantly intended to signify this was a band in its own right, despite by now being given full support by Caroline Lynott and surviving Lizzy members Brian Downey and Darren Wharton. From the outset of “All Hell Breaks Loose”, the one remarkable thing about this band is just how close they sound to Thin Lizzy, and not in the least in the vocals of Rick Warwick. Reputedly encouraged by Joe Elliott of Def Leppard to sing rather than roar like he did in The Almighty, Warwick has come a very long way indeed on this 3rd album. Man, this guy must’ve immersed himself in Lynott and Lizzy 24/7 cos if I close my eyes I can actually feel, not just hear but actually experience the presence of Phil Lynott. But crucially, and most importantly, it’s not just a copy, but rather a natural continuation of that style which compliments the music itself, which also has Lizzy all over it. Written in the main by Warwick himself – call it the Irish connection, call it talent and perseverance – whatever, but together Thin Lizzy is very much alive and represented respectably. With Scott Gorham adding authenticity to the guitar riffs, the unmistakable hard rock sound of the 1970s now has a conventional feel as if Lynott were still fronting the band. Opening title track ‘Heavy Fire’ is nothing short of a knock out; almost like 2 songs rolled into one from a fast rocker a la “Chinatown”, then blending into a slower slide guitar fed groove mid song before returning to the pumping rock with Warwick alternating his vocals brilliantly. Follow ups “When The Night Comes In” and “Dancing With The Wrong Girl” could almost be lost Lizzy hits with Lynott rapid fire cum rap, monster catchy choruses and even some Motown harmonies. With Lynott himself showing diverse musical interests from punk to new wave and Elvis, ‘Who Rides The Tiger’ as penned by guitarist Damon Johnson is a raging American rocker bordering on metal driven by the controversial subject of gun culture with lyrics like ‘..cowboys and indians, say hello to my little friend..’! ‘Ticket To Rise’ on the other hand, couldn’t be anymore opposite being in spirit of Johnny Cash’s rock n roll mixed in with Tamla Mowtown soul harmonies – yet somehow sounding so natural as voiced in Lynott’s style. It really makes you wonder where the man could’ve taken us had he been alive today! But incredibly, if its taken the Black Star Riders to bring all of this (back) to life, then surely that should put pay to any disputed raison d’être of this remarkable group, and the incredible legacy they keep alive to this day?