Monday, April 27, 2015

Black Star Riders - The Killer Instinct

We all now the second album can be a very tricky thing for bands, even for seasoned veterans like the guys in Black Star Riders. Even more so, when their debut was a breathtaking piece of magic. However, any concern I had regarding their new wax - #2! - 'The Killer Instinct' was quickly vanquished. Although it took a few spins before I fully embraced what the album is about.

Since their debut was originally meant to be a brand new Thin Lizzy album, those songs carried a strong feel of Philip Lynott's amazing songwriting. His presence is still there on opus number two, but the chief song smiths, Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson, have already started to steer the band down their own path. Perhaps that's why it took me a little bit to warm up to 'The Killer Instinct', who knows? All I know is, once that aha-moment appeared, this album is cementing Black Star Riders' status as the forerunners of proper heavy rock.

One significant change from last time is that the lyrics have a darker undertone. A sense of hope and fighting spirit permeates throughout via the music, while rejection, failed relationships and alienation are the main themes in the lyrics. My favourite track 'Blindsided' covers it all where a solitary acoustic guitar leads into some of the most heartfelt lyrics I have heard in a long time. New four-stringer Robbie Crane's thumping bass moves along like a heart beat, before the rest of the band joins in portraying all the different stages of emotions you go through, when being left in the dumps by someone you hold dear. Another of my top tracks is 'Soldierstown' which carries a strong Celtic vibe and automatically reminds me of Thin Lizzy in the best possible way. Damon Johnson and Scott Gorham have formed a formidable guitar duo, the kind you can really only find in "old" 70's heavy rock bands. And that's a heritage which needs to be continued. 'Turn In Your Arms' is another song steeped in the lineage of Thin Lizzy á la 'Emerald', especially the guitars and the drums in the bridges, but also in the choruses as well.

I stated earlier that singer Ricky Warwick and guitarist Damon Johnson, the main song writers, are moving Black Star Riders towards a sound of their own. To me this is most apparent in the arrangements and the structures of the songs. Incorporating all their experience from The Almighty, Brother Cane as well as their respective solo careers is certainly paying off. Everything mixed together forms excellent songs that is surpassed by few. Since I have the Deluxe 2CD edition the tracks on disc 2 are proof enough for that, where the opening two, 'Gabrielle' and the Gary Moore-sounding 'The Reckoning Day', easily could have been added to the regular edition. The other four songs are acoustic versions of the album tracks 'The Killer Instinct', 'Blindsided', 'Charlie I Gotta Go' and 'Finest Hour'. Taking on a whole new dimension this way also highlights Warwick and Johnson's superior song writing skills.

'The Killer Instinct' is a fantastic second album by a band in top form, who are clearly out for world domination. It's a perfect continuation to 'All Hell Breaks Loose' and played back to back well that's all you really need, dear waveriders.

- Swedebeast

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