This all-star hard rock collective was formed by the bulk of the latest Thin Lizzy lineup, namely Scott Gorham (guitar), Ricky Warwick (lead vocals/guitar), Damon Johnson (guitar), Marco Mendoza (bass), and on percussion, former Megadeth and Alice Cooper drummer, Jimmy DeGrasso.
Following the lead of their 2011 debut studio effort, ‘All Hell Breaks Loose,’ the members of Black Star Riders progress forward with their guitar-oriented approach on their newly released follow-up, ‘The Killer Instinct.’
Even with production handled by Nick Raskulinecz, who has previously produced albums for heavyweights such as the Foo Fighters, Rush, Mastodon and Alice in Chains, and newly appointed bass player Robbie Crane of Ratt and Lynch Mob fame in the lineup, there were still some doubts from longtime Thin Lizzy advocates as to whether or not this band could develop their own persona.
Granted, the album grabs you from the very beginning with the dueling guitar work on “The Killer Instinct,” which sounds as though it could find a comfortable home on the classic effort ‘Jailbreak,’ however this isn’t just Thin Lizzy reincarnate. As Scott Gorham explains, “Black Star Riders is it’s own thing. You just have to power ahead and write what you write and not have to think about history.”
Power through they do indeed; Raskulinecz’s influence can be heard throughout the album and particularly on the album’s second track, “Bullet Blues.” One would almost assume Ricky Warwick was a guest vocalist on the latest Foo Fighters album based upon his passionate performance, which paves the way for some engaging guitar work and strong vocal harmonies.
The album’s third track, “Finest Hour” proves to be a modern day rock and roll classic. Centered around the simplicity of three persuasive chords, “Finest Hour” could easily serve as a fan favorite a Black Star Riders concert. Similarly, “Soldierstown” clocks in as the album’s fourth entry and reassures the band’s origins as an Irish rock band through energetic hard rock with a fist pounding chorus.
What Johnson describes as this album’s most left field track, “Blindsided” also serves as the album’s strongest and not quite what you’d expect halfway through Black Star Riders’ latest offering. A sad poignant tale with guitar arrangements that are both epic and elegant ultimately results in one of the more impressionable tracks on ‘The Killer Instinct.’
Some of the steam from this high octane locomotive of an album is lost through the repetition found on the tracks “Through the Motion,” “Sex, Guns & Gasoline” and “Turn in Your Arms,” which still do an admirable job at continuing the progression of the preceding numbers. However, it’s with the last track “Little Liar” that the band finishes off with a bang, in what is best described as an epic seven minute anthem.
Black Star Riders are a true rock and roll band, and although I suspect a handful of fans will draw the obvious Thin Lizzy comparisons, this unit are indeed their “own thing.” ‘The Killer Instinct’ also proves to be an authentic-sounding album in all it’s glory, showcasing well written tales driven by catchy refrains, crunching guitars, pounding percussion and thumping bass lines.