Sunday 12 May 2013

Black Star Riders - All Hell Breaks Loose Album Review

BLACK STAR RIDERS - All Hell Breaks Loose

Black Star Riders
All Hell Breaks Loose

Nuclear Blast
May 24-28 2013

The songs:

All Hell Breaks Loose
Bound For Glory
Kingdom Of The Lost
Kissin' The Ground
Hey Judas
Hoodoo Voodoo
Valley Of The Stones
Someday Salvation
Before The War
Blues Ain't So Bad

The band: 

Ricky Warwick - lead vocals, guitar
Scott Gorham - lead guitar
Damon Johnson - lead guitar
Marco Mendoza - bass guitar
Jimmy DeGrasso - drums

Before getting to the actual review I have to write a background paragraph or two, kind of a historical presentation of where Black Star Riders comes from. Bear with me people, it will all make sense in the end...I hope.

This band was born out of the latest touring version of Thin Lizzy. Those who knows me know that Thin Lizzy is my all-time favourite band ever. No one can ever surpass that no matter how great they are. Still, I started to get a stale taste in my mouth with them touring endlessly playing the exact set-list year in, year out. Thankfully John Sykes left and Scott Gorham and long-serving touring bassist Marco Mendoza managed to bring Brian Downey and Darren Wharton back to the fold. Appointing former The Almighty frontman Ricky Warwick was a masterstroke especially since his singing brought the passion back. After a few makeshift guitarist, most notably Vivian Campbell, the band settled for the fantastic Damon Johnson and things started to take off again.

After several successful tours Thin Lizzy decided to rehearse and eventually record songs for the first Lizzy album since 1983 but after much deliberation Gorham and Downey decided against recording as Thin Lizzy out of respect to Philip Lynott. They also knew a huge contingent of the fan base were against it so Warwick came up with Black Star Riders, the name of an outlaw gang in the movie Tombstone. At the same time it was announced that Darren Wharton would not be involved as he wanted to focus on his own band, Dare. Brian Downey also left citing not being able to do long tours anymore. His replacement turned out to be Jimmy DeGrasso with no one replacing Wharton.

Thin Lizzy are not done and will tour here and there, though Black Star Riders will of course be the main focus for the guys. Fret not fellow Lizzy nuts because the new band will incorporate several Lizzy songs into their set-list. go see them you hear!

After countless spins on player I have come to two conclusions. The first being that All Hell Breaks Loose is an excellent album, the second being that I am so happy the guys decided to release it under a new name. As a long-time Thin Lizzy fan I would have been disappointed to see this under that moniker because as a Lizzy recording it would have been below par. True I am very, no extremely, biased when it comes to the Irish giants and had this been released as them I would have listened to it only once or twice but that's it. See how conceited I can be! But anyone who is into a band big time knows what I am talking about. Let me get back to my first conclusion though and subsequently get back on track and actually focus on the review at hand.

The title track kicks this much anticipated album off and it sets the mood right there and then. Keeping it at mid-tempo it showcases the band's own sound the most of all the songs on the disc I think. Of course when Scott plays a solo the Lizzy vibes are huge but that's only natural. A good opener with a dark kind of mood. Bound For Glory follows and my adolescent just comes flooding back. What we get here is an excellent mix of Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake when they were still a great band. Think Southbound mixed with Guilty Of Love. The riffs are full and sharp and Ricky shows why he has always been a great frontman - I'm a big fan of his old band The Almighty which makes Black Star Riders an even more important band for me.

Kingdom Of The Lost really picks up on Warwick's celtic heritage and Gorham's long tenure working side by side with Philip Lynott. It runs side by side with Black Rose and The Pogues and I absolutely love it. Damon Johnson's interaction with Scott is impeccable and you can tell they love playing together. They pull off some cool stuff and it comes out so easily and unrestrained.

On Bloodshot the tempo is turned up a bit as Scott and Damon are trading licks back and forth while Marco is playing his fingers bloody throwing out some awesome bass lines and Jimmy keeps it all together with some real solid drumming. Ricky's phrasing is very reminiscent of Lynott without being a mere copy which is impossible since both singers have totally different voices. Instead it's a huge homage to the long-passed master of rock. This continues in the verses on Kissin' The Ground while the music is full of fat riffs while the choruses are more melodic making the song a pretty cool entity.

Apart from Kingdom Of The Lost, Hey Judas is where the Lizzy influences are the strongest. It's full of melody, harmonies and riffs and is something that actually would have been great on any Lizzy album.

Next up is the only "strange" inclusion on All Hell Breaks Loose. For the most part Hoodoo Voodoo is great where vocally it's close to The Almighty of old mixed with classic Lizzy licks. However, the only negative part I have to say about the album is the chorus which goes 'I wanna shake that hoodoo voodoo, I gotta shake that hoodoo voodoo' sung in a silly robotic voice. Since the rest of the song is good I ignore it but sometimes that part annoys the crap out of me.

Oh yeah, pedal to the metal full speed ahead, Valley Of The Stones is a stomper of a rocker where again frontman Warwick's old band shines through and the band seems to have a blast rocking their socks off. I bet this one will be a live favourite indeed as Scott and Damon are on fire again. And as an old Lizzy nutter Gorham always had a more mellow tone to his guitar, here it's sharp, fat and heavy...and I love it!

Someday Salvation does something to me that rarely happens unless I'm drunk off my ass...I actually get up and dance! Yes it's true people....and no I won't film it nor have it posted online so don't lose any sleep about it hehehe. Seriously, this song has me on my feet grooving and shuffling around. It's a bit slower but has a nice beat to it and it helps the album breathe a little bit, you know ease up on things. Before The War is, along with the title track, Black Star Riders on their own so to speak. The Lizzy influences are far and few between instead it's mainly built up on a solitary rolling snare drum with Ricky singing along. The rest of the band joins him and Jimmy in the choruses keeping a nice ebb and flow going. The riffs and the solo towards the end are killer sending shivers down my spine!

The last song on the album is Blues Ain't So Bad and like the title suggests it's the blues track on All Hell Breaks Loose. It's kind of slowish in the beginning but gradually builds up and the guitar playing is beyond words. I know Philip would have loved to play on this one.

I know I have made a lot of Thin Lizzy references in this review but with the background of these guys that was virtually impossible not to. Had the line-up had no Thin Lizzy connections at all I still would have refered to them anyway because musically Black Star Riders draw from them profoundly. Standing on it's own All Hell Breaks Loose is an excellent album, the perfect debut if you will. They show in certain songs what they will sound like after one or two more albums having found their own identity. However I do hope they still keep some of the Lynott heritage alive whichever way their music goes. If you want great music that actually unites genres across the borders buy All Hell Breaks Loose when it comes out and go to the shows and support this great band in the making.

Håkan Nyman

 You can buy All Hell Breaks Loose from all good stockists everywhere from May 28th 2013.

Thanks to Carl at Action PR and Nuclear Blast Records for hooking us up with a copy to review. Much appreciated.  You can buy the record here

Check Out The Band from the links below: