Black Star Riders - The Killer Instinct

Black Star Riders The Killer Instinct cover
Black Star Riders
The Killer Instinct
Nuclear Blast
Black Star Riders, the renamed, Lynottless, Thin Lizzy offshoot, that decided not to use the said name out of respect to the memory of Philo, released a rather cool, Lizzy-esque, debut a couple of years ago, that didn’t completely convince, but on the other hand didn’t sound like a “sacrilege”... going through bassists and replacing Marco Mendoza with Robbie Crane (most famously with Ratt, but he’s done his share in various Strip bands) but with the rest of their team intact, the band offers a follow up in 2015. “The Killer Instinct” pretty much picks up, where “All Hell Breaks Loose” left. Story driven songs, which have a strong likeness, to those of Thin Lizzy and manage to sound like decent efforts, to replicate, the sound and themes, but update them for the 21st century. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t exactly have the same charm as the “Lizzy”.
This second album, is a little strange, in both scope as well as execution... it could show that the band is here to stay or, kill it’s momentum… and it probably leaves things hanging in the balance. It doesn’t lack in the songwriting, but for the familiarity and all, the “catchiness” of some of the most famous Lizzy material, is simply, not there. To be honest, the original Thin Lizzy, took some time, before, it actually “took off” and that only happened after touring out and about meticulously. Produced, by hot new producer-of the week, Nick Raskulinecz, who’s worked with the likes of great bands like Rush, but also boring bands like Foo Fighters, the decent Alice In Chains and the highly overrated Mastodon, “The Killer Instinct” thankfully has a more organic feel than that of its predecessor, which was done, by a “clinical” Kevin Shirley.
The special edition comes as a double CD, and on the album disk we have some ten new tracks…
“The Killer Instinct” being the title track and everything, is a smooth, mid-tempo rocker, that mimics Thin Lizzy, in their prime, quite capably.
“Bullet Blues”, tries to be a bit more badass and while it doesn’t land flat on its ass, it's barely above average…
“Finest Hour” is more carefree and cool, like a breeze but it’s not that engaging, as it somewhat loses its steam and pace, midway… to only get some of it back by a repetition of its chorus.
“Soldierstown” is probably too “Irish” for most people to grasp, being fairly politically charged and the best thing it has, is probably a signature riff, which is one of its most characteristic musical moments.
“Charlie I Gotta Go” it’s a slow poked number, but a lot more original sounding and possibly one of my favorite tracks, from the album, with its smoggy, bluesy riffs and “strong” character driven “plot”.
“Blindsided” is a bit of a sorrowed slow song, where Warwick ends up sounding more like a 90s Hetfield, rather than Philo, which ain’t necessarily that bad. Nice solo too.
“Through the Motions” is led by this meaty bass riff, that’s so obviously lizzy-esque, but it feels a little “too obvious” and as if tries to clone the “Lizzy” sound too desperately… it manages to do so, but it doesn’t exactly impress in doing so.
“Sex, Guns & Gasoline” is probably more Almighty than Thin Lizzy, but it’s given a couple of trademark, bass riffs here and there, so it sounds like a weird hybrid... oh well, might as well… have some, shoot one and drink 69 shots! Ha!
“Turn in Your Arms” would have Thin Lizzy asking for percentages, but they’d be sort of “suing themselves”, it’s just that intro, is not very original at all, but using a bastardized riff from “the old days”... other than that it ain’t that grant…
Last but not least “You Little Liar” might drag on a bit, but does so charmingly… in a way that’s quite original, yet familiar.
On the bonus CD, we have “Gabrielle”, a song I first heard by Ween and I’ve read somewhere, that’s actually a lost Lizzy track. (unable to confirm that) having asked some of the members of the band about songs, it was a little “funny” as there seem to be several unreleased numbers and some of the “solo” Lynott songs, might have well been purposed for Lizzy but were never released as such... supposedly Lynott was trying to still put together the band even prior to his untimely death.
“The Reckoning Day” is the second bonus and it ain’t half as bad, but it’s a little unfit, to be with the rest of the songs... there are also some acoustic renditions of songs from the album like “The Killer Instinct”, which turns out rather nicely, a very acoustic “Blindsided” – an already sad and slow song, that probably works even better as an acoustic piece, a fair enough take on “Charlie I Gotta Go” that might have felt a bit fuller, with an Irish bouzouki or a mandolin, probably the former… and last of all “Finest Hour” that again sounds better as a more stripped down, thing...
It’s hard to come up with a conclusive verdict on the album. It’s more of the same with the band gelling together even more, but also somewhat failing to excite, that much. I’d still take it in, because it sounds “honest” and it’s got a fair share of good songs, but, I’d probably, take a little more time, before popping out that “difficult” third album...