By: Raymond Westland
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Released on February 20, 2015 via Nuclear Blast Records
Black Star Riders started out as the members of Thin Lizzy’s last line-up wanted to record new material, but not under the Thin Lizzy moniker. This mostly out of respect for the legacy of the late Phil Lynott. The fruits of their collective labour came in the form of All Hell Breaks Loose, an album full of well-written songs steeped in Lizzy’s legendary past. Now the band is back with a second album, which beckons the question whether they will stick with course set with their debut record or try to venture out in uncharted waters…
With The Killer Instinct Ricky Warwick and Co decided to stick to their guns and deliver a terrific slab of part Thin Lizzy-infused rock and more bluesy type of material. Both elements in their music are harnessed in top notch songwriting with all hooks and choruses to die for. Variety is key on The Killer Instinct. The material ranges from uptempo rockers like ‘Bullet Blues’ and ‘Through The Motions’, to more radio friendly semi ballads (‘Finest Hour’) to some longer jam-based tracks like ‘Blindsided’ and ‘You Little Liar’. Both the aforementioned tracks have a strong Led Zeppelin feel to them, which is never a bad thing in my book.
Ricky Warwick may not be gifted with the longest vocal range in rock n’ roll history, but his raspy and hoarse singing style gives the material just the right type of bite even on the slicker material as the aforementioned ‘Finest Hour’. The rhythm section, consisting of newcomer Robbie Crane on bass and former Megadeth and Alice Cooper sticksman Jimmy Degrasso, lays down a solid sonic foundation on which guitarists Damon Johnson and Scott Gorham can shine with some killer leadwork, especially on ‘Soldiertown’ and ‘Sex, Guns and Gasoline’.
On this album the Black Star Riders remain safely tucked in their comfort zone. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because what they do to is executed with utter perfection. However, it would be interesting to see what would happen if the band decided to venture out and leave their Thin Lizzy past behind and turn Black Star Riders into a true franchise of its own. For now The Killer Instinct is a solid follow-up record on which Warwick and Co continue to display their songwriting prowess with all the bells and whistles that come with it.