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By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Thursday, February 2, 2017 @ 2:35 PM

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Heavy Fire

Nuclear Blast Records

In honor of the storytelling talents of the late great Phil Lynott, whose passing some 31 years ago had initially spelled the end of legendary Irish rockers THIN LIZZY, this review will start off with a brief account of my own testimony of the transition of the modern day THIN LIZZY into BLACK STAR RIDERS.

It had happened in late 2011 back in my government contract days when I was about to see the work week off with a trip to Montreal to catch THIN LIZZY’s farewell tour as they played with BLACK LABEL SOCIETY and headliners JUDAS PRIEST. With a work colleague’s retirement party taking place near my cubicle at the time and the workload having trickled to a stop, it seemed proper for me to leave early without being noticed after stopping in for a bit to give my regards. Most of my other work colleagues were also at the retirement party and were making similar plans to leave early as well - save for one colleague named Lisa who’d been missing since lunchtime. Turns out she’d been at a language training course that whole time and arrived at the same time as I was about to make my escape, so I held back on leaving. Unaware if I’d be called out if she saw me leave, I saved Lisa a generous slice of the chocolate cake being served at the party. I may as well have offered to donate one of my kidneys at the time as she let out such an appreciative squeal of delight and gratitude before tucking into that cake. Those government language training courses are admittedly tough and burn up lots of calories and endorphins. The gratitude, however, came at a price as I’d left for Montreal about an hour later than projected, got caught in traffic on the way to the show and missed THIN LIZZY’s set as BLACK STAR RIDERS came to be.

Few lyrics such as the driving chorus “Here is your savior/Now where’s the salvation?” from the crushing title track of BLACK STAR RIDERS’ third album resonated upon that scenario that day so succinctly had the song been released in late 2011 rather than now. But for frontman/guitarist Ricky Warwick, Heavy Fire represents a deeper coming of age for both him and his fans. Even with two full-length albums and several big name tours with DEF LEPPARD and WHITESNAKE among others under their belt, the clamoring of a vocal minority for the THIN LIZZY name to be resurrected still persisted. Yet Warwick, along with the dual axe attack talents of Damon Johnston and longtime LIZZY lifer Scott Gorham and the steamrolling rhythm section comprised of Robbie Crane and Jimmy DeGrasso, was long past needing to prove anything to his critics even after BSR’s debut album All Hell Breaks Loose dropped. Compounded with the recent loss of his father throughout the recording of Heavy Fire as well, and you have an album which pulsates with every feasible human emotion that Ricky Warwick put into it. As he put it, Heavy Fire is born out of angst, passion, power, glory, love, truth, lies, loyalty, and questions which begged to be answered. He definitely tested the listener by starting off the album with easily its heaviest-hitting track, but other key tracks such as “When The Night Comes In”, “Who Rides The Tiger” and the rousing “Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed” give off a similar effect through its blunt lyrical tapestry.

Yet, for as much of an album for heavy and hard times as Heavy Fire often projects itself as, there is just as much celebrating of carefree innocence and hope to be found on the album as well. “Ticket To Rise” could almost be the sequel to “Finest Hour” as Ricky Warwick recounts his story of his youthful yet ragged ascent to musical stardom and glory. And the ethereal-sounding “Cold War Love” tells a similar tale yet the subject dwells more on overcoming forbidden love and questioning one’s loyalty. There’s no faulting the combined talents of Gorham, Johnston, DeGrasso and Crane as they provide the right tone for each song, from the signature harmonic riffs and dueling solos to the sonic fortress of rhythm which defined the entire THIN LIZZY catalogue respectively. Heavy Fire, in short, has given BLACK STAR RIDERS a legacy to continue to add weight to.

And for those wondering whatever happened to Lisa since that fateful retirement party we’d both attended at work, she eventually got promoted, her bilingual speaking skills likely playing a large role in her own career advancement. Her new responsibilities are gonna require lots of chocolate cake and perhaps a soundtrack such as Heavy Fire to help her ride out the storm. Come to think of it, we all could benefit from both.


4.5 Out Of 5.0

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