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1983 was looking very bleak for Thin Lizzy. Their most recent release, Renegade, (which I love, but it had flaws) had bombed hard commercially and critically. Stuck in the throes of heroin addiction, and looking at death straight in the face, Phil Lynott decide to go out like a suicide terrorist detonating a hydrogen bomb. Arming themselves with Pan Tang shredder John Sykes, Thin Lizzy not only put out the original metal comeback (this was a year or two before Perfect Strangers), Thunder & Lightning is Painkiller a good seven years before Painkiller!
Painkiller; (noun) A violent, whipping tour de force from a fallen angel whence once unleashed, rapes, murders and eviscerates all in its path with deadly wheels.
With the exception of the drums, that describes this album's sound pretty well. That's not a knock on Brian Downey either, he's in fine form here as he always is. But this is no Scott Travis performance (though judging from the live version of Sha-La-La, I think its arguable he could have easily approached that territory). While we do get a respite, and a fairly early one too, with The Sun Goes Down, its bleak atmosphere sound makes it a very welcome addition to the album. Dear Nightwish, THIS is what your ballads should sound like.
In terms of sheer intensity, this goes toe-to-toe with every heavy metal album released in 1983 with the exceptions of Kill Em All and Show No Mercy (maybe even Melissa). Thin Lizzy were getting accusations of "going heavy metal" and Phil just responds to them with his usual "Yeah? and? Fuck you if you can't take it." While Thin Lizzy have consistently had a great hard rock vehicle since 75-76, it always felt like heavy metal was the ultimate destination. The fact that this was written as Thin Lizzy's swan-song seems to support this theory. Some might scoff and simply ask why they didn't go full metal [jacket] back in 76, and the answer then, as it is now, was "because fuck you we're Thin Lizzy and we do what the fuck we want. Strung out on heroin or not." The fact that this album is so underrated even in metal circles seems to intimate that some in metal circles were still a bit salty because of this attitude, and as far as I'm concerned, that's their problem.
The track order is almost perfect. I say this because there are some days where I feel The Sun Goes Down should be the final song on the album (it was chosen as Lizzy's final single) to make the final curtain falling truly effective. Then again, if it did end the album, The Holy War's funky but ominous bass line wouldn't come erupting from the silence to violently slice all religious fanaticism from the crotch up. John Sykes is especially deadly on the solo here, and this is one of the few moments where he doesn't shred! This is probably the slowest solo on the album aside from the Sun Goes Down and holy fuck what a melodic lethal monster. John Sykes and Scott Gorham (who is always on point) put every single guitar player in rock on red alert with their lead work here. Making a statement of "Yeah, we're aware you're changing the scene, but we can still play and, as you kids say today, shred better than you can!"
If it's shredding you want, Baby Please Don't Go will be your forte, but not quite as much as Some Day She's Gonna Hit Back. On paper everything about this song should scream failure. It's Lizzy jamming at an almost-but-not-quite speed metal pace with the lyrics "Some Day She's Gonna Hit Back" being repeated ad naseum. Aside from a few of Phil's quips, that's the only lyric in the whole song, but it just fucking works because Gorham and Sykes are like Bruce Campbell with two chainsaw arms ripping through everything in their path. That's how much the fucking song shreds.
There are still some "rockish" moments on this album, but anybody who sees that as a negative can go shove their Lamb of God albums up their asses sideways. Bad Habits has all the great rock swagger Phil's become known for, and if there's any fault, its that the man makes it look way, way, way too easy. James Hetfield's obnoxiously awful Waylon Jennings mannerisms? Yea you can blame those here. Sorry James, but Boris was right, you really are the Keanu Reeves of metal. You just can't do emotion right. But Lynott can. He can and did throughout his entire career and made all those who tried to duplicate him look like utter hacks.
Then again, it could be argued that the album's standout moment is the opening title track. Erupting with a riff that just saw its wife cheating with that lousy interior decorator next door. You want rage? You want angst? Wait, fuck angst, angst is for emos. This is ANGRY. Angry enough to start knife fights with bars filled with six foot six men standing two miles high. You wanna fuck on the floor? You wanna break shit? You want to crash your car into a brick wall? Then scream it loud with me kids LIKE THUNDER! AND LIGHTING! GODDAMN ITS SO EXCITING! IT HITS YOU! A HAMMER! GODDAMN!
