Album review: BLACK STAR RIDERS – All Hell Breaks Loose

Black Star Riders - All Hell Breaks Loose

Nuclear Blast [Release date 27.05.13]

I’ve always considered Scott Gorham to be the least talented of the classic Thin Lizzy line up, and his continued trading on the name hasn’t endeared either.  It’s one thing to keep the legacy alive, quite another to use it to stroke an over inflated ego.  It’s a blessing therefore, that he decided against – as was originally planned – releasing this album under the Thin Lizzy moniker.

He says that’s out of respect to Phil Lynott and his legacy.  I’m not so sure – there’s plenty of Lynott’s legacy on display here on an album made by a band of rock ‘n’ roll mercenaries – vocalist Ricky Warwick (The Almighty), guitarist Damon Johnson (Alice Cooper, Brother Cane), bassist Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake, Blue Murder) and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (Y&T, Megadeth).  One suspects there may have been some pressure applied by the Lynott estate.

Part of John Sykes original revival of Lizzy back in 1996 Gorham has slowly, through a never-ending merry-go-round of players in which he’s remained the only constant, engineered himself into a position at the band’s helm.  It’s where he’s always wanted to be.  And if ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ is down to his direction, then hat’s off to him – it’s the best album Thin Lizzy never made.

It’s clear from the opening restrains that the material has been conceived to slip almost unnoticed into a Thin Lizzy set.  Not a surprise given the band have, and will, continue to perform as Thin Lizzy.  But actually, it’s a damn fine rock album – again, perhaps not entirely surprising given the talents of the players and with Kevin Shirley beefing up the production in his normal tub thumping manner.

But there is a huge elephant in the room – the presence of Phil Lynott looms large throughout.  On first listen Warwick’s aping of Lynott’s unique vocal tone, phrasing and inflections is unsettling.  Less so the very many riffs, runs and fills that were Lizzy trademarks (Johnson wrote much of the music), or the Warwick’s lyrical style that cleverly plagiarises that of Lynott.

The acid test must be, what would Lynott have made of it?  Had he not succumbed to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, he may well have moved on from here, but ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ pretty much picks up the story from where ‘Thunder and Lightning’ left off – that is, at the heavier end of the Lizzy spectrum.

And there’s some real humdingers that will have Phil smiling in his grave – the title track, the first single ‘Bound For Glory’, ‘Valley Of The Stones’ and in particular the magnificent set closer ‘Blues Ain’t So Bad’.

Phil Lynott was Thin Lizzy.  Black Star Riders are the next best thing.  *****

Review by Pete Whalley

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.

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