Bombshell covers are suddenly the rage in comic books and now hard rock albums.
2012 saw four members of THIN LIZZY (Ricky Warwick, Scott Gorham, Damon Johnson and Marco Mendoza) come together with former MEGADETH and ALICE COOPER drummer Jimmy DeGrasso. On that merit alone, BLACK STAR RIDERS sparked an immediate buzz. Now in place of Mendoza on bass for BLACK STAR RIDERS is Robbie Crane (RATT, ADLER'S APPETITE, LYNCH MOB, VINCE NEIL), and away we go with album two, "The Killer Instinct".
Warwick and his BLACK STAR RIDERS corroborators reportedly sat in debate over whether or not to make "The Killer Instinct" a THIN LIZZY album. The end result is part THIN LIZZY and part something else as the band reaches for its own kick. Pooled together, this album's a winner.
The title track is complete THIN LIZZY emulation, straight down to Ricky Warwick's replication of Phil Lynott's choky swoons and slides, only an octave lower. The guitar solo is crisp and the riffs are tight and sweaty, giving the necessary verve behind the edict "you have to die a little to survive." "Bullet Blues" afterwards is a tougher, slightly heavier, though no less melodic rocker with chucked-down bridges and dirty, blistering tag guitar solos. The pop hooks floating amidst the blues and country-kissed "Finest Hour" stand tall upon Jimmy DeGrasso's rocksteady beat. A frolicking three chord melody and Ricky Warwick's playful jiving of the song's memorable choruses, written as a distant hello to an old flame of his teen years, gives "Finest Hour" a honeyed loft.
The Celtic marches of "Soldierstown" carry wafts of THIN LIZZY, but the song is more punk-oriented with a jig groove giving the song's theme about terrorism in Ireland its full thwack. The gang shouts spread throughout "Soldierstown" are stirring and Ricky Warwick responds with a pensive delivery. Following is the nervy "Charlie I Gotta Go", a THIN LIZZY-plotted cut inspired by Charles Manson. The guitar solo is absolutely fierce, while the bittersweet chords and heated tenacity could've sat just fine on the "Johnny the Fox" album.
The winding six-minute quasi-ballad "Blindsided" grows in strength following the song's dreamy acoustic opening. Conceived as a power epic, the song builds its riffs to a punching middle section then logically yields back to the meditative measures it begins with. "Through the Motions" jumps straight out of this rock reverie with a funk-backed bass ride from Robbie Crane. "Through the Motions" mixes THIN LIZZY grooves and riffs (alongside more Lynott impressions from Warwick) with booming choruses and a searing guitar solo that will leave your pets shivering. "Sex, Guns and Gasoline" then shoves THIN LIZZY and LED ZEPPELIN into one compact, shaking jam of a cut where all players pound more than play it.
As a legendary act of hard rock that has inexcusably been given the shaft by American classic rock stations save but one repeated song that doesn't wholly define how powerful they were, it's fair enough Warwick and company would continue to write tunes in a THIN LIZZY frame of mind. Those who do the homework know the truth: THIN LIZZY is one of the greatest rock bands ever put together. BLACK STAR RIDERS serves to homage Phil Lynott and all the many players who made THIN LIZZY their home, but better, this band kicks enough tail in their own right to carry on as their own men. Legacy honor-bounds these guys, yet a quickly unraveling potential gives them their own identity to build a fruitful future with. "The Killer Instinct" has just that and then some.