Metal-archives readers, this is the reason Thin Lizzy are accepted as metal on the archives. This album is the reason Thin Lizzy are respected in metal circles. Hell, this is why Thin Lizzy are fucking metal. I have the utmost respect for Phil being able to pull off a wide variety of colors and emotions throughout his whole career, but pissed Lizzy is the best Lizzy. Buy this you insignifiCUNT little fuck.
The Holy War
Baby Please Don't Go
This Is The One
• “I went round to Phil Lynott’s house to tell him that we should call it a day. To be honest, neither Phil nor I were in any fit state mentally or physically to carry the band on (…). Phil believed we should do one more album and tour. He thought we had it in us, and he also had a new guitarist lined up. We had a lot of music already worked out, at least the basics anyway. And Phil had done most of the lyrics as well. In fact, part of his motivation to making the record was probably because he didn’t want to see all that work go to waste”. – Scott Gorham
The early-80’s had been a difficult period for Thin Lizzy; regardless of the valuable chart success and musical excellence of Chinatown (which most of the fans for some unknown reason dismissed), Lynott & co. had eventually been eclipsed by the new generation of British metal, and not only that, the well-known heroin addiction of the axis Gorham-Lynott led to indolence in the studio and song-writing negligence, while the quality of their stage act decreased dangerously. Snowy White’s resignation came as no surprise, mostly due to the band’s increasingly unprofessional tendencies. So one more time, Lizzy was looking for a second guitar player. John Sykes, an emerging talent formerly of their rivals Tygers Of Pan Tang that producer Chris Tsangarides had previously introduced to Lynott, got the job in the end – such a smart move, young blood, a promising player none other than Ozzy, Dio and who knows how many others were after. With a new face in their ranks, Thin Lizzy went on to record their dramatic, farewell album Thunder And Lightning.
The band was more determined to match the sonic intensity and fury of their NWOBHM disciplines, for the title-track and “Cold Sweat” definitely wipe away the predominant quietness and politeness of the prior attempt with considerably more strident riff-based structures, animated grooves and far lengthier soloing. Melodies are there, of course, but now aggression, power and a more scrupulous, technical performance are also factors they’re taking into consideration. The audacity and voraciousness of Sykes playing is notably helping the band to add a heavier-edge to the sound – while Wharton provides the songs of atmosphere and alternative tonalities, specially on the serene, dark-haloed “The Sun Goes Down”, on which his futuristic keys complement Gorham and Sykes resonant, tunefully-envisaged solos and Phil’s cadence and lyrical allure. The intro to “Someday She Is Going To Hit Back” is enhanced by synth effects too, a prelude to a however more direct, sober hard rock performance on which serpentine guitar lines, impactful transitions and accents, and again sort of self-indulgent pickin’ fragments beef Lizzy’s sound up in the tradition of NWOBHM tactics. Therefore, there’s no dominating technicality to be found as expected, something obvious on the melodically-conceptualized “Bad Habits” (which actually steals Tygers’ “The Story So Far” riff) and the disturbingly-prophetic “Heart Attack”, which incorporates certain lyricism and emotional factor to the decibel-driven, comely harmonies to great effect. “Baby Please Don’t Go” sticks to a scheme alike, yet giving room more generously not only to extended solos, but to radio-friendly choruses, which insist on making the listener sing-along with indelible obstinacy – contrasting with the more intricate (not impossible) detail and rough draft of “The Holy War”, another atmospheric recreation of Lynott’s haunting visions.
To some extent, this sounds like a new band stepping aboard the new British metal bandwagon with piercing riffs, exhibitionist soloing and tangibly quickened beats, which prove Thin Lizzy were pretty much aware of what their adversaries were doing, even though Gorham would claim that:
“It was not us sitting down and working out that we needed to go into that direction. It was more a case of it being the way things turned out. That was the thing with the way we worked. We were never premeditated. Whatever came out was natural, and not the result of a great plan. On Thunder And Lightning, John’s guitar style was aggressive, so it led us down a heavier rute”.
But songs like the riveting, crushing hard rock display on the title-track or the riff cadence and metallic constitution of “Cold Sweat” could contradict him totally. And Sykes proved to be the ideal player to fulfill Lynott’s NWOBHM-like writing, adding his innovative string techniques to the equation, making the band sound fresher and more valiant than ever. Lynott saying:
“John Sykes is what the band has needed since Robbo left. He’s as fast as Gary Moore, as blonde as Snowy, as crazy as Robbo, and he’s John Sykes. This guy is going to make a name for himself ‘cos I feel he‘s that good and that’s no bullshit!”
