BLACK STAR RIDERS – The Killer Instinct [Deluxe Edition] (2015)
After their critically-acclaimed Top 30 debut album, BLACK STAR RIDERS return with the long-awaited follow-up, “The Killer Instinct“. The band formed around the last of incarnation of Thin Lizzy and featuring guitar legend Scott Gorham (ex- 21 Guns), Damon Johnson (guitar, ex- Alice Cooper), Jimmy DeGrasso (drums, ex- Megadeth), Robbie Crane (bass, ex- Ratt, Vince Neil) and fronted by Belfast-born, ex-The Almighty vocalist Ricky Warwick, are back with vengeance.
All Black Star Riders members reportedly sat in debate over whether or not to make “The Killer Instinct” a Thin Lizzy influenced album. The end result is part Thin Lizzy and part something original as the band reaches for its own kick. Pooled together, this album is a winner.
The title track brings to mind Lizzy, 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 stunning “Finest Hour” just drew me in straight away, a simple melodic gem that’s knee deep in classic American rock. The first real sniff of Lizzy comes with “Soldierstown”, where the trademark Celtic guitar licks are as resolute as always. If ever there was a song that announced Ricky Warwick as the singer in Black Star Riders, and not the guy that sings Thin Lizzy songs, “Charlie I Gotta Go” is it. Vocally, Warwick always delivers, but lyrically he tells his story with gritty poetic honesty.
Acoustic is not a word that was ever associated with Thin Lizzy, but BSR are continuing to grow their own identity, and with the sumptuous “Blindsided”, they take their versatility to a new level. But like it or lump it, the Lizzy association is still the fulcrum of the band, and “Through The Motions” incorporates a lot of that classic sound.
“Sex, Guns & Gasoline” is a belter. A dirty, greasy rocker that’s drenched in sin. The band are firing on all cylinders here, especially the mean rhythm section. Drum assaulter Jimmy DeGrasso has without doubt filled the massive void left by the legendary Brian Downey. And new guy, former Ratt bassist Robbie Crane, seems to have slotted in effortlessly following the departure of Marco Mendoza.
Once again the Gorham/Johnson partnership is five star on the swaggering “Turn In Your Arms”, with a Native American tale, Warwick once again displays his A level lyrical intelligence. “You Little Liar” closes the album with an epic thump. The songs climaxes with an apocalyptic guitar solo that hasn’t served it’s purpose if your ears aren’t ringing.
This “The Killer Instinct” Limited Edition 2CD Digibook Version is a must, as the bonus CD is fantastic. Features two great extra tracks in the sweet “Gabrielle”, and a melting melodic rocker on “The Reckoning Day”, plus earthy acoustic versions from the main album best songs.
Overall, this is an terrific blend of melodic rock anthems combined with classic rock sounds like Thin Lizzy used to make. It’s not hard to imagine this band being four of the five former members of Lizzy, yet Black Star Riders have done an awesome job of modernizing their sound to what melodic hard rock and classy metal fans want to hear in 2015.
01. The Killer Instinct
02. Bullet Blues
03. Finest Hour
05. Charlie I Gotta Go
07. Through The Motions
08. Sex, Guns & Gasoline
09. Turn In Your Arms
10. You Little Liar
02. The Reckoning Day
03. The Killer Instinct (Acoustic)
04. Blindsided (Acoustic)
05. Charlie I Gotta Go (Acoustic)
06. Finest Hour (Acoustic)
Ricky Warwick (The Almighty) – Vocals
Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy) – Guitars
Damon Johnson (Alice Cooper) – Guitars
Robbie Crane (Ratt, Lynch Mob) – Bass
Jimmy DeGrasso (Megadeth, Y&T) – Drums