Label: Nuclear Blast
Release date: May 28, 2012
For years the question has hung over the head of Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham about whether the band would record new material. Finally in 2012 he answered the question stating he would not do so under the Thin Lizzy name, “out of respect to Phil Lynott and the legacy he created.”
Soon after that announcement, Gorham unveiled the news that the band which had been touring as Thin Lizzy would record new material as Black Star Riders. The band would include Gorham, vocalist Ricky Warwick (The Almighty), guitarist Damon Johnson (Alice Cooper, Brother Cane), bassist Marco Mendoza (Blue Murder, Ted Nugent) and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (Y&T, Megadeth).
One listen to “All Hell Breaks Loose” and it’s clear that Phil Lynott would have been proud. The heart of the Thin Lizzy sound breathes through Black Star Riders, but the guys also set their own identity here. Still, the songwriting is infused with the legacy of seminal Thin Lizzy, and that Irish magic is woven through the sonic tapestry of every track. Johnson has long been an avid fan of Thin Lizzy, so it’s easy to see/hear where his presence compliments Gorham’s style. Johnson wrote much of the music for the record with Warwick who handled the lyrical duties with flair and substance. Heady stuff for two guys who idolized Thin Lizzy growing up. Gorham and Mendoza added their input to the songwriting as well, uniting the band behind a common goal.
The album, which was recorded in January 2013, was produced by Kevin Shirley who has worked with bands as varied as Journey, Mr. Big, Iron Maiden, Rush, Aerosmith, and Led Zeppelin.
The title track opens the album. “All Hell Breaks Loose” is a broody rocker with rhythmic swagger and great swing to the drum line. The dual guitar attack is a subtle reminder of the band’s storied roots and the lyrical theme is a reminder that there are still bullets in those guns.
The band released the first single “Bound For Glory” in April. Inevitably fans will be listening for that classic Thin Lizzy signature, so this pick was a no-brainer. The song could have come off any of the Lizzy’s iconic albums.
“Kingdom of the Lost” opens as an old Irish folk song. The trademark guitar harmonies are more pronounced here and with Warwick’s Lynott-esque voice, one can’t help but feel wistful. A stunning and memorable track. “Bloodshot” follows with a similar rolling rhythm.
Built on the classic Thin Lizzy foundation, “Kissin’ the Ground” brings the sound into the present, channeling the past while creating something fresh. That feeling of the past re-imagined through a modern prism permeates the album. “Hey Hey Judas” is just one of many infectious and radio ready numbers on “All Hell Breaks Loose“.
The skeptics who were worried that this might end up being a sad shadow of Lynott’s Thin Lizzy, (I admit it, I was one of them), needn’t have worried. Songs like “Valley of the Stones” and “Someday Salvation”, “Before the War” and “Blues Ain’t So Bad” are as powerful, impressive and rocking as one might have hoped for. There simply isn’t a throwaway song on this album.
“All Hell Breaks Loose” is inspired and inspiring, reverent and reckless, bluesy and bombastic. Gorham and company not only keep the spirit and majesty of Thin Lizzy alive, they breathe fresh life into an era of rock and roll that has been on life support for two decades. Black Star Riders are not a shadow of the past but a present day force. Whether you are a fan of the band that birthed Black Star Riders, or your basic die-hard rock and roll junkie, you’d be wise to invest in this record.