Alongside the excellent Revolution Saints album, there's another album landing on the market this month, which will have fans of classic rock looking forward to. Black Star Riders surprised the scene with their remarkable debut album "All Hell breaks Loose" (2013), strongly rooted in the Thin Lizzy legacy of the band's members. Though the band initially started out as Thin Lizzy, Gorham wanted to focus on recording new material without usage of his acclaimed past. "The Killer Instinct" clings onto the band's debut with sharp claws and presents the band's new lineup featuring Robbie Crane (Ratt, Lynch Mob) and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (Alice Cooper, Y&T, Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies).
Unmistakably the music grips back to the typical Thin Lizzy sound with Gorham's riffs being infected by Irish and Celtic themes. However, the band also manages to swing the bat with more panache, and hits the soft spots of every hard rock fan around the globe. The music on this second album has fiery and taunting guitar riffs over thunderous drum and bass interaction, with Warwick roaring like a madman. Yes, Ricky Warwick sounds remotely like Lynott, but that was the main reason for hiring the man in the first place so on that side, no harm done. What disturbs me however is the fact that Warwick also adopted the typical performance and toning of Philo, which makes a name change an unnecessary move in the end.
When you add the typical guitar interaction and twin soloing to that potion, the band still sounds terrifyingly like Thin Lizzy, hence the 'why' in my question above.
None the less this new album displays a more harmonious and solid team that on their acclaimed debut. The song writing tandem Warwick / Johnson evolved and seemingly blended with the typical song writing structures of Gorham. Sprouting from this team are a few blistering tracks such as the radio friendly and riff driven "Finest Hour" and the Celtic-tinged remarkable "Soldierstown" which brings together the band's elusive past and pushes it into the newly adopted format. It's sticky and raw, fitting the band perfectly.
With "Blind Sided" the album features an absolutely wonderful lingering ballad, as where "Charlie I gotta Go" evokes the Lizzy era once again with its dark toned and haunting presence. Subtle explorations of a more roots rock based bluesy sound are to be found on the excellent "Turn in Your Arms" with its energetic drum rhythm and fierce guitar interaction. Same goes for the macho rock driven "Sex, Guns & Gasoline" leaning on the shoulders of biker rock with a southern rock lick propelling it. It's exactly that thrive which I expected after their excellent debut. I just hoped the band would have explored more of their musical horizons.
In the event the band delivers an entertaining and inspired album with energy radiating from the silver discs' edges. Energetic and powerful thanks to the excellent production of Nick Raskulinecz (Rush, Foo Fighters, AIC), but limping because of the reminiscence to Thin Lizzy, which in my opinion they should have shaken off by now. The music sounds comfortable but that's also where it fringes. I wonder how the album would have sounded with Warwick adopting a different toning to his performance.
78 out of 100