Black Star Riders were formed towards the end of 2012 when members of the touring line-up of Thin Lizzy expressed interest in recording new music. Out of respect for deceased front man Phil Lynott, it was decided that any new music would not be released under the Thin Lizzy name and thus Black Star Riders were born. After two albums and playing hundreds of shows around the world, the band is preparing to release their latest effort Heavy Fire this week on February 3rd 2017.
To give you further back round on who Black Star Riders are, it is worth noting that aside from the band emanating from the touring line up of Thin Lizzy, members of this band have previously also turned out for the likes of Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies and Ratt. With pedigree like this you can safely say that the musicianship is going to be good…right? Well yes and no.
The album kicks off with the hard rocking album title track Heavy Fire. The first impression is good as this up-tempo song blasts through with some impressive work by guitarists Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson. The following tracks When the Night Comes In and Dancing with the Wrong Girl sound like a modern twist on the traditional Thin Lizzy sound invoking thoughts of what might have been if previous incarnations of the band still existed today.
It’s soon after that you begin to notice exactly what lets this album down. It must be said that Ricky Warwick is a very capable vocalist and during his time as the touring singer for Thin Lizzy he has been able to emulate Phil Lynott’s vocals incredibly well and stepping in to those shoes is no easy feat (no pun intended!). The issue is that it’s not long before the vocals on this album become monotonous. This is partly down to some incredibly lazy and repetitive lyrics, but mainly because of what I believe is a vocal style which does not suit the band. Black Star Riders are a hard rock band and therefore would benefit from vocals with a bit more bite and power and a lyricist who won’t adopt such a mundane approach to writing.
The album does have its highlights though. The tempo shifts in some of the songs are inventive and show off the bands ability to at least try and mix it up. The soloing throughout is impressive but perhaps most so on the fourth track Who Rides the Tiger. The bass-driven Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed borrows from the glam rock stylings of bands such as Motley Crue and definitely goes down as a decent hard rocking track.
The problem is that in between these song you are subjected to the pedestrian Cold War Love and the numbingly repetitive Testify or Say Goodbye. Both are overly formulaic and frankly completely forgettable. Soulful female backing vocals are brought in for Ticket to Rise but ultimately they fail to compliment anything the band is trying to do here. By this point the album has become something of an earache, predictable and cheesy.
In general this album feels directionless throughout. The same formula spouted over and over can work for bands who have something special but unfortunately this album feels trapped under the weight of the reputation of those who created it. It is a shame to say as there certainly is some great instrumental work on display here. There are times however when the band feel caught up trying to capture the sound synonymous with Thin Lizzy and other bands of the same era, but ultimately fall short. While it could prove to be an accessible insight to the band member’s previous work and open doors to a younger audience to the bands of yesteryear, it’s not up to the task of holding its own with those bands.