Another State of Grace is the phenomenal new album from The Black Star Riders, that sees the band with a new line up and according to frontman Ricky Warwick “a new energy and chemistry”
The band were formed in 2012 by Warwick and Scott Gorham, who had been playing together in the reformed, modern version of Gorham’s famed old band Thin Lizzy. Since the bands inception they have released three killer albums, All Hell Breaks Loose in 2013, The Killer Instinct in 2015 and 2017’s Heavy Fire.
Talking about their 4th album, Another State of Grace, Gorham says “This is the best one we’ve done. There’s sophistication in the writing but some really raw intentions there too. It’s very cool.”
The album itself, touches on both the personal and political, especially on “Why Do You Love Your Guns”, an incredibly powerful protest song which according to Warwick is a very personal and poignant track that was borne out of the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut which saw 26 people killed including 20 children between the ages of six and seven. He recalls, “When that happened, I was in Belfast, near where I was born. My wife called from our home in LA. She was in tears, telling me about the news. All of those kids were the same age as my daughter was then. It scared me to death. That could have been my child. So that night I couldn’t sleep, I got up and wrote down the first thoughts that came into my head, and when I looked back at those words all these years later – man, nothing has changed. There are so many school shootings in the United States of America, and nothing is being done about it. That’s appalling. So I needed to write this song. It’s something I feel very strongly about. These are innocent little kids, the victims of this. For sure, it’s a heavy song”.
So what of the album then. Well, after giving it a number of spins over the last few days I can safely say I am really really impressed by it and have found it almost impossible to put it down. This is definitely a Black Star Riders album and it hasn’t moved too much from the sound of the earlier albums. However, Another State of Grace has a maturity about it which gives you the impression that the band are comfortable in their own skins and with how the band is moving forward and that has enabled them to continue to develop that distinct sound that they have and release this absolute gem of an album on the world. It is full of outstanding riffs, heartfelt vocals, sing-a-long choruses and jump and down bouncy tracks.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VVvp_jnUX8&w=560&h=315]
Album opener “Tonight The Moonlight Let Me Down” sets the album up perfectly from the opening guitar burst. It has a heavy Thin Lizzy influence and is a truly emotive rocking number that captures the feel of what the band are trying to get across with their lyrics and music and gets you in the mood for what is yet to come in sublime fashion.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLkBt1eR8tM&w=560&h=315]
Title track, “Another State of Grace”, is a blistering, anthemic rocker with a really solid Celtic feel to it. If any track on the album makes you want to turn the volume up to the max and jump around whilst singing along to the made for a crowd sing-a-long chorus, then this is definitely it.
“Ain’t The End Of The World” is yet another fast paced rocker that keeps the tempo of the album flowing at full pace. The guitar work on this track is exquisite and works in so well with the melody of the song itself that even after one or two listens I had already decided that this was one of my favourite tracks,[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv-tccUbm6U&w=560&h=315]
“Underneath The Afterglow” and “Soldiers In The Ghetto” bring us to the midpoint. The former, the last song written for the album is a gritty hard rocker, just archetypal Black Star Riders and features a killer riff from Scott Gorham, whilst the latter has some heavenly dual guitar parts on it with an almost 70’s vibe that sees some standout keyboard parts that just add a sort of funkiness to the bands sound at the start before it kicks in to be yet another slice of top notch anthemic rock.
“Why Do You Love Your Guns” starts the second half of this masterpiece. It is a slow song, but not a ballad with it’s extremely poignant, politically emotive, moving and meaningful lyric. This track will hopefully become a massive part of their live set as it is one of the standout tracks on display. Not only are the lyrics full of emotion, the tantalizingly brilliant guitar work just wreaks of it and will surely see arena’s full of lit phone torches as the band play this song to packed out venues.
After that brief drop in tempo, “Standing In The Line Of Fire” takes it straight back up to the limit. Another fast paced rocker, it is built on yet another cracking, crunching riff and sees the band back in full on rock mode ready to rip your ear drums apart.
Now, if an album has what I am going to describe as a leftfield track, Another State of Grace, has one in “What Will It Take” and do you know what, it is utterly bloody brilliant. After the seven tracks that have come before it, this is not what I expected but I absolutely love it. The track has a real Americana sort of feel to it, with some bullish acoustic guitar parts and stunning shared vocals between Ricky and Pearl Aday, the daughter of Meatloaf, but still keeps that trademark Black Star Riders sound as well.
“In The Shadow Of The War Machine” is chalk to the previous tracks cheese. Kicking in with a mighty, meaty, chugging riff it is a fantastic hard rocker with a blistering solo and more meaningful politically based lyrics and leads us into the album closer “Poisoned Heart” with your blood flowing as you bang your head and pump your fist to the classy rock being played out to you. The pulsating beat of the up tempo album closer is undeniably brilliant and should surely have every single person up and dancing to the supreme and classic 80’s vibe the song contains.
I have had the pleasure of listening to this album for the last 3 days and have to say I have found it and am still finding it completely irresistible. With the pedigree of the band members and the quality of the music they have written on this album, it surely can’t be long before they are headlining arena’s as that is where they and their music belong. I shall take pleasure in the fact that I secured a ticket to see them on their October tour a long time ago and with some of these blisteringly brilliant tracks adding to an already outstanding setlist, I know I am going to be in for one hell of a night.
I will finish this review with some words of praise about the album from Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott who says “I’ve been an ardent supporter of BLACK STAR RIDERS ever since they started their journey, having moved away from being THIN LIZZY and becoming a legitimate band in their own right. For me, this album is by far their best effort to date”
My advice would be go and buy it now or give it a listen somewhere and make your own mind up. I personally don’t think he is wrong. This is going to be one of the best albums released in 2019.
Tonight The Moonlight Let Me Down
Another State of Grace
Ain’t The End Of The World
Underneath The Afterglow
Soldier In The Ghetto
Why Do You Love Your Guns
Standing In The Line Of Fire
What Will It Take
In The Shadow Of The War Machine
Black Star Riders are Ricky Warwick (Lead Vocals / Guitar), Scott Gorham (Lead Guitar) and Robert Crane (Bass) together with recent additions Chad Szeliga (Drums) and Christian Martucci (Lead Guitar).
Review by Darren Smith for metalplanetmusic