Album review – BLACK STAR RIDERS ‘Heavy Fire’

heavyfireI’ve been looking forward to ‘Heavy Fire’ ever since Black Star Riders announced they were working on a new album. Since I loved BSR’s two previous albums, I figured the new release would be good, but I also thought the band would have a hard time topping ‘The Killer Instinct’. Turns out they not only topped it, but ‘Heavy Fire’ actually vaults the band to a whole other level of awesomeness.

To put it bluntly, this album is a) gosh-darn brilliant, and b) hot as fucking blazes. It’s only February, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that ‘Heavy Fire’ will be a contender for every award you can throw at it. And if there were awards for lyrics, it should probably win most of them. Tunes like “Dancing With the Wrong Girl”, “Letting Go Of Me”, “Cold War Love”, and “True Blue Kid” are prime examples, showcasing masterful rock’n’roll storytelling, deft wordplay, and poetic prowess.

There are several tunes on ‘Heavy Fire’ that will rip, roar, and rumble any rock and roll fan into a state of delirious happiness. The title track ‘Heavy Fire’ is one example, with its growling ruffle of riffs and guitars and rib-rattling bass and drums. Another is the rollicking slice of goodness that is “When The Night Comes In” (featuring the beautiful line “there’s a crack in the universe”).

BSR_leather

One my favourite tunes on ‘Heavy Fire’ is the fierce and fiery “Who Rides The Tiger”. This tune is so heavy and so hard-rocking and so rowdy…it’s like leather and denim and studs, bristling with shredding guitars and a killer bassline. And the lyrics are as fierce and as blistering as the music, setting things ablaze right from the start with the scathing opening line “All you need is Jesus and a .44“.

Moving through the tracklist, “Testify Or Say Goodbye” is a powerful rock and roll sermon, and the best kind of musical mood-enhancer money can buy: “…there ain’t no pockets in a shroud…” (Seriously, is there an award for rock and roll lyrics? There should be.)

Another one of my favourites is the funky-irresistible “Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed”. Like so many of the tracks on “Heavy Fire”, this tune has sass and swagger and sex appeal to burn. The same is true for “Ticket To Rise” – a tune with a wicked deep and delicious groove, and riffs heavy as dinosaur bones. (Whatever they’re feeding Damon Johnson and Scott Gorham… please just keep feeding them more of it!)

The album closes out with “Fade”, a track that gets extra gold-dust sprinkles from me. There’s a gorgeous bit of acoustic guitar, and the music and lyrics ache with a sense of loss, betrayal, and love. (There’s also a lovely throwback echo of U2’s “Bad” from 1984 when Warwick sings the line “let it fade away“). I know I keep repeating myself, but, yes, the lyrics are outstanding: “like the scars we choose / let them fade away / like the dreams of youth / let them fade away“. Way to make me cry, guys.

(Clarification: “Fade” is available on the limited-edition digibook CD, and on the digital download versions of the album, but not on the regular CD. The Spotify, Google Play, and iTunes versions of the album do include this track.)

Black Star Riders play their own unique brand of rock’n’roll – their music has all the might and brawn and fire provided by revving guitars and throbbing bass and thundering drums, but blended with a softer, lyrically powerful side. It’s a stunning combo that is masterfully brought together on this album. My verdict: get it, crank it, love it.

Black Star Riders are heading out on tour this spring, check the band’s website for details.

‘Heavy Fire’ is available now:

Black Star Riders’ official website / Facebook / Twitter

Lineup:

  • Ricky Warwick – Vocals/Guitar
  • Scott Gorham – Guitars
  • Damon Johnson – Guitars
  • Robert Crane – Bass
  • Jimmy DeGrasso – Drums

Tracklist:

  1. Heavy Fire
  2. When The Night Comes In
  3. Dancing With The Wrong Girl
  4. Who Rides The Tiger
  5. Cold War Love
  6. Testify Or Say Goodbye
  7. Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed
  8. True Blue Kid
  9. Ticket To Rise
  10. Letting Go Of Me
  11. Fade
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