Black Star Riders: The Killer Instinct
The Killer Instinct is the sophomore release from Black Star Riders, the band formed out of the final incarnation of Thin Lizzy led by guitar legend Scott Gorham. Joining Gorham in the band are Ricky Warwick (lead vocals), Damon Johnson (guitar), Robbie Crane (bass), and Jimmy DeGrasso (drums). With the intent of keeping the Thin Lizzy spirit alive yet delivering the music with a more modern sound, the band had a very successful debut and are looking to build on it here. I can easily say they have, as The Killer Instinct is quite engaging from the opening notes, as Black Star Riders have crafted 10 catchy tunes that run the gamut from twin guitar fueled hard rockers, more bluesy, rootsy fare, and '70s styled heavy rock.
The opening title cut is easily one of the best songs this outfit have cranked out in their short career, a belter of a Lizzy inspired song that kicks off the album in fine, hard rocking fashion. "Bullet Blues" also hits hard, filled with plenty of tasty guitar work and stellar vocals (Warwick does sound a hell of a lot like the late Phil Lynott), while "Finest Hour" has a country blues thing going on and plenty of melodic hooks, a tune that you could easily see having hit potential. Those Irish flavors that were always prevalent on the classic Thin Lizzy material rears its head on the sensational "Soldierstown", with Gorham & Johnson weaving some alluring guitar melodies around each other and Warwick giving it his all. If you loved "Emerald", chances are you'll really dig this one. "Charlie I Gotta Go" is more of a stripped down, straight forward moody rocker, with a great vocal from Warwick and some nasty riffs, and the emotional "Blindsided" offers up bluesy, acoustic tones for one of the albums mellower moments. "Through the Motions" is perhaps the least moving tune here, a somewhat generic rocker that just never gets out of first gear, but they more than make up for that with the groove laden, nasty blues metal of "Sex, Guns, & Gasoline", a really kick ass piece with a venomous Warwick vocal and loads of sizzling riffs and driving rhythms. Of course, it's the twin guitar harmonies that most fans clamor for, and you get plenty on the heavy rocker "Turn In Your Arms", another scorching Lizzy inspired number, and the band close the show with the melodic and very modern sounding "You Little Liar", complete with some memorable hooks and tasty riffing.
Yes, The Killer Instinct has a lot of those classic Thin Lizzy elements, but it's clear that Black Star Riders are out to create their own path and not rely on past achievements. In the end it's all about the songs, and there are many potent, instantly memorable hard rock tunes here that stand out all by themselves, with or without that little bit of Lizzy sparkle. My suggestion-get this at all costs.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1. Killer Instinct
2. Bullet Blues
3. Finest Hour
5. Charlie I Gotta Go
7. Through the Motions
8. Sex, Guns, & Gasoline
9. Turn In Your Arms
10. You Little Lair
Added: March 22nd 2015
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
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|Black Star Riders: The Killer Instinct
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-03-22 10:51:10
Trawl the net and you'll find a lot of sniffy people looking down noses at Black Star Riders. "Trading on the Lynott legacy", "pressure applied" to change the band name from Thin Lizzy, being just a flavour of the oft repeated speculation. Yet, in truth, had the line-up that was treading the boards as a faithful shot of Lizzy nostalgia turned up with an album of Death Metal or Prog Rock, the very same people would be asking what the point was. The Killer Instinct is the second Black Star Riders album and it picks up from a debut album (All Hell Breaks Loose) which was, depending on your standpoint, exactly how you hoped (that was my thoughts), or a hopeless rehash (many of the critics' thoughts).
In guitarist Scott Gorham, BSR have a genuine legend of the Hard Rock genre and to expect him to not play to his strengths would be unrealistic and yet with a more than capable band around him – Ricky Warwick (The Almighty), Damon Johnson (Alice Cooper), Robbie Crane (Ratt) and Jimmy DeGrasso (Y&T, Megadeth) – to also not expect things to move into pastures new would be unfair. So on this album we get "Soldierstown" where the Lizzy twin guitars burn bright and an Irish lilt hides deep in the galloping riff, and "Charlie I Gotta Go", which has that waltzing abandon Lizzy did so well; both are album highlights. While "Blindsided" is a more straight ahead semi acoustic burst of emotion and "Turn In Your Arms" finds an Apache drum beat heralding in a hard hitting bite of riffs and Rock. Interestingly both styles work equally well and both sit ever so snuggling against each other. The same, yet different, disparate, yet intrinsically linked. Hats off to Warwick, his sometimes gruff, sometimes crystal clear vocals add an air of authenticity in an (admittedly) Lynott like way, while he even manages to make "You Little Liar" sound almost exactly like his old band, The Almighty, and what a great band they were! Gorham and Johnson combine supremely and having witnessed them on stage, they do both the BSR and Thin Lizzy legacy proud. Something borne out through the surging, darting "Through The Motions", which really could come from the Johnny The Fox album.
Say what you want about Black Star Riders but in the cold light of day they've now put together their second collection of songs that hits the spot marked Classic Rock, with a power, force and assuredness that can't be denied. Considering the amount of bands with no connection to Thin Lizzy who've tried to ape this style over the years, if the worst thing that can be said about BSR is that they're doing a great job of sounding exactly how they set out to, while still broadening their horizons, then they must be doing something right, mustn't they?
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