The title track of Black Star Riders latest album Heavy Fire jumps out of the speakers from the very first second you hit the play button. It punches the air out of you as it declares there is no room for complacent listening here. Crank it up and succumb!
The band obviously wish to assert their hard rocking credentials from the outset and announce to the world they are far from a spent force merely hanging onto their Thin Lizzy roots to survive – and they succeed magnificently. This album is chock full of vital, loud, driving heavy rock music in all its glory.
Just like Lizzy of old, BSR rely heavily on the glorious power of their twin guitar attack, but play with a greater sense of sustained urgency than their former incarnation tended to do.
As a result they have produced an album that is certain to prove fervently popular when they hit the stage later this year – every song is designed to get you out of your seat and have you leaping around in an ecstatic rock and roll reverie.
Even within a record as consistent and cohesive as this, some tracks stand out more than others.
When The Night Comes In is an addictive treat that won’t leave your head once you’ve let it insinuate its way into your brain. And Who Rides The Tiger is an angry political diatribe that allows guitarists Damon Johnson and Thin Lizzy stalwart, Scott Gorham, to cut loose and shred their way through some electrifying solos, supported by the powerhouse rhythm section of Robert Crane on bass, and Jimmy DeGrasso on drums, who work up a lather driving the song along at a breakneck pace.
Singer Ricky Warwick’s voice has the perfect tone and timbre for these songs – there are even echoes of Phil Lynott’s phrasing and timing here, particularly in songs like Cold War Love, the closest thing to a ballad here, which manages to convey just enough of that Celtic romanticism that Lizzy were so good at conjuring up to forgive them for taking their foot off the accelerator for four minutes mid album.
The band soon rev up again though on the magnificent Testify Or Say Goodbye, apparently inspired by Ricky Warwick’s love for Stax and Motown, although that is hard to pick in any way other than the structure of this track could easily be used as an exemplary model in a pop songwriting masterclass, alongside any Motown classic.
A weird encounter in a public lavatory inspired Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed, and the title and the bulk of the lyrics came from an awkward conversation with a paranoid homeless person who was hell-bent on outlining his belief in a number of social and political conspiracies. Warwick turned the guy’s ramblings into another irresistible epic ‘rock out’.
Ticket To Rise, the penultimate track, is perhaps the best of the lot – employing a band of sassy female backing singers, and BSR ratchet up the guitar hooks, fire off some soaring solos, and deliver a catchy chorus that will have fans singing along at gigs and dancing uncontrollably like crazed mad things. They have managed to capture the core essence of the unfettered joy that music can inspire on tape here and it is impossible not to crank this track up to full volume to let it work its magic to best effect.
In fact, there is not a song on Heavy Fire that does not warrant hitting the ‘repeat’ button over and over again. Overall, it is their most consistent release to date. Not that they have made a bad record yet.
Here, BSR give the fans exactly what they want – respect for the old Thin Lizzy formula, and a collection of modern, yet ‘old school’, hard rock delivered with a sustained level of energy and conviction that never loosens its connection with the spirit that is imbued in the very best rock and roll records in your collection.
Play it loud. Play it often!
Heavy Fire is released on February 3 on Nuclear Blast.