Placing the old name to one side, the members of Thin Lizzy move forward with a new band name, whilst retaining all the quality song writing & playing.
It was always going to be a lightning rod for criticism and close inspection when Thin Lizzy toured with new band members, even more so when it was announced that someone else would be performing Phil Lynott’s vocals and lyrics.
After several successful tours, vocalist Ricky Warwick won over the crowd (and naysayers) by simply being true to the source material, and playing it with love and respect. The next stage would be put under scrutiny by the fans, with the biggest question being “Will they do an album?” After completing an Australian tour with Kiss, Thin Lizzy decided what they would do next.
Essentially starting a new chapter was the result, and after Ricky gained inspiration from the pilots who emblazoned their planes with insignia, they named their new incarnation Black Star Riders and the first album All Hell Breaks Loose was announced.
Doing so removed the weight of expectation, and inevitable comparisons to Thin Lizzy – which, frankly, were getting in the way of a true assessment of the music, and finally allowed it to stand alone. Of course the musicians themselves will always have a following, particularly Scott Gorham for his most recognisable of tones, but it allows a fresh start – almost. This record drips with the influences that each individual has, and they are also, essentially, influencing themselves. So yes, there are classic Lizzy moments, but there’s also some AC/DC and an army of folk melodies linking the endless stream of great riffs together.
The title track sees them producing a potent mix, driven by harmonised guitars. Their approach is somehow re-ignited by Damon Johnson’s playing. It doesn’t just run with Scott’s guitar work but pushes it further, all the time advancing with Ricky’s “Tough folk for the masses” earnest working man’s delivery. Like Bruce Springsteen with an Irish drawl, it’s played with an ease that can only be born from a comfortable environment. In this case the environment was created by producer Kevin Shirley, whose master stroke of placing the band in a live environment, bringing in their live set-up and having them go at it produces an urgency that permeates through tracks like Valley of The Stones.
Being the sole lyricist can be a tough prospect, and Ricky thrives in a challenging situation, cornered and forced to come out singing and fighting, it’s a major factor in powering the surrounding music along. “Desperation always tell a story,” he recants on Bound For Glory, (one of the albums peaks) and on the other, Kingdom Of The Lost he cries out “Patriot without a heart” with feeling – these may well be Ricky’s best lyrics.
It’s Kingdom Of The Lost where Scott’s playing echoes his previous work most, but it also shows where they are heading. Steeped in penny whistle and Irish green, it’s another man’s harking for Ireland, but it’s heavier and more aggressive with a beating of the chest, and an attack that propels Scot and Damon along. It’s a theme that’s solidified with Bloodshot with its great exchanged guitar solos and on Kissing the Ground You Walk On where the group just bloom.
All Hell Breaks Loose succeeds because it’s a great, solid rock record. Considering its protagonists, it manages to deftly give a nod to their past, acknowledging the genetic make-up of the artists that have influenced them, both within the band and outside, without being weighed down by it. They have been able to create something where all parties play with energy and fervour, beginning a new phase for everyone involved the right way, letting the songs stand for themselves.