Black Star Riders

Heavy Fire

Written by: MIN on 21/06/2017 12:03:40

I think it’s very admirable that Thin Lizzy chose to change their name to Black Star Riders a few years ago. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Thin Lizzy kept playing some shows on and off through the years without releasing any new material after Phil Lynott’s death in 1986. Following several lineup changes and years on the road, the 2012-incarnation of Thin Lizzy decided that they wanted to release some new studio material, but they also wanted to leave the ‘Lizzy legacy behind to respect and honour the band’s Lynott-fronted material. Therefore, Scott Gorham (guitar) and co. henceforth went by the name Black Star Riders. There, that should keep you up to date. Fast-forward to 2017 and the band has just released their third album, “Heavy Fire”, and although I’m not usually a fan of “modern” classic rock, I have to admit that the band is doing a pretty good job at keeping things interesting.

Black Star Riders manage to sound like a band with its own identity, whilst still making a few nods to the past. Although they’re not the best songs on the album, “When the Night Comes in” and especially “Dancing with the Wrong Girl” manage to give you those good old Thin Lizzy-vibes and boyishly charming, rascal-swagger that only Lynott knew how to deliver. Surprisingly, the remaining old time ‘Lizzy-member Scott Gorham didn’t even join the writing process on said songs, giving much credit to the remaining staff of Black Star Riders for being able to translate that certain feeling unto their own material, without ever sounding like a replica. However, it quickly becomes evident that Gorham and his lead guitar is still the driving power behind the quality of certain songs. The epic melody that takes off like an F16 above the heavy twin-guitar riffs on the album’s title-track, shows that whenever Gorham feels like taking charge, he outshines the rest. Still, let the record show that he gets some excellent help from both Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson (that’s right, the band plays with three guitars!).

Personally, I’m not that fond of Warwick’s voice and the first few times around it was a huge obstacle for me. He’s not bad by any means, but he just sounds very generic for a rock band — and in this genre, you simply have to stand out if you want to make a lasting impression. Sure, the hordes of fans that still cling to classic rock will probably take a liking to the band’s music, but there’s so much better material out there than what Black Star Riders have to offer — and not only in terms of vocals and lyrics. As previously mentioned, the guitarists do a damn good job throughout but structurally, the songs are forgettable except for a few standout moments every now and then. The aforementioned title-track plus the politically charged “Who Rides the Tiger” both assert themselves as frequent setlist staples, but whenever choruses à la ”You’ve gotta TESTIFY OR SAY GOODBYE!” occur, I can’t help but cringe inside. “Testify or Say Goodbye” and the forgettable sap story of the one-person narrative in “True Blue Kid” both stand out as prime examples of cliché and outdone song-writing.

As you might have noticed by now, I prefer my classic rock to remain among the classics. The genre has had its time and I don’t think there’ll ever be another “Highway to Hell” (AC/DC) or “Appetite for Destruction” (Guns n’ Roses). Genres evolve and it’s time to move on. That’s not to say that the genre can’t have its merits, but at least bring something new to the table, then; all your tasty licks and songs about girls in bars have been done before. All my personal thoughts about that issue aside, Black Star Riders have crafted several songs that sound really good and are executed brilliantly, so although I don’t think they do the genre any favors, the band definitely knows how to deliver them. And if you’re into this sort of music, you’ll probably have a blast in Black Star Riders’ company.


Download: Heavy Fire, Who Rides the Tiger, Letting Go of Me
For the fans of: Thin Lizzy, Def Leppard, Alter Bridge
Listen: Facebook

Release date 03.02.2017
Nuclear Blast

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