So now they are ready to challenge their young opponents, besides with a level of musicianship and experience not many of their rivals could ever dream of. Yet obviously, Lizzy’s conceptions are still traditional, sober and not completely excluding blues roots, neither the innately-commercial and accessible chorus patterns and non-offensive lyrics. Wharton’s keys as well keep the tunes from being exclusively sonically-harsh, with cheesy textures and new-wave-like effects providing a touch of sophistication, along with the production paraphernalia and dimensional interiors most NWOBHM kids would deride. While the pace, despite being vigorously-sequenced along with the raw riffs, still doesn’t match the exuberant looseness and double-bass agitation of the competition. Consequently, without forgetting Gorham’s more enthusiastic, though still classically-envisioned, blues-based, stylish riffing and soloing, those elements keep Lizzy from crossing the thin red line between British hard/heavy rock and heavy metal, proving they were not only embracing someone else’s formulas, but remaining faithful to their own traditional standards and beliefs. Although inevitably, there’s a price to pay for that severe sonic restructuring, in detriment of the lyricism of both music and words, with story-telling and themes becoming less romantic and profound, melodies being decreasingly-stylized and harmonies more feverish. Not to mention the less-passionate twin-guitar interplay, which generally nods towards Sykes’ prominence, as Gorham admits:
“I was sitting in a corner most of the time, while John just got on with playing. He did a great job I have to say”.
Thunder And Lightning confused the 70’s Lizzy fanbase with its stridence, decibels and heaviness, while it certainly made the band connect with the heavy metal kids who welcomed the addition of a player of their generation, formerly of one of the groups they liked the most, in Lynott & co.’s ranks. But despite being a coherent effort, it’s devoid of the sentiment, clarity and intuition of the 70’s stuff, being much more a vehicle for Sykes’s virtuosism than a cohesive unit output. In fact, it could’ve been perfectly billed with another name than Thin Lizzy, as its strategies differed considerably from what the band did in the past. Yet the fact is that this new incarnation gelled remarkably-well and offered some of the band’s strongest, most influential performances. Just how many metal people have covered stuff from this record? Not a Lizzy album in a strict sense, but a hugely inspirational, compelling one.
After previously only knowing Thin Lizzy by "The Boys are Back In Town," I was blown away by "Cold Sweat" when I heard it. I instantly thought, "holy shit! This is classic heavy metal!" And I was blown away to find out that it was Thin Lizzy.
All of the Thin Lizzy albums sound different, and while each of them have some elements of heavy metal, Thunder and Lightning is a 100% metal album. Granted, it may not be the heaviest, and given that this was put out in the mid 80's, there were heavier bands like Slayer, Metallica, and Anthrax really pushing the envelope. But if you're like me, and you love Maiden, Priest, and even the Scorpions, then Thunder and Lightning is going to please you immensely.
Joining the ever changing second guitar position, we get John Sykes, who I would think brought the metal influences to the forefront. Indeed, there are some ripping solos, and John's NWOBHM guitar harmonies mesh perfectly with the the patented Thin Lizzy dual guitar attack. Scott Gorham is no slouch either, and his more traditional playing bridges the gap between older Lizzy and this.
The title track kicks you in the face immidiately with a speedy tempo, and heavy riffing. "This is the One" is a bit more catchy, but still heavy. "The Holy War" is the most radio friendly song on here, and most traditional, but with some very upfront guitar work. "Someday She's Going to Hit Back" and "Baby Please Don't Go" are up-tempo rockers with lovely harmonies, and minor key tendencies. Thin Lizzy always had a bit of darkness about them...perhaps it was Phil Lynott's heroin problems. Even on a more upbeat song, "Bad Habits," where Phil almost recalls the more merry sounding moments of Jailbreak, there's a heavy breakdown and searing solos. It's also the lowpoint of the album, and not much of one at that. The album closer "Heart Attack" has awesome dualing guitars that switch off into blazing solos in the middle. Fuck, this is total NWOBHM, just from Ireland.
