Overall Score: 6.5/10 band: 7/10 songs: 6/10 consistency: 6/10 Pros: A couple of tunes show the old magic Cons: feels too much like a band treading water trying to relive the past
For a band of – shall we say – mature musicians Black Star Riders seem to show no sign of fatigue. The constant album, tour, album, tour cycle seemingly never ending for these fellas, half of which already spent God knows how long touring under some other pseudonym like Skinny Minny or something…
Whilst I whole heartedly applaud their work ethic, never showing any sign of retiring on their respective royalties (frontman Ricky Warwick, previously making a name for himself in The Almighty), there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot more than middle of the road dad rock on offer with each release.
Having performed energetic and tight live shows under their old band name, debut album All Hell Breaks Loose, was knocked out in about a month and wasn’t exactly the hail of whiskey and grins one had hoped. Now on 4th album Another State of Grace nothing much seems to have changed – the songs have a hint of Irish folk influence, a hint of roads well travelled and just a touch of “we used to be really loud but we just can’t push to that at our age”.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this album, I could tap my feet to it just fine, I would just have preferred with names and experience like the ones that exist on this record to have been banging my steering wheel and moving my head.
Scott Gorham still likes some twin guitar harmony, the aforementioned Ricky Warwick still has that gravel rock and roll vocal and album opener and recent single Tonight the Moonlight Let Me Down, rolls along and generally sets the pace for the rest of the album, even throwing in a Michael Monroe sax solo for good measure, before unleashing the Irish sound on the title track. By this point you’ve really got the measure of the album and you’re either in or you’re out.
Things take a bit of a turn about the halfway point when suddenly the band seem to “do a Sabaton” as the listener is greeted with tracks Soldier in the Ghetto, Why Do You Love Your Guns, Standing in the Line of Fire and In the Shadow of the War Machine. Jesus lads, you used to be fun…
Album closer Poisoned Heart is a good rocker to end on and I’m sure will find its way into the live set, but overall I’m not sure the casual Planet Rock listener would be able to really differentiate between songs/albums. We’ve briefly touched on bands having their sound and retaining it on the Rocksins Podcast last month (and this months upcoming episode) and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, I think it very much depends on the listener.
For me, I wouldn’t avoid Black Star Riders if they were playing at a festival I don’t dislike them per se, I just preferred the stuff they did in their former guise