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Black Star Riders - Heavy Fire album review

Third time around, and the Riders are a star turn

Cover art for Black Star Riders Heavy Fire

In the (sometimes) good old days, bands could take three albums or more to find their range and hit the mark. These days that rarely happens, because we all demand an instant impact. So let’s celebrate Black Star Riders. They’ve gradually attuned their craft and style, building a solid foundation with two firm albums, both of which showed promise and hinted that things were about to take off. And now, with new album Heavy Fire, the band have made it all happen.

Listen to the record and firstly you’ll note the astonishing dual-guitar feed between Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson. It’s powerful, palpably melodic and used to great effect, because it’s never overemphasised. Secondly, Ricky Warwick’s vocals have never sounded so charismatic and at ease. He’s telling stories, and does it without any affectation; you feel he’s talking to you one-on-one. Thirdly, the songs are fully rounded without ever seeming like they’ve been too honed. Some bands ruin good ideas by making them sound like they’ve spent too long incubating. That’s not the case with Heavy Fire. And finally, Nick Raskulinecz has done a splendid job with his production. He’s combative enough for everyone to know he’s been involved, but knows the musicians well enough not to make the mistake of overloading things with unnecessary technical touches. The result is a cracking album that sets the tone with the opening strides from the title track and never lowers the bar over the following nine

Black Star Riders explore the blues in their own fashion with True Blue Kid, lock into a metallic groove for Ticket To Rise, give a power ballad stir on Cold War Love and skirt across AOR territory with Testify Or Say Goodbye. And while the band do show they’ve got a grip on various genres – you can hear hints of funk and even jazz at times – there’s a cohesion throughout the record.