"Cold Sweat" and "The Sun Goes Down" are the two best songs on here, and they just kick major ass. "Cold Sweat" is heavy, driving, and mean. No wonder Sodom covered this! It makes me want to punch Snookie in the face! "The Sun Goes Down" is perhaps the best slow song ever on a metal album. It's super dark, very moody, and John Sykes' solo is just phenomenal. Sure, the Scorps wrote great ballads, but nothing ominous and beautiful as this. It's like watching the sun set over the ocean after a massive thunder storm. Fucking beautiful!
There's one problem with this album: the goddamn keyboards! Seriously, those things sound so out of place! Not even the Cars had a goofier sound, and they were trying to be quirky. Remember that poofy haired keyboardist from This Is Spinal Tap? I can imagine him playing on here. Only on "The Sun Goes Down" does it actually work. The synth solo in the title track is simply beyond reproach...horrible. But in a curiously fascinating way.
Another complaint is that the levels on the CD are pretty low. This thing does not rip your face off unless you crank the volume, which is a damn shame. A remaster would do this masterpiece wonders, and sadly it's the only album in the Thin Lizzy discography that hasn't gotten the remaster treatment.
All of Thin Lizzy's discography is worthy of a listen, but this is their heaviest. You can't classify this as anything but heavy metal. It's also their most consistent; there are no forays into experimental funky beats, or jolly songs. And for that it's an excellent album.
I Knew this one would be popular here it’s much more metal and 80’s sounding that previous releases and features John Sykes on guitar whose style is very over the top and metal friendly (think Zakk Wylde if he could write better riffs). Anyway, even though this is an improvement over the Snowy White era Lizzy albums its not quite the classic others have made it out to be, a very good album but hardly one of Lizzy’s best (perhaps their 7th best album, that’s an indication of how many top quality albums Lizzy have produced rather than a way of saying this album isn’t up to standard).
Anyway, musically this album is a change of direction from 70’s hard rock to 80’s hard rock/metal (I think the main difference is the change from good production to a dated 80’s one). But John Sykes does bring a harder edged sound to the band with the title track and ‘Cold Sweat’ being some of the heaviest Lizzy tracks. However this can be a little detrimental to the sound as Scott Gorham is by no means a metal guitarist (and all the better for it) and his playing is not as good as on previous albums as he has to adapt to a different style to which he is less suited , not to say his playing is bad by any means he still sounds good but not as awe inspiringly brilliant as one ‘Bad Reputation’, ‘live and Dangerous’ and ‘’Black Rose’. However despite my minor criticisms of this guitar duo their still excellent and John Sykes certainly was a fine choice on Phil’s part after choosing Snowy White, who lets face it was a bit lacking in charisma and ultimately better suited to session work and Pink Floyd.
Yet again, although this isn’t my favourite direction Lizzy went in ‘Thunder and Lightning’ features some top class songs which shows Phil Lynott’s ability to write well in any still. This album doesn’t have any filler either all of these songs are worth your time which is something Lizzy rarely achieved as they had a habit of writing generally killer albums and putting one stinker on (see ‘S & M’ from ‘Black Rose’ ). Anyway my particular favourites from this strong collection are the title track which is just a great upbeat rocker with some silly 80’s riffs and a hilarious keyboard solo (as Scott said Lizzy is a guitar band so the keyboards were a mistake, but I don’t mind as other than this one solo their not overbearing). ‘Cold Sweat’ is another great track and Lizzy’s most metal moment complete with a tapping guitar break in the middle which really wouldn’t of happened with any other Lizzy guitarist but John Sykes, it remains in the Lizzy (or should I say Whitesnake?) set to this day, which is fair enough , it’s an excellent song and John Sykes’ only writing credit with Lizzy. ‘The Holy War’ is my favourite song here and has some excellent guitar harmonies which are not as frequent as on previous albums, also Phil’s lyrics deal with religion which he does excellently as previously demonstrated by ‘Massacre’ from the ‘Johnny the Fox’ album.
So this album proved that Lizzy could pretty much pull off any style they attempted with aplomb be it funk or 80’s commercial metal (I’ll refrain from saying hair metal as is it isn’t that cheesy). Even though I have some complains with the playing (Scott was much better suited to working with Brian Robertson or Gary Moore) and the production (the guitars are a little thin), this is a still a more than worthy album and a great way to end a career.
At this point, Thin Lizzy was almost dead. Band spiritual enigma Phil Lynott knew it, as did long time guitarist Scott Gorham and drummer Brian Downey. But in the great never say die spirit of the band; they decided to give it one last thrust. Recruiting hot shot young guitarist John Sykes away from his gig with NWOBHM leaders the Tygers Of Pan Tang (he’d go on to even higher profile gigs with Blue Murder and Whitesnake), the band commenced to record a final studio album, head out on tour, and then call the whole thing off.
I don’t know if it was the anger that was welling up within the band due to their lack of forward motion that had set in some six or so years prior, or if the mere infusion of new blood just fired ‘em up. But GODAMN Thunder And Lightning is one mighty metal effort. Certainly heavier than anything they’d come up with in recent memory (with the exception of some cuts off Black Rose) it’s a no bull excursion into great songs, passionate performances, and maybe, just maybe the best collection of Lizzy classics yet. If you’ve been following the story so far, you’ll understand that would be no mean feat for a band with so crushing a catalog.
The title cut blasts off like the space shuttle, quaking your speakers and boxing your ear drums with its high-speed delivery and frantic lyric. Its no innovator, but who the squirt cares? Its fury will blow you down. So will the high tech metal of “Cold Sweat,” in which Sykes shows off exactly why he’s here, spitting out pyrotechnic string shrapnel at every turn. It also helps that this is one of the band’s most striking killers ever, boasting a clever Lynott lyric and a skull-embedding riff. “Someday She Is Going To Hit Back” plays with proggy/jazzy riffs delivered under metal pressure, and damn fine it is for it. And while “Bad Habits” is a fine number in itself, it seems almost pithy when compared to the man’s previous other drug laments (“It’s Getting Dangerous,” “Got To Give It Up”).
No big deal though, cuz “Heart Attack” grabs one with enough fury and snap to make up for that slight sidestep. Add to this a creepy and lyrically haunting ballad in “The Sun Goes Down” (nobody could write hopeless lyrics with the same kind of doomed optimism Lynott could muster, god bless him) and you have absolutely no reason why Lizzy should not have been right back on top with this one. It has modern metallic sheen, great songs and the most energy ever packed into a chunk of Thin Lizzy vinyl. But sometimes, bad things happen to good bands.
And sometimes, bad things happen to great musicians. Following Lizzy’s demise Phil Lynott would descend further into heroin addiction, amidst halting efforts to record solo as well as form a new band (Grand Slam). But his dedication to self-destruction was too much for his poet’s heart to bear, and on January 4, 1986, he died in Dublin, Ireland in hospital, his mother Philomena Lynott at his side vowing to help him give up drugs. I was sixteen years old and working on the basement recreation room my father had commissioned me to help construct. WNEW FM in New York City broke from their endless parade of hard and heavy rock to tell us all the news of the man’s passing. He was 36 years old, which is how old I am as I write this. And then they played “The Boys Are Back In Town.” I couldn’t help it man, I started to cry.
On their 1983 Thunder And Lightning album Thin Lizzy flirt with heavy metal to great results. If you listen to Jailbreak (1976), perhaps the band’s best album, you’ll notice many differences. On this one there aren’t many experimentations, cowboy themes and funky-like sounds. Here you’ll find in your face hard rock-heavy metal. However, the characteristics of Thin Lizzy are still evident. Phil Lynott’s emotional songwriting and singing, drama and really good melodies. What more could you want?
The record kicks off with Thunder And Lightning, the band’s heaviest song, and gives you an idea of what’s to follow. Fast, heavy, melodic, with heavenly chorus, a true standout. The rest of the record features excellent songs. This Is The One is very melodic and has one of the best choruses you’ve heard for a long time. The Sun Goes Down is slower, more synth-based, but with some great solos and creates a very nice atmosphere. The Holy War is very mood lifting and can be heard really easily. Though an ‘easy’ song it’s an amazing one with very nice solos and a killer chorus as always,
Cold Sweat is a great hard rock song. Very heavy, with its driving rhythm, riff and catchiness it sticks in your head. The rest of the album is that good too. To those unfamiliar with the band’s sound, Thin Lizzy are a unique group, very heard to categorize. Phil Lynott is a great composer, very emotional and inspired. Thunder And Lightning is an easier album to start with as it’s more accessible. You’ll be taken away by its guitars (also thanks to the great John Sykes) and melodies. The lyrics are interesting too. If you love hard rock, you can’t go wrong with this one.