Black Star Riders – Another State Of Grace (Nuclear Blast)

How to trump Heavy Fire? Black Star Riders scaled a career high with 2017’s UK top 10 stunner – an album borne out of emotional tension and unshackled creativity. It would prove to be Damon Johnson’s swansong with the band and the best record of Ricky Warwick’s career.

For all of those reasons and more Another State Of Grace was always going to have its work cut out. But it should hardly come as a surprise, given the experience and talent at the heart of BSR, that Heavy Fire’s furious follow-up is another accessible, accomplished and angst-ridden hard rock record. In isolation it stands alongside the genre’s very best. But it doesn’t quite match Heavy Fire’s pummelling consistency.

Throwing in a sax solo on opener Tonight The Moonlight Let Me Down proves to be a classy curveball but Warwick plays to his obvious strengths on the title track – a trademark call-to-arms anthem underpinned by Celtic passion and serious vocal control.

‘It ain’t the end of the world/it’s the end of me’ insists BSR’s frontman as another thought-provoking record gathers pace. Warwick’s career has been punctuated by neat lyrical couplets and this is up there with the best: Ain’t The End Of The World might be the best song here.

The politically charged In The Shadow Of The War Machine will resonate with the band’s fans on both sides of the Pond and the themes of conflict and war are central to Another State Of Grace’s often compelling narrative. The juxtaposition of Soldier In The Ghetto, Why Do You Love Your Guns and Standing In The Line Of Fire is heavy going…but it’s not Heavy Fire.

BSR aren’t the first band challenged to emerge from the shadow of a career-defining classic and charged with building again. But Another State Of Grace is the first positive step towards proving it can be done.