Black Star Riders
The Black Star Riders are a hard rock band that grew out of the re-formation of Thin Lizzy. Their roots go back to 2010, when longstanding guitarist Scott Gorham was re-forming the group -- again -- there have been several resurrections since 1996). Reunion members included Gorham, original drummer Brian Downey, and former keyboard player Darren Wharton, with bassist Marco Mendoza, vocalist Rick Warwick, and a series of guitarists including Viv Campbell, Richard Fortus, Damon Johnson, and Christian Martucci. The band issued their debut album, All Hell Breaks Loose, in 2013, and continued to hone their signature blend of classic rock and roots-driven hard rock on subsequent outings like The Killer Instinct (2015), Heavy Fire (2017), and Another State of Grace (2019). Thin Lizzy played shows in 2010 and 2011, but they also began to write material for a new album to be recorded under the band's name. Gorham and Downey weren't comfortable using the Thin Lizzy name to cut new songs out of respect for the late Phil Lynott. The Black Star Riders' moniker was decided on in late 2012, inspired by the name of an outlaw gang in the film Tombstone. Before their debut recording sessions, Downey left the group, citing his inability to endure the long and rigorous touring schedule that would be demanded of a new group. Wharton also left to concentrate on his primary band, Dare. Gorham recruited former Alice Cooper and Megadeth drummer Jimmy DeGrasso to complete the lineup. The Black Star Riders' debut album, All Hell Breaks Loose, was produced by Kevin Shirley and released by Nuclear Blast in the late spring of 2013. 2014 saw the departure of Marco Mendoza and the arrival of Ratt and Lynch Mob bassist Robbie Crane. It also saw the release of the band's sophomore outing, Killer Instinct, which featured the singles "Finest Hour" and the driving title cut. In 2016, the band issued a new single, "When the Night Comes In," in anticipation of the release of their third studio long-player, Heavy Fire, which arrived in February 2017. That same year, drummer DeGrasso departed the band, replaced by Black Label Society's Chad Szeliga. European and U.S. tours followed into 2018 before founding member Damon Johnson parted ways with the band to focus on his own solo career. Replaced by Stone Sour's Christian Martucci, the newly refreshed line-up returned to the studio in early 2019 to record their fourth album. Produced by Jay Ruston (Stone Sour, Uriah Heep), the resulting album, Another State of Grace, was issued in September. ~ Thom Jurek
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Rock - Released March 8, 2018 | Nuclear Blast
The follow-up to 2015's Killer Instinct, the aptly named Heavy Fire delivers another barrage of might, melody, and dual-lead riffage that invokes the heydays of classic rock without falling victim to nostalgia. The third time around for Thin Lizzy expats Ricky Warwick, Scott Gorham, Damon Johnson, and Jimmy DeGrasso, and the second ride for former Ratt and Lynch Mob member Robbie Crane, Heavy Fire sees the veteran decibel-makers firing on all cylinders. Produced by Grammy winner Nick Raskulinecz (Danzig, Rush, Death Angel), who allows the band's raw power to do all of the heavy lifting, the ten-track set comes out of the gate swinging with its pugilistic title track, a bluesy, shape-shifting kick in the noggin that plays to all of the bandmembers' strengths. Slinky guitarmonies and playful chord changes evoke vintage Thin Lizzy on standouts like "Dancing with the Wrong Girl" and "Testify or Say Goodbye," both of which are as radio-ready as they are inventive, and the wistful "Cold War Love" proves that Black Star Riders are just as capable of infusing midtempo balladry with muscle as they are straight-up barnburners like "When the Night Comes In" and "Letting Go of Me." As vital as the instrumental performances are, the biggest charge is delivered by Ricky Warwick's seasoned croon and confidant phrasing, with the gospel-tinged, Dark Side of the Moon-esque backing vocals of Wendy Moten, Gale Mayes, and Drea Rhenee providing their own particular set of sparks. What began as an extension of post-Phil Lynott-era Thin Lizzy has become something far more nuanced, and with three solid studio albums now in their rear-view mirror, it would seem that Black Star Riders have successfully managed to embrace the past without losing themselves in it. ~ James Christopher Monger
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