The Killer Instinct

Black Star Riders

After surrendering the Thin Lizzy moniker, Black Star Riders went on to record their 2013 debut, All Hell Breaks Loose, which by formula or emboldened righteousness, had all the hooks and ladders of a Thin Lizzy record. Not necessarily a bad thing because they still had all the makings of a killer hard rock band with Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson wielding their guitars like soldiers on patrol, Marco Mendoza rattling the bass, and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso wildly syncopating the verses. Out in front, Ricky Warwick took the microphone and delivered the words with the sort of paunch and attitude that would have thrown Phil Lynott for a loop. For 2015, Black Star Riders have stepped up with a second offering, The Killer Instinct, an album that resonates with traces of Lizzy as it molds and refines a more Black Star Riders style, slouch and sound.

The minute you hit "Play" on the opening title track, there is that familiar Thin Lizzy ring rising with the singing guitars that introduces Warwick as he wiggles into the vocal for a hearty and melodic track. It's a strong introduction, though not necessarily forward — that comes as you track through the rest of the album. "Bullet Blues" crunches through the brush and booms forth on a highly charged refrain before the chorus climbs and lingers like a performing trapeze artist without a net. The break, which probably got Robbie Crane the gig as replacement for Mendoza, is the real clincher on this one. If we were talking about singles that dream about airplay, "Finest Hour" would be a likely candidate for its simple, infectious turnarounds and catchy "shanna na, na, na, na, na, nas..."

Things turn serious after a slice of "Whisky In A Jar" type of Celtic angst takes hold on "Soldierstown," which finds Gorham swinging wide and mighty with his fretwork. "Blindsided" is the dust after the mayhem, an easy-going angular rocker that leaps and bounds for melody and magnificence around hunky chords and images of the old west. And just when you think you've washed the taste of Thin Lizzy out of your mouth, along comes the spunky "Through The Motions," driven by an insatiable riff rife with the influence, yet reasonably inimitable with a groove you can't shake loose.

"Sex, Guns & Gasoline" might not have an easy time flying under the radar, much less its suggestive title. "Turn In Your Arms" and "Little Liar" will finish you off, happy to know that the spirit of the hard rockin' Thin Lizzy twin-guitar attack, driven by Gorham and Johnson, is still a lethal ingredient of the music. Taken as whole, The Killer Instinct is Black Star Riders' coming-out party, a claim to the throne that once belonged to Thin Lizzy, ripe with vision into new realms and possibilities. If the third one's a charm, it just might be worth the wait.

~ Shawn Perry

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