RILEY’S L.A. GUNS – The Dark Horse (2024) *HQ*

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The alternative version of Tracii Guns / Phil Lewis LA. GUNS, named RILEY’S L.A. GUNS consisting of drummer Steve Riley, bassist Kelly Nickels (member of L.A. GUNS’ “classic” incarnation), frontman Kurt Frohlich and lead guitarist Scott Griffin (who played bass for the band from 2007 until 2009, and then again from 2011 to 2014) are releasing their new album entitled “The Dark Horse”.
After being saluted by the music scene and fans with their debut album ‘Renegades’, these rock icons are poised to take you on a wild ride with this sophomore release.
While Steve Riley (also drummer for Steppenwolf, WASP, and the classic L.A. Guns line-up) passed away on 24th October 2023, his legacy lives on as Golden Robots Records fulfil their commitment and release Riley’s L.A. Guns’ “The Dark Horse”, his final album.
”The Dark Horse” is a sonic revolution for RILEY’S L.A. GUNS which boldly explores dark and moody melodies that delve deep into the haunting issues of our time. Musically it’s a testament to the band’s identity, rocking and inspired.

In 2019, Steve Riley formed his version of LA Guns with original bassist Kelly Nickels, as well as vocalist/guitarist Frohlich and lead guitarist Griffin. The band released the album “Renegades” in 2020, and “The Dark Horse” is their next (and final?) album now under the name Riley’s LA Guns.
Tragically, Riley passed away on 24th October 2023 at age 67 after being ill with pneumonia for several weeks. Riley was known for his work in Keel, W.A.S.P, and the classic lineup of LA Guns, among others.

The album opens with “Overdrive”, throwing us into “The Dark Horse” with a catchy riff. The track – and album itself – has a heaviness akin with classic L.A. Guns work, but has a uniqueness with the Riley’s LA Guns lineup that feels like something new.
The second track, “Rewind”, shows off Frohlich’s vocal ability and Nickels’ distinctive bass riffs. The title track, “The Dark Horse”, has retro-sounding guitars and a powerful solo by Griffin.

Through listening to the rhythm section, you can tell Riley and Nickels are a pair who have worked together for many years. Combined with the talents of Frohlich and Griffin, we have a group that works.
“Somebody Save Me” is one of the highlights. With darker lyrics and a booming chorus of “I’m not blind but I can’t see, show me the way / somebody save me”, this song encapsulates the vibe of the album. It’s heavy and a bit dark lyrically, yet still fun to listen to.

The next track, “Sweet Summer Girl (Florida)” is really good too. It changes up the vibe to melancholic with a ballad. This song showcases Frohlich’s vocals, versatile guitar work, and the band’s ability to switch up to a softer rock song.
“The Truth” opens with Nickels’ bass, taking us right back into the heavy stuff. The booming chorus of “Are you ready? / are you ready for the truth?” is powerful and demanding. We’re brought to the acoustics with “Changing Lights”, another slower song. It features radio-eque vocals, a bluesy guitar solo and a steady rhythm section.

“It’s The World” really shows off the band’s enthusiasm. It comes in heavy with the drums and shredding guitars. As you listen, you can hear Steve Riley’s passion from behind the drum kit. The song features powerful lyrics, “They’ll never get their dirty hands on me / I’m breaking free”. “Down Day Drag” is another dynamic track with strong percussion and heavy guitars.
But last of all, the final track “While I’m Away” switches to a bluesy vibe. It’s catchy and a solid song to end
the album with. The guitars have a swagger about them, while the keyboards bring the old-school blues rock sound.

“The Dark Horse” is a fun one to listen to. You can tell there’s emotion poured into the songs. It takes you through a journey of nostalgia, love, and power through both the lyrics and instrumentals.
Kelly Nickels wrote on Instagram of Steve Riley’s passing, “He’s an American classic rock n roll drummer from Boston that rocked the world and spent a lifetime banging those drums and he will be greatly missed. Steve was proud of Riley’s LA Guns and the work we did, we did together”. The band members were evidently close and cared about their work – Riley will be missed by many.

With Riley’s passing, fans may wonder what the future of Riley’s LA Guns will be. Bassist Kelly Nickels is the only band member now from the “classic” 80s LA Guns lineup, but Riley’s legacy will live on.
The band has tour dates in the United States coming up including Colorado, Michigan, and the legendary M3 Rock Festival in Maryland in May.
“The Dark Horse” is an album that will remember Riley’s talent and passion on the drums and for keeping his part of the band alive. This album is a testament to his passion and love for rock and roll and his rich music legacy left behind.
Highly Recommended