REVIEW: BLACK STAR RIDERS – “Another State Of Grace”
Dawn 'Mama Love' Brown
Way back in the late `60s, there were so many foundational bands that paved the way for today’s rockers. One that made a name for themselves was Thin Lizzy fronted by the late Phil Lynott. After Lynott’s untimely death in 1986, the band continued to tour with various lineups until it was decided to put an end to the original name in respect of Lynott. Thus Black Star Riders was born.
BSR has gone through some lineup changes over the years but currently stands as Ricky Warwick on vocals and guitars, Scott Gorham on backing vocals and guitars, Robbie Crane on bass, Christian Martucci on guitars and the newest addition, Chad Szeliga on drums. Warwick and Gorham are the only two left from the original Thin Lizzy lineup.
BSR’s most recent release is about to drop in September of 2019. Their fourth album in their catalog, ‘Another State of Grace’, is a 10-track time machine which transports the listener back to the feel-good rock and roll of the early `80s but with a modern vibe. The band is cohesive and tight, the arrangements are top-notch and the overall production is well-done. BSR paints a musical landscape of the innocence of youth, partying and rock and roll but also mixes in some more contemporary, hard-hitting subject matter as well.
Opening the album is “Tonight the Moonlight Let Me Down”. This song frames the entire album as all the songs have the same basic bouncy, feel-good sound. Many of the songs sound like a mash-up of `80s classic band The Ravyns and early Bruce Springsteen. It’s a slightly odd combination but it works. Up next is the title track of the album, “Another State of Grace”, which starts out with a decidedly Celtic sounding intro which repeats throughout the song and adds an air of pirate-y shenanigans. “Ain’t the End of the World” is the next track which is also the one that reminded me the most of early Springsteen. It has a vocal array that sounds very similar.
One of the most interesting songs on the album is “Why Do You Love Your Guns”. With any band whose sound leans towards classic metal, you’re almost guaranteed a power ballad. This is BSR’s power ballad. However, instead of singing about unrequited love or kissing under the bleachers, this song is a little different. The chorus consisting of the lyric “why do you love your guns more than your kids?” It’s a powerful lyric contained within a powerful song.
Rounding out the album are several more spunky and energetic offerings. “Underneath the Afterglow”, “Soldier in the Ghetto”, “Standing in the Line of Fire”, “In the Shadow of the War Machine”, all fall under the `80s party rock category. The inexplicable thing about BSR’s take on party rock is it seems somehow edgier and more polished than that of many of the anchors 80s bands who are still making stale music in the leftover 80s theme. “What Will it Take” and “Poisoned Heart” stand out from the rest with dual vocals that add another dimension to the total package.
All things considered, this is a great album. The new music has the `80s flair that lots of people love but it also has a lot of modern characteristics that make it contemporary. Ricky Warwick’s vocals pair seamlessly with the cogent and precise songwriting and is backed by skillful musicianship that will keep Black Star Riders successful for years to come.