Black Star Riders - Another State of Grace

Black Star Riders Another State of Grace cover
Black Star Riders
Another State of Grace
Nuclear Blast
It’s quite amazing that Black Star Riders still manage to continue on the same high level. A band that initially was going to call itself “Thin Lizzy”, due to touring around as such, made the wise choice to not follow through with that.
Seven years and now four albums, into a career, the band achieved some instant popularity due to the Thin Lizzy connection and the fact that Almighty’s Ricky Warwick has enough charisma to channel Philo. Channel though because, replace he never will. Along with Lizzy stalwart and guitarist extraordinaire Scott Gorham, they make quite a team, but they’re the sole remainders of the original lineup with busy guys like Marco Mendoza, Jimmy DeGrasso and Damon Johnson surrendering their posts through the years to Robbie Crane of Ratt fame, Chad Szeliga, who’s drummed for BLS among others and Stone Sour’s guitarist Christian Martucci. The surviving duo, despite not having lots of luck as solo artists, have managed to get better results teaming up and they are seemingly able to just keep things going on for the time being.
“Tonight the Moonlight Let Me Down” feels like poppier Thin Lizzy, managing to sound almost as convincing as the “real thing” with the band not having a care in the world if they’re vintage or not and not afraid to even include a sax solo of all things. Fine. Good. Jolly good!
What however seems to be right on the money is “Another State of Grace”, a rousing celtic flavored piece in the vein of “Massacre” and “Emerald”… with a tiny bit of the Boston punk rock sound also creeping in. Catchy, I think is sufficient a word to describe it.
“Ain’t the End of the World” reverts to the poppier sound, but is quite funkier and more cheerful that the somewhat more reserved opener, with the guitars often coming to focus either soloing or playing along the catchy melodies during the verses. It manages to be plain enough, but at the same time effective as heck.
“Underneath the Afterglow” drifts a little apart from the Lizzy blueprint… not to the point where it feels radically different, but it has a more 80s vibe, more “solo” sound. Not bad whichever way you think about it though.
“Soldier in the Ghetto” sits comfortably among the rest of the material, with the bass and various leads sounding a little uncharacteristic, but very compatible with the overall sound… I am guessing that if most of the songwriting is done by the two (Gorham & Warwick) their chemistry had been refined to the point, where this time the songs flow very organically, sounding very natural.
You’d have to be blind or dumb or both to not understand the subject matter of “Why Do You Love Your Guns?”. It’s a “different” song, where Warwick really reverts to sounding like himself, rather than himself channeling Lynott. It’s a song that protests the Status Quo, without ending up being whinny.
“Standing in the Line of Fire” tries to get things back to Lizzyesque and it does achieve it to a point, but also sounds a little like 70s Kiss in a way... but not quite; it’s okay, no matter how you slice it.
“What Will It Take?” is a nice enough duet that blows off some pressure, musically, while keeping the serious lyrical side of things intact, with its cry for peace.
One could argue that “In the Shadow of the War Machine” takes the TL sound and modernizes it. It sounds like what the band might have sounded if they came out in the 90s or early 00s. Still recognizable, but a tad heavier and more homogenized.
While I was half hoping that “Poisoned Heart” would end up being a Ramones cover, it ends up being an original, close to the style that RW employed on his solo work, but obviously think the latest one, not the earlier more shoegazing ones. It doesn’t stray too far away from the overall style of the album, but just like the band has done in the past, half of the albums tend to be Lizzy worship and the rest, a style heavily influenced, but also free from the shackles of having to follow a specific style. I mean the chorus of “PH”, certainly stands on its own.
If you like Thin Lizzy or any of the bands any of the people involved in this were in, this is worth checking out. It won’t disappoint, as long as you don’t expect to have your head blown by it. That being said, they say easy does it, I’ll say that steady and hard work seems to do the trick too. Coolio!