Review: Black Star Riders – ‘The Killer Instinct’
If you’re looking for an album and a band to fall in love with, you can’t go wrong with The Killer Instinctand Black Star Riders. Making the decision to shake off the Thin Lizzy mantle in 2012 was something the band members struggled with at the time, and obviously Black Star Riders still has Thin Lizzy embedded in its DNA, but this album makes it clear that they’ve come through it all with a strong sense of purpose and commitment to the new band. All Hell Breaks Loose was an impressive debut and I loved that album, but The Killer Instinct really ups the ante. It’s a confident, blazing hot, and deeply satisfying album that rocks hard from start to finish and literally left me smiling as I listened to it.
There are spine-tingling moments of hard rocking magic throughout, like on the rowdy and swaggering “Sex, Guns & Gasoline” – probably the hottest track on this album, and that’s saying something – with Scott Gorham proving that he’s still one heck of a sexy riff-beast on guitar. That same magic also blazes through on the raw and rib-shakingly powerful “Turn In Your Arms”. Actually, every time Gorham and Damon Johnson rev up their divine twin guitar engine, there’s enough energy and heat coming off the whole band to melt at least a couple of polar ice-caps.
The hard-rocking magic is there again on “Bullet Blues”, a track fueled by more great guitars; the heavy, tasty bass work of Robbie Crane; and killer drums by Jimmy DeGrasso. It’s an all-fired-up, hooky-as-hell tune bursting with the same infectious energy that permeates the whole album: these guys are playing at the top of their game, and plainly enjoying every minute of it.
Black Star Riders showcase the true range and power of their combined musical skills on The Killer Instinct: they’re all ablaze and defiant on the title-track – which just happens to be one hellacious stomper of a tune; they spin a gorgeous, touching tale in “Finest Hour”; and unleash some seriously bluesy, heavy rocking power in the irresistible “Through The Motions” – one of my favourite tracks in this stellar track-list.
Talking about his song-writing partner Ricky Warwick’s writing style in an interview*, Damon Johnson described it as: “he writes great folk songs with really loud guitars”, and that’s spot on. Every track here tells a story, and it has to be said that Warwick’s way with words and vocals really puts a big, throbbing heart into this album. The epic and soulful “Soldierstown” with its strong Celtic vibe is a prime example, as is “Charlie I Gotta Go” – an outstanding track with Warwick’s vocals at their very best: rugged and warm and with that deep Irish rumble. Gorham’s and Johnson’s guitar-work here is ridiculously good, and the tune sounds like an instant classic to me.
“Blindsided” is another great example of Warwick’s golden pipes and golden touch with lyrics, making it yet another standout. The guitar-work is beautifully intricate – almost delicate – with Warwick’s voice just bruised and bleeding with sorrow and pain.
Final track “You Little Liar” – another favourite of mine – has Black Star Riders flexing every hard-rocking muscle in their arsenal, all attitude and defiance with blazing hot guitars, and crushingly good bass and drums. It’s an absolutely smashing track and a terrific way to close out an exceptional album.
The Killer Instinct will be released on Nuclear Blast in late February: February 20th in Europe, February 23rd in the UK, and February 24th in North America. You can pre-order the album in various formats here. In March, the band heads out on a European tour and I can only hope that they will hit up Canada sometime after that.
- The Killer Instinct
- Bullet Blues
- Finest Hour
- Charlie I Gotta Go
- Through The Motions
- Sex, Guns & Gasoline
- Turn In Your Arms
- You Little Liar
- Ricky Warwick: Vocals/Guitar
- Scott Gorham: Guitars
- Damon Johnson: Guitars
- Robbie Crane: Bass
- Jimmy DeGrasso: Drums
* Interview quote from Metaltalk.net’s interview with Damon Johnson.
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