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Black Star Riders

Supergroup or just simply THIN LIZZY Mk.?, BLACK STAR RIDERS have to be commended for at least letting go the ‘Lizzy mantle – finally respecting the late, great PHIL LYNOTT. Of course, this took time to incorporate, as the cosmopolitan group evolved their revised incarnation late 2012. All veterans of hard-rock scene for yonks, Northern Ireland-born frontman Ricky Warwick (formerly of Scots-based act The ALMIGHTY) was as close to LYNOTT’s Celtic connections as one could achieve, while ‘Lizzy stalwart axeman Scott Gorham and his American-born compadres: Damon Johnson (guitar), Marco Mendoza (bass) and Jimmy DeGrasso (drums), were worthies plucked from the likes of Brother Cane, WHITESNAKE, OZZY OSBOURNE, MEGADETH, et al.
All except DeGrasso had been present on a string of concert sets by the outgoing THIN LIZZY, but they’re “live and dangerous” era was stuck firmly with Phil – R.I.P. The ageing boys were back in hard-rock town with BLACK STAR RIDERS, a moniker procured from the outlaw gang in the movie, Tombstone. The Kevin Shirley-produced ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE (2013) {*6} was as gritty and gutsy as one might’ve expected, while the THIN LIZZY swagger was not lost on the likes of `Hoodoo Voodoo’, `Kissin’ The Ground’, `Bound For Glory’ and the Celtic-tinged/”Black Rose”-era `Kingdom Of The Lost’. Fans fed up listening to tribute acts a-plenty will love the LYNOTT-affected Warwick and the twin-engine, guitar assault of Gorham and Johnson, as they reel off clichéd but determined retro-rock.
Nearly 30 years since the death of THIN LIZZY’s main man, Ricky once again donned his “Stars In Their Eyes” leather LYNOTT cap for cosmopolitan Celtic-rock sophomore set, THE KILLER INSTINCT (2015) {*7}. Without Menzoda (to Dead Daisies) – replaced by ex-RATT man Robbie Crane – BLACK STAR RIDERS impressed the hard-rock brigade with their punchy, fist-pumping blues balladry; evergreen contemporary rock tunes served up by `Soldiertown’, `Blindsided’, `Finest Hour’ and the opening title track.
And tonight Ricky… you’re going to be… PHIL LYNOTT, would probably be an appropriate catch-phrase to start the hard-rock ball rolling for album number three, HEAVY FIRE (2017) {*7}. Probably their best album so far (it reached UK No.6), the Nick Raskulinecz-produced BLACK STAR RIDERS were content on taking classic rock beyond its sell-by-date; examples `When The Night Comes In’, `Dancing With The Wrong Girl’ and `Testify Or Say Goodbye’. Later that year, DeGrasso gave way to Chad Szeliga (ex-BREAKING BENJAMIN et al); Johnson bailed in 2018.
Enlisting former STONE SOUR axeman Christian Martucci to bolster the Jay Ruston-produced Top 20 set, ANOTHER STATE OF GRACE (2019) {*6}, ever-faithful fans of ‘Lizzy and derivative old-school hard-rock in general, would not be unbowed by any sharp criticism. Warwick’s vocal was the spit an’ spirit of LYNOTT, and in the Celtic-rock affiliated title track and other download ditty, `Ain’t The End Of The World’, and the opening `Tonight The Moon Let Me Down’, one could almost put Brexit away into the mind’s backburner for a few minutes.
© MC Strong/MCS May2013-Sep2019

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