Black Star Riders – Heavy Fire (Nuclear Blast 2017)

Few records impress me as much as The Killer Instinct. I fell head over heels in love that record, and barely listened to anything else for months after its release. When the news that BSR was crowd funding their next full length reached me, I got in on the ground floor. I didn’t get my Heavy Fire copy upon release as promised, but three weeks after the date. I’ve got to say I’m disappointed by this, stand by your words and honor you commitments. Because I’m a gentleman I choose to blame the shipping and / or record company, not the band itself.

Heavy Fire doesn’t keep the impossible quality of the Killer Instinct, but I didn’t expect that either. The album is a nice rock album, just as the debut was, but not brilliant. Some of the lyrics have a high school banality to them, in some cases intended like on Dancing with the wrong girl, but at times it just seems wrong sung by a grown man. The opener and title track sets a rock n roll tone, which is kept throughout the record. Heavy Fire is the kind of track this band does well. It’s got a lot of Lizzy glimpses, some nods to Queen and fifties rockers like Jerry Lee Lewis. When the Night Comes Inn is a bland and boring number that should have been left off the record.

Dancing with the Wrong Girl has 1950’s American dream movie innocence, a naiveté, to it. The riff is fun and excellent, and the lead guitar a couple of minute’s inn is also excellent. I enjoy Who Rides the Tiger for its silliness and catchy main riff. Cold War Love has a real rock n roll groove to it. True Blue Kid is shaping up to be my favorite track of the entire record. It’s got that x-factor that sets it apart and I keep humming the chorus to myself while shopping for groceries. That’s a good sign, trust me.

The first time I heard Ticket to Rise I seriously thought it was a very different take on a certain Beatles classic. The chorus kind of play on the similarities of the titles, but other than that the two songs sound nothing like each other.

This is a good record, not as good the previous record, but that record was phenomenal, out of this world. I will definitely continue to listen to the record and to follow the band. Scott Gorham might be an old man, but he still rocks!

Recommended tracks: True Blue Kid, Heavy Fire, Who Rides the Tiger

Rating: 3,5 / 5

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Black Star Riders – All Brakes Loose (Nuclear Blast 2013)

The debut from Black Star Riders is kind of hard to consider a debut, seeing that the band had been playing together for a number of years, but as Thin Lizzy. The decision to release new music was a good one, but the decision to release the new music under a new name was even better. Had this album been released as a Thin Lizzy album, it would’ve gotten a totally different welcome, from me at least. I understand the drive to write new music, but with Lynott dead it would be kind of disrespectful, in a way.

The music is a continuation of the sound and songwriting style made famous by Thin Lizzy. The guitar leads, double or not, all have that melodic tinge to them. The record is kind of uneven, some of the songs lack a little in the completion, and they don’t all come together.  Some songs seem like they’ve been thrown together, or recorded as separate riffs and put together in the mix.

I rather concentrate on the songs I enjoy. Bound for Glory is totally working the Lizzy sound, the double lead is magnificent and chorus is catchy as all that. Hey Judas is great, from start to finish. The main riff is so strong, and the melody is magnificent. Hoodoo Voodoo  is contagious in it’s catchiness, even though I got kind of sick of it after some time. Blues ain’t so bad  is a heavy blues song with some monstrous bass going on.

This album is nothing new,  it’s not original in any way. The album is probably close to what Lizzy could have sounded like if Lynott hadn’t passed away. This band, this record is a great tribute to the sound that Lynott was a big part in creating. The uneven songwriting will change before the next record, thankfully.

Recommended tracks: Bound for Glory, Hey Judas

Rating: 3/5

Black Star Riders – The Killer Instinct (Nuclear Blast 2015)

Album of the year! God damn this album is good. I’ll admit I wasn’t completely sold on their first record. It was good, but not great. There was too much of a dichotomy between wanting to keep a familiarity with Lizzy and creating something new. It just didn’t work out that well. Now, on this second record, they have really gotten themselves into a great sound and songwriting style. Many aspects have been kept from the glories of Thin Lizzy, and if Lizzy is not for you than neither is this band. The bluesy guitars, deep baritone vocals, the powerful groovy bottom, the seventies are truly alive in the soundscape.

From the very first note off of the opener, Killer Instinct, I felt an instant recognition. Something safe and warm crept over me and felt snugly for the rest of my maiden voyage with the new record. On their debut it was kind of like to sides struggling to win the songwriting, as hinted to above, this is completely gone now. Ricks voice is reminiscent of Lynotts, but I would consider it more of an homage to him than a rip off.

The title track is a killer opener. It has a great riff and a great chorus. Second track Bullet Blues is one of my favorites on the record. It has this rolling momentum that drives the song and makes me happy.

Finest Hour is a kind of bland number on this record, it would have been a stand out track on the debut, but this record is so good that Finest Hour seems rather pedestrian, to say it in a snooty way. Soldier Town makes for a great foot tapper: A fine riff with a nice groovy beat.

I need to pause here a bit to give credit too DeGrasso. He is a great drummer, solid. He might not be the most adventures drummer in the world, but he’s got groove and feeling to his playing that I’ve appreciated since his Megadeth days. Moving on …

Charlie I Gotta Go just might be one of the best songs I’ve heard in quite some time. I simply love it. You know that feeling when something is so good that you feel unable to describe just have good it is? That is how good this song is. Sex, Guns and Gasoline Should also be given an ear, because it’s also great. Especially the chorus, you can’t help but sing along.

Turn In Your Arms is the most Lizzy sounding track on the album, me thinks Mr. Gorham had more than one finger in the writing process. The final track, You Little Liar, is the longest track of the album. It kind of melted away from me. It’s one of those comfortable songs that allow you to just slip away from everything and be totally emerged in rock n roll greatness.

This album has got it all: Great guitars, great melodies, great twin guitar stints, solid bass lines and heavy, groovy bottom. Producer Nick Raskulinecz has done a great job keeping to a organic, old school hard rock sound. The album sounds great, both the digital and the vinyl. The artwork and imagery is in the same ww2 style as the debut and looks great.

In conclusion there is not a single weak track on here and most of the songs are reminiscent of Thin Lizzy and to some degree of Cream (or the heavier side of any Clapton project). Had this album been released in 1977, it would be considered a classic and Bullet Blues and Charlie I Gotta Go would’ve had heavy airplay on classic rock radio. But, since it’s released now in 2015 and radio seems to be controlled by people who truly believe that rock died with Elvis in ’77, I suspect this album won’t get much airtime, sadly.

I’ll say it one more time just to get the point across: ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2015!

Recommended downloads: Charlie I Gotta Go, Bullet Blues, Sex, Guns and Gasolin, The Killer Instinct

Rating 10/10