"Some now feel it was too heavy but it was in keeping with musical fashions of the day": Thin Lizzy - Thunder And Lightning Album Of The Week Club review

As far as swansongs go, Thunder And Lightning crackles with undeniable zeal and energy, with new guitarist John Sykes helping to create what is Thin Lizzy's heaviest album.

Thin Lizzy - Thunder & Lightning cover art
(Image: © Vertigo)

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Thin Lizzy - Thunder and Lightning

Thin Lizzy - Thunder & Lightning cover art

(Image credit: Vertigo)

Thunder and Lightning
This Is the One
The Sun Goes Down
The Holy War
Cold Sweat
Someday She Is Going to Hit Back
Baby Please Don’t Go
Bad Habits
Heart Attack

Thin Lizzy had come a long way from the early folk of their 1971 debut, but while Thunder And Lightning saw the band go heavier, faster and more supercharged than ever before, it also found them at breaking point. Personal problems and drug abuse were rife in their ranks and by September 1983 the band had played their last show, Lynott's death three years later putting the group to rest (for a time). 

So far as swansongs go (for Lynott, at least), Thunder And Lightning crackles with undeniable zeal and energy, new guitarist John Sykes bringing over some of the NWOBHM stylings of his time in Tygers Of Pan Tang to create what is doubtless Thin Lizzy's heaviest album. 

Between the title track, The Holy War, Cold Sweat and Baby Please Don't Go there's plenty of neck-bothering anthems to be found as Lizzy go full metal, while The Sun Goes Down maintains the band's softer side, Lynott living up to his icon status as his voice goes from gentle croons to wild-eyed frenzy across the record's run-time. 

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Other albums released in March 1983

  • Legendary Hearts - Lou Reed
  • Cool Kids - Kix
  • Metal Health - Quiet Riot
  • No Rest for the Wicked - Helix
  • Europe - Europe
  • Script for a Jester's Tear - Marillion
  • Outside Inside - The Tubes
  • The Final Cut - Pink Floyd
  • Eliminator - ZZ Top
  • Baby Snakes - Frank Zappa
  • The Man from Utopia - Frank Zappa
  • Dancing With Danger - Streetheart
  • Power & the Glory - Saxon
  • The Abominable Showman - Nick Lowe
  • Inarticulate Speech of the Heart - Van Morrison
  • Local Hero - Mark Knopfler
  • No Guts...No Glory - Molly Hatchet


What they said...

"Like Lizzy's other '80s releases, filler is present – Someday She Is Going to Hit Back and Heart Attack and disappointingly, guitarist Scott Gorham abandons his trademark harmony leads of yesteryear in favor of '80s-era high-tech shredding. Not Lizzy's best release, but a definite improvement over their other '80s studio output." (AllMusic)

"At its hardest and heaviest, this is the most aggressive and wild that Thin Lizzy ever was. Tracks like This Is the One and Cold Sweat make this very evident. And yet, the band does not sacrifice the more melodic and soulful elements of their sound either; The Sun Goes Down is a slower-paced masterpiece that ranks as one of the band’s last great songs." (ZRockeR)

"The group’s hard rock had hinted at metal over the years, but with Sykes on board, Thin Lizzy pushed more fully into the genre. The playing comes closer to thrash at times, and the guitar tone in general shifts into early ’80s metal. Cold Sweat provides the clearly example of the shift, with the squealing guitars and fast runs. The group didn’t fully go there; shredding remains an enhancement to the songs and not a focal point, and the pop sensibilities remain strong enough to keep them even from settling into that side of the metal spectrum." (Rock and Roll Globe)


What you said...

Greg Schwepe: So, maybe a year or so after its release when I was a teenager, I bought Jailbreak. Totally loved every song. Played it to death. But then I never bought another Thin Lizzy album until we were well into the new millennium. What was wrong with me? Guessing in hindsight my meager fast food paycheck did not allow for as many album purchases as I would like.

A number of years ago I finally corrected the error of my ways, bought a bunch of Lizzy CDs to hear what I was missing. And I missed a lot of good stuff. Then the streaming thing came along and I now had access to the rest of the stuff I hadn’t heard. And one of those albums I had been eager to hear was this week’s selection; Thunder and Lightning.

While Thin Lizzy will always be known for Phil Lynott’s charisma and presence, right behind that is the abundance of guitarists that have played alongside Scott Gorham. On this album we get the more metallic sound of John Sykes. Enough pyrotechnics to keep you interested, but not an all out “how many notes can I cram into this solo?” Fest. And we get the trademark harmonised guitar parts. Cold Sweat stands out as the signature track. And for a “guitar band”, Darren Wharton’s keyboards fit right in.

