Black Star Riders - Wrong Side of Paradise album artwork

Black Star Riders – Wrong Side of Paradise (Album Review)

Black Star Riders 2023 band

Providing some history, the band called Black Star Riders have roots that steam from legendary Hard Rock band Thin Lizzy. The story goes that when long-time Thin Lizzy Guitarist Scott Gorham was seeking to record new material back in 2012, he opted to respect the legacy of band’s late leader Phil Lynott, so instead of using the Thin Lizzy name, did so with Black Star Riders instead.

Together, with Vocalist/Guitarist Ricky Warwick, Guitarist Damon Johnson, Drummer Jimmy DeGrasso, and Bassist Marco Mendoza, Black Star Riders was then formed. Releasing All Hell Breaks Loose in 2013, the original lineup (minus Marco Mendoza, who was replaced with Robbie Crane) would stick together for 2015’s The Killer Instinct, as well as 2017’s Heavy Fire. However, 2019’s Another State of Grace saw some additional lineup shifts, before Gorham stepped back from Black Star Riders as a full-time project in 2021 to devote more energy to Thin Lizzy.

So, where does all of these moves leave Black Star Riders? Did they break up? The answer is no, because at this point, they are strongly cemented as a standalone act apart from Thin Lizzy’s umbrella. Now with Warwick, regular Bassist Crane, Drummer Zak St. John, and Wayward Sons’ Guitarist Sam Wood, together as Black Star Riders they put out the album Wrong Side of Paradise in 2023. Their first with Earache Records, the album was first announced in the summer of 2022, but not released until January 20th of this year. Furthermore, the work behind the material first began in October of 2021, with Warwick penning most of the tracks himself, but not without collaboration of others.

With this in mind, Wrong Side of Paradise’s sound is ironically, and arguably, the most Thin Lizzy inspired Black Star Riders record to date. In case you are late to the party, the majority of their prior material clearly had the trademark twin guitar sound of Thin Lizzy. However, those records felt a little more modern than Wrong Side of Paradise, which truthfully, has a much more retro Classic Rock vibe. Now, it is important to mention that by and large, Warwick has been the main songwriter since the birth of Black Star Riders… so if anything their approach has been consistent. That considered, Warwick and Black Star Riders turn in one of their most addictive collections of songs to date with Wrong Side of Paradise.

Consisting of 11 songs, the mood is upbeat and the message is inspiring. Conceived during a very drab time in human history – with lockdowns and an overall sense of divide among people – the feeling here is one of resilience. You see, if we give into darkness, we are defeated, and tragically lose the battle. What these songs do is remind us that we need to fight, hold onto hope, create our own way, and remain strong in the face of adversity.

A worthy concept mostly everyone can get behind, the energy behind the songs of Wrong Side of Paradise offer is what really drives everything to the heart. This is obvious with the outstanding title-track, “Better Than Saturday Night” which features Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot, “Pay Dirt,” and “Catch Yourself On.” It is further emphasized on other tracks such as “Don’t Let the World (Get in the Way),” but also delivered in a more introspective, personal fashion on “Riding Out the Storm.”

Overall, Black Star Riders is alive, well, and kicking ass. Complete with a very Classic Rock atmosphere, Wrong Side of Paradise is enjoyable and thoroughly impressive. That is why Cryptic Rock gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Black Star Riders - Wrong Side of Paradise album cover
Black Star Riders – Wrong Side of Paradise / Earache Records (2023)

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