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Thunder and Lightning was released one year before the break up of Thin Lizzy, and merely three years before the tragic death of the iconic frontman, bassist and songwriter, Phil Lynott. It is very sad, that this was the last Thin Lizzy album, but they sure went out with a bang.
Immediately when the title track begins you can hear the sheer power from John Sykes' guitar expertise, who replaced Snowy White after he left because of Lynott's drug addiction and the unorganized schedules. Sykes really helped bringing renewed energy to what else seemed the remains of the wrecked Thin Lizzy, especially on the track 'Cold Sweat' which he co-wrote. Scott Gorham's riffing or solo skills never gets boring, that man is one of most talented musicians of all time. This album is quite different from all previous Thin Lizzy albums, it is very diverse through out the whole album, like all the other records even though they have a more pummeling sound. Downey is just pounding the life out of the drums with his veracious beats and opening the hi-hat at the end of each bar (seriously, that man is obsessed with it), and by the way, the fill in the beginning of 'Someday She Is Going To Hit Back' is quite astonishing. Phil's vocals have become a little rougher and he seems to yell a bit also, his drug abuse probably had something to do with it, but needless to say they still sound amazing. The bass aren't very audible (except on 'The Holy War' and 'The Sun Goes Down'), which is a shame because we all know that Phil can produce some fantastic bass-lines. Now we come to the most disappointing part of the album, the keyboards. Now I ain't saying that Darren Wharton is bad at playing keyboard, he did a great job on Renegade. But on this record they just seem worthless and cheesy, to be honest. The only track they gain any atmosphere on is 'The Sun Goes Down', and the synth solo on the title track is kinda interesting, but that alone can't save no-good and foolish sound of the keyboards.
Now there ain't much to say about song structure on this album, it is definitely the most straightforward, hard-rocking record they ever did. The only song that comes to mind that's even remotely as rocking is 'Jailbreak'. Every song on this record is build to sound catchy, it is NWOBHM to the bone (even though they are Irish). The title track and 'Cold Sweat' are definitely the most heavy metal sounding tracks of the album, they just pound and pummel with heavy verses and catchy choruses. 'The Holy War' is a song that mostly resembles Thin Lizzy's earlier days but still brings something new to the table. 'Someday She's Going To Hit Back' and ' Baby Please Don't Go' are fast beat rocking songs with great harmonies. 'The Sun Goes Down' is a very slow and moody song, unquestionably a song thats stands out from all of Thin Lizzy's catalogue. The last song worthy to mention is 'Bad Habits', an up-tempo song with blistering solos and a heavy breakdown.
Needless to say, this album is very close at heavy metal perfection and its too bad that Thin Lizzy did not survive to further this more, simple and hard rocking version of themselves. The album is very coherent with no experimentations, it is very dark (at some points) with no jolly and funky songs. And that is why it is a first-class heavy album.
• “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.