This is hard driving rock that would’ve sounded great on the radio in 1983. But the trouble was that here in the United States, most radio stations thought that Lizzy had one album, the aforementioned Jailbreak, and only two songs to play from that one; The Boys Are Back In Town and maybe (if you were lucky) Cowboy Song.

8 our of 10 for a band that seemed to be better respected after they broke up. You mention their name and you would never hear a negative response.

Neil Immerz: Killer album from start to finish.

Brett Sinclair: Great album. Thin Lizzy metalised.

Brian Cox: Brilliant album and very heavy.

Gary Claydon: As a last hurrah, Thunder And Lightning wasn't a bad effort (and the accompanying tour was even better). The excellent Cold Sweat and the angry, thumping title track (which made for a stonking set-opener on aforementioned tour) are the stand-outs for me and are regulars on my frequently accessed Lizzy playlist. When The Sun Goes Down has a nice, mid-paced groove while Bad Habits, which starts off like John Cougar Mellancamp, certainly has its moments but is somewhat spoiled by the over-used echo (plus the annoying wolf-whistle at the start).

I've never been a massive John Sykes fan. I don't dislike his work and there's no questioning his ability but, I dunno, there's just something about his playing that leaves me slightly cold - looks the part, technically excellent but lacking that certain something. I'm not convinced he and Scott Gorham gelled all that well either.

Phil Lynott's problems are well documented and need no further comment but his performance here is fine, even if his songwriting wasn't at it's strongest.

I didn't mind Darren Wharton's addition but, at the same time, don't think the keyboards add much.

Overall, then, Thunder And Lightning is a good album. There is a bit too much filler, not unusual with Lizzy, especially on their '80s albums. It's a heavier, more metallic Lizzy than we were used to and it definitely lacked some of the style and finesse of their heyday. Still a solid 7/10.

Steve Torrens: Overrated beyond belief, in my opinion. Half is good and the other half is just ok to poor. Doesn’t hold a candle to the real Thin Lizzy classics.

Jeff Belval: Wouldn’t call this this Thin Lizzy’s best work or an essential album. But as a whole it was a fun listen from top to bottom. Its worthy of a listen from anyone who enjoys 80s and 90s hard rock or metal.

Andrew Cumming: Terrific album. Very different sound. Much harder, but with some brilliant songs - the title track, Cold Sweat, The Sun Goes Down, This Is The One. Not perfect, but very good. Lots of people say it shows they shouldn’t have split up. Maybe. On the other hand leave them wanting more, right? Better to burn out than to fade away.

Mike Canoe: Another album that I am listening to for the first time several decades after it came out, so I have no context for when it was released. Forty years on it sounds like a Thin Lizzy album to me - mostly.

As usual, Phil Lynott is the focus for me. While I like the songwriting, his lyrics aren't at his storytelling best. A lot of repetition of the chorus or other lyrics to pad the song instead of the usual detail. An exception is the feverish rocker, Cold Sweat, which has no resolution, making it a perfect description of the rush that endlessly lures the addict in for one more hit.

Lynott's singing voice is pretty great throughout, still powerful on the rockers like the title track, still aching with emotion on The Sun Goes Down. The band also sounds pretty good except that it no longer sounds like a band with twin lead guitarists, just one - presumably John Sykes.

Enjoyable, if not necessarily essential. Ultimately not a bad way to bow out.

Henk Meinsma: Love it!

John Davidson: Definitely a step up from Renegade (which was a mixed bag of classic Lizzy, heavy Lizzy and stuff that would have better fit on a Phil Lynott solo LP).

Thunder And Lightning is a decent heavy metal album but a mediocre addition to the Thin Lizzy canon. The harder edge and rawer sound provided by Sykes powers the title track and the uptempo numbers like Cold Sweat, but overall the album lacks the lyrical word play and twin guitar melodies that most fans of their heyday took for granted.

It's a pity that Lizzy didn't manage to keep a stable line up (and off the hard drugs) because at their best they were immense.

Most of their studio albums are a bit uneven in terms of quality but the best songs on this one are more at the level of enjoyable album tracks than stone cold classics like Jailbreak, The Boys Are Back In Town, Don't Believe A Word or Dancing In The Moonlight.

Overall it's not bad but I miss the easy groove and the soulful lyrics sung with a twinkle in the eye and a lady-charming smile.

Keith Jenkin: Absolute belter to go out on in my opinion. Saw the tour and also the 'farewell' show at Reading and thought Sykes was a much better fit that Snowy White, especially live. Some now feel it was too heavy but it was in keeping with musical fashions of the day and I don't remember any complaints from either the critics or the fan base around the time it came out.

Peter Cronemyr: Love it. They should have continued. If Phil was sober.

Mark Herrington: Thunder And Lightning is probably Thin Lizzy’s most consistent album after Black Rose . I loved the heaviness of Chinatown and Killer On The Loose from Chinatown, but much of the rest of it was fairly average. Renegade was just patchy. Lizzy had certainly been moving in this direction for some time as those earlier tracks telegraphed. There is a far heavier sound here consistently throughout this album, but Lynott sounds as good as ever, and suits this menacing style just as much as their softer rock. The metal-edged guitar just adds a thrilling edge that builds on their darker sound. Most bands change their sound as they go along, and this was a great metal sounding incarnation of a band that could do little wrong for me.

Joe Donahue: This is a scorcher they should of never called it quits. Heroin did them in. Phil is on the Mount Rushmore of artist for me.

Herb Reid: Fantastic album

Richard Zeppa: Love it! My favourite by them.

John Davidson: Decent enough, but nowhere near their best.

Ken Doyle: Fabulous. All good stuff plus Holy War and the incredible The Sun Goes Down. Clearly heavier than other Lizzy albums but enhances the legacy so much as they outclass everyone when they do heavy, and it has that bass line that launched a thousand ear worms of The Sun Goes Down. I had to mention it at least twice.

David Mccallum: The best most complete album they ever made - no filler on it.

Mark Smith: John Sykes did a great job of updating Lizzy's sound for the 1980s. Probably ranks in their top five albums.

Dave Lees: Possibly one of my favourite albums of all time

Terry Travis: I’ll be honest, I’ve never listened to this album in full before. Jesus Christ, Heart Attack: what a track! A 7 for me, nothing will beat Black Rose for a Lizzy album.

Warren Bubb: A sad end to a once great band. Lizzy were never a metal band and this album is the worst in their otherwise illustrious canon. Hard to believe this was the same band who made Fighting, Jailbreak and Johnny The Fox.

Dave Phillips: Magnificent album. Shame it was their last studio album.

Steve Ballinger: Very much an album of its time with the metal sound being the dominant one in the rock scene. Not a bad thing, it worked and I loved it then and still do. But my favourite Lizzy albums will always come from earlier in their recording years. Always a sucker for a bit more of a groove.

John Waters: Very heavy, at the time it was the hardest rocking I had heard. It still stands up well after all these years, Phil had a knack for seeing a trend and applying himself/the band to it.

Withnail Montague: Lizzy were chasing the market at this stage. Too metal. A few good tunes, but that album cover. 

Kingsley Jayasekera: Not one of my favourites. Black Rose caught Lizzy at their very best, and I'd rank this album pretty low below Black Rose, Bad Reputation, Nightlife (an underrated gem), Jailbreak and Johnny the Fox. I always disliked Sykes's guitar shred and hated the move towards keyboards, also the album production sounds horribly compressed.

Ian Brayshaw: Some great songs here. A fitting swan song. Holy War amongst the best songs they ever recorded.

Simon Dunphy: Too heavy for Lizzy. Lack of soul and depth.

Richard Hawtin: Great album, returning Lizzy to the A league and John Sykes making Brian Robertson's absence no longer an issue. Sadly, it was all down hill from here.

Chris Elliott: Life's too short. It wasn't very good when it came out and time's not been kind. They'd run out of things to say, Lynott was in full junkie mode and there's a guitarist shouting look at me.

Nigel Taylor: Absolutely love the album and think it's very underrated. The Sun Goes Down and Holy War are two of my favourite Lizzy songs ever and the former gets a lump in my throat every time.

Pat Young: It’s certainly not a bad album but creatively Thin Lizzy's peak was Black Rose. You can tell Phil isn’t at the top of his game here and anyone familiar with Thin Lizzy's history knows Scott Gorham was also not in a good place at this time as well.

John Sykes is an excellent guitarist and his playing is easily the best part of this album. This album is definitely worth listening to for a fan and if you are into heavier stuff I can see why one might like this over their earlier stuff.

Laurent Biehly: Good album, but it doesn’t have the charm and warmth the previous albums had. Same comments apply to Whitesnake. Sykes definitely left his mark on both bands but to the detriment of the more soulful elements of the music.

Andrew Bramah: I remember buying this and Pyromania at the same time. Shortly after I read an interview with Phil Lynott who said that Lizzy sounded old fashioned compared to Pyromania.

On its own, Thunder And Lighting is a great rock album. John Sykes brought a new energy to the sound. A decent way to bow out.

Ollie Fletcher: Definitely lacks the soul of what made thin Lizzy great


Final score: 7.93 (230 votes cast, total score 1825)

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