Black Star Riders ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’

black-star-riders-all-hell-breaks-loose

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#860 in the Series) is Black Star Riders, All Hell Breaks Loose

Sometime around Christmas 2005 I caught a taxi in my hometown of Belfast and happened to be wearing a Thin Lizzy T-shirt. The surly driver, spotting this young whipper-snapper wearing his beloved band’s logo, struck up a conversation. “So, you’re a Lizzy fan, yeah?” he asked. When I replied in the affirmative, he decided to test me, guessing I was one of those people who wear band shirts because they’re “cool”, but have no idea about the band, like the endless numbers of kids sporting Ramones shirts these days. “What album is this the first song from, then?” he asked, as he pressed play on the CD player. This was an easy one – I have always loved the rippling keyboard riffs of “Angel of Death” from the Renegade album, and told him so, with a smile of satisfaction. Happy that I was a real fan and not a charlatan, he relaxed and we chatted. It just so happened that a few days later I would be seeing the John Sykes version of Thin Lizzy, and the driver warned me that they weren’t very good, and the vibe was all wrong. He turned out to be totally right.

The version of Thin Lizzy fronted by John Sykes didn’t have the heart that every other incarnation of Lizzy before had, and that of course was always going to be put down to the fact that Phil Lynott wasn’t around, but there was also the problem of drummer Tommy Aldridge pounding his way frantically through every song like his own taxi was waiting outside with the meter still running. When, in 2010, Scott Gorham announced there would a new line-up of the band fronted by Ricky Warwick and with Brian Downey back on drums, it was tempting to wonder if it wasn’t better to just put the whole thing out of its misery. But lo and behold, this version of the band rejuvenated the Thin Lizzy brand like never before, playing the best and truest versions of Lynott’s songs since the man himself was around.

But how many times can the band do theBlack-Star-Riders greatest hits tours without offering anything new? The songs are of unquestionably good quality and the band was tight and in the groove, and getting rave reviews from Lizzy fans new and old. It must have been incredibly tempting to record a new album under the Lizzy moniker, but apparently Gorham thought it inappropriate. Step up, Black Star Riders.

Black Star Riders consists of Ricky Warwick, Scott Gorham, Damon Johnson, Marco Mendoza, and Jimmy DeGrasso, and are described as the “next step in the evolution of the Thin Lizzy story.” Anyone expecting a change in sound or style from the Lizzy blueprint is going to be disappointed, but on the other hand, any fan of Lizzy’s mid to late ’70s output is going to be thrilled by All Hell Breaks Loose. It’s familiar, it’s heavy, it rocks.

Produced by Kevin Shirley, All Hell Breaks Loose wastes no time getting deep into Lizzy twin-guitar territory. The opener and title track, funnily enough, sounds like it’s more likely to be from the Sykes era of Lizzy, before the most “classic” sounding song “Bound For Glory;” a driving, barrelling rock song in the finest fashion. Put eight or nine other classic Lizzy tracks in a playlist with this one, hit shuffle, close your eyes, and it’d be hard to tell the difference. Warwick’s voice is strong and Phil-like throughout, and all the appropriate dual guitar elements are there.

bsr“Kingdom of the Lost” is next. Heavily lathered with traditional Irish rock flavours, it could be an album track off Black Rose, and is bound to get boozy crowds singing when played live. “Bloodshot” follows in a similar vein to the title track, with Gorham letting his tried-and-tested guitar chops run wild.

The intro of “Hey Judas” just about stays on the right side of the line between good and Dire Straits, before quickly rescuing itself as the guitars kick in, followed by “Hoodoo Voodoo'” another rocker with a big chorus. The strength of the songs on All Hell Breaks Loose makes the thought of seeing these guys live a pretty exciting one at this point; especially knowing that Lizzy’s main strength was their live show.

“Someday Salvation” adds a little more Irish-ness to proceedings with lyrics that could be lifted from one of Van Morrison’s lighter tracks; all about hanging out on corners and singing sha-na-na-na-na, and the longest track on the album, six-minute closer Blues Ain’t So Bad begins with a creeping bass line and tentative guitar lines, before a bit of a guitar jam closes the song, and the album.

After hearing the album, and knowing what good quality stuff it is, the name change makes total sense. While this is the most Thin Lizzy-esque album since, well, Thin Lizzy, there are no original members on board, no parts written by Lynott, and only Scott Gorham from the ‘classic’ line-up still playing. What there is, however, is a fantastic collection of rock songs in the truest Lizzy fashion, played by a band performing under their own banner, with no pressure to be anything but themselves. The fact they want to sound like Thin Lizzy is clearly done out of love and respect, and since when was sounding like Thin Lizzy a bad thing? All Hell Breaks Loose is well worth checking out.

– Paul McBride, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia Please visit and LIKE our facebook page

Track Listing

  1. “All Hell Breaks Loose” 4:15
  2. “Bound for Glory” 4:08
  3. “Kingdom of the Lost” 4:43
  4. “Bloodshot” 4:02
  5. “Kissin’ the Ground” 3:06
  6. “Hey Judas” 4:11
  7. “Hoodoo Voodoo” 4:15
  8. “Valley of the Stones” 4:15
  9. “Someday Salvation” 3:05
  10. “Before the War” 3:39
  11. “Blues Ain’t So Bad” 6:15

Personnel

  • Ricky Warwick – vocals, guitar
  • Scott Gorham – lead guitar, rhythm guitar
  • Damon Johnson – lead guitar, rhythm guitar
  • Marco Mendoza – bass guitar
  • Jimmy DeGrasso – drums, percussion

Posted by Larry Carta


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