Album review: BLACK STAR RIDERS – The Killer Instinct


Black Star Riders - The Killer Instinct

Nuclear Blast [Release date 23.02.15]

Album number two, and Black Star Riders are still operating in Phil Lynott’s shadow.  Perhaps any band with Scott Gorham is going to major on Lizzy’s sweet sounding harmony guitar but with Ricky Warwick’s vocals they may always be considered somewhat pastiche and the Celtic-flavoured tunes are still ever-present.

BSR may have broken away from their shackles if they had focussed more on tracks like ‘Through The Motions’ and ‘Sex, Guns And Gasoline’ – great chunks of untainted groove driven hard rock with little trace of Gorham’s lineage.

If BSR hadn’t come about, and evolving from the Lizzy-badged outfit Gorham had fronted since 1996, I wonder if Gorham may have revisited 21 Guns the band he formed in the early-1990s with Mike Sturgis and Leif Johansen.  That was a very commercial-sounding melodic hard rock band and refreshingly there was no trace of Lizzy.   (Check out the wonderful 1997 album ‘Nothing’s Real’, reissued in 2014, for evidence).

The title track here represents the “one cuban heel in the past, one in the future” approach.  ‘Bullet Blues’ is like Lizzy had they gone really heavy after the fan-splitting ‘Cold Sweat’ album, ‘Thunder And Lightning’.  The mid-tempo ‘Finest Hour’ is a catchy variation of tunes that Lizzy did so well.

Overall, this is an album born out of its time: sharp, commercial, four-minute tracks that in better days would have trounced FM Radio.

Whilst the extended  ‘You Little Liar’ breaks the mould somewhat I wonder whether they will be brave enough to include it in their live set.  As far as I am aware their other extended highlight (on ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’) – ‘Blues Ain’t So Bad’ – has never been exposed live in a set that prefers to pad things out with the inevitable Lizzy back catalogue. Recalling that live set, I couldn’t help thinking that at times it all gets a bit samey.

Thirty years after his death, Phil Lynott might have nodded approvingly but he might also stifle a yawn.  This is a great classic rock album,  but only if you like Lizzy-By-Numbers with the added authenticity of an “original” guitarist.  ****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

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Each week David Randall presents ‘New to GRTR!’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, with the emphasis on independent artists and labels. During December he replays favourite tracks including power plays featured during the year. This show covers the period January-March and was first broadcast on 1 December 2019.

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