Black Star Riders – All Hell Breaks Loose (2013)

BlackStarRiders_AllHell4 out of 5 Stars!

I’m certain that, like me, many long-time fans of Thin Lizzy found it difficult to accept the band’s announcement way back in 1983 that it was breaking up. I mean, seriously, the group had just released the excellent Thunder and Lightning album, which featured John Sykes on guitar, and everything seemed rosy for the band’s bright future, therefore the decision came as a shock to many. And then, horror of all horrors, any hopes for a possible future reunion vanished when news came several years later of the untimely passing of leader Phil Lynott. Tragic, and a cruel blow to the musical world!

So imagine my thrill (and no short amount of skepticism) to learn in 2012 that, after many years of reading about numerous short-lived reunions by various former band members, a permanent lineup under the driving force and guidance of guitarist Scott Gorham would actually be recording new material. Finally! The band, however, would be using the name Black Star Riders, which made sense, I suppose, simply since Gorham was the only Thin Lizzy member during its actual existence, and with all that fresh blood in the form of guitarist Damon Johnson (Witness/Brother Cane), bassist Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake), drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (Y&T/Megadeth), and vocalist Ricky Warwick (The Almighty), the Thin Lizzy moniker didn’t seem quite appropriate.

But in truth, after hearing the debut album, I came to the conclusion that had the group used the name Thin Lizzy, it wouldn’t have been such a terrible idea. Indeed, the lineup sounded almost exactly like the former band, certainly more so than other groups that attempt to replace a recognizable lead vocalist. I mean, remember the mental adjustment required when Deep Purple replaced Ian Gillan with David Coverdale, or when Marillion replaced Fish with Steve Hogarth? In these examples, we’re talking about singers that possessed completely different tones, ranges, and styles of delivery from the previous vocalists.

But in this case, not only did Ricky Warwick sing eerily similar to Phil Lynott, but the guitarists recreated the same twin-guitar sound of old, and much of the material presented on All Hell Breaks Loose could have appeared on Thin Lizzy albums.

The opening title track, for example, sent chills of delight down my spine since I could easily imagine it being played by the original Thin Lizzy, sung by Phil Lynott. Then “Bound for Glory,” with its dual-guitar harmonies and upbeat rhythm, provided even more tingles of excitement since it seemed almost an outtake from an album such as Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, or Renegade. And by the time the Irish-inspired intro to “Kingdom of the Lost” led into the song’s first verse, I’d heard enough to realize that the members of Black Star Riders couldn’t have concocted a better homage to the former band and its deceased leader.

Other tracks such as “Hey Judas,” “Before the War,” “Hoodoo Voodoo,” “Blues Ain’t So Bad,” and “Valley of the Stones,” offered even more obvious tributes to the memory of Lynott, and better still, the album as a whole seemed a worthy follow-up to ’83’s Thunder and Lightning. The musicians perform with enough gusto and vigor to satisfy the yearnings of Thin Lizzy fans who still missed the original group, and with the production full and rich, the guitars sizzling and pushed to the forefront, it seemed as if the original band (or at least its rapacious spirit) had been transported into the modern age to not only appease the hungry fans of yore, but to gain a new generation of followers.

Thankfully, unlike the previous Thin Lizzy reunions that disbanded before releasing new material, Black Star Riders doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Not only did the band release an enjoyable second platter in 2015, but a third dropped early in ’17, giving hope the group will be sticking around for a long, long time.

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