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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.