Album review – BLACK STAR RIDERS “All Hell Breaks Loose”

All Hell Breaks LooseThere’s a glorious moment on the flat-out fabulous title-track of Black Star Riders’ debut album “All Hell Breaks Loose” when singer Ricky Warwick croons “alright Scotty!”, and Scott Gorham’s guitar just flares into life with the kind of scorching guitar work he has been famous for, ever since his hair was waist-long and he’d groove on stage with Phil Lynott. To me, it’s a moment that captures the essence of Black Star Riders (what might be called Thin Lizzy – Evolved), and why this new album of old-school, hard rocking tunes works so well: it’s that combination of something old and something new that manages to anchor the band solidly in the past, while adding enough new fire to get your blood pumping.

It seems silly to say that this album sounds a lot like Thin Lizzy, because, well, of course it does. After all, it was originally supposed to be released as new Thin Lizzy material. Shedding the famous name might seem nuts, but it shows respect for that legacy, and also frees the music from the expectations and negative reactions that would undoubtedly have weighed it down, coming so many decades after Lynott’s death. And as a fan of classic Thin Lizzy, I think that the new band-name actually frees me to love this album in a way I wouldn’t have allowed myself to do otherwise.

So yes, the Thin Lizzy influence is strong. It’s there in the storytelling of tunes like hard-rocking gem “Before The War”, in the Celtic touches on “Kingdom of the Lost”, and it’s there in Warwick’s vocals, at times so like Lynott’s that it’s eerie (something Warwick confesses is a by-product touring with Thin Lizzy since 2009).BlackStarRiders

With tunes written mainly by guitarist Damon Johnson and Warwick, the album mixes up the old with the new just right. “Bound For Glory” feels like a throwback to the “The Boys Are Back In Town”-era, but it’s done so well, and it’s so damn catchy that I can’t resist. Two of my other favorite tracks include the decidedly Thin Lizzy-ish “Hey Judas”, and the funky, sweet and hot “Hoodoo Voodoo”, which is maybe the track that sounds the most like something new.

“Valley Of The Stones” is another favorite, rocking out hard and heavy with an infectiously raw and rowdy spirit. Finally, the sing-along friendly “Someday Salvation”, and the beautifully bluesy and riffy “Blues Ain’t So Bad” close out the album on a high note.

Recorded in only 12 days, “All Hell Breaks Loose” definitely benefits from its loose and free-wheeling vibe – that feeling of the tunes coming together almost as you’re listening to them – not over processed and stripped of their inherent energy, but rather bursting with life and flavor.

It goes without saying that the musicianship is stellar, and that the guitar work is flaming amazing, with Gorham and Johnson firing each other up on guitar (“Kissin’ The Ground” is an excellent showcase). Marco Mendoza (part of the Thin Lizzy lineup off and on since 1994) on bass, and Jimmy DeGrasso on drums, make a rock-solid rhythm section for the band to lean on.

I have no idea if “All Hell Breaks Loose” will appeal to those who have never heard of Thin Lizzy. (But then, what the hell is wrong with you if you haven’t listened to Thin Lizzy?) Black Star Riders have made an excellent rock’n’roll album with a great Thin Lizzy flavor. If you think you’d be into that, then “All Hell Breaks Loose” is definitely for you.

Black Star Riders’ official website / Facebook / Twitter

Lineup

  • Ricky Warwick: vocals, guitar
  • Scott Gorham: guitars
  • Damon Johnson: guitars
  • Marco Mendoza: bass
  • Jimmy DeGrasso: drums

Track-list

  1. All Hell Breaks Loose
  2. Bound For Glory
  3. Kingdom Of The Lost
  4. Bloodshot
  5. Kissin’ The Ground
  6. Hey Judas
  7. Hoodoo Voodoo
  8. Valley Of The Stones
  9. Someday Salvation
  10. Before The War
  11. Blues Ain’t So Bad

(This review was originally published at Hard Rock Nights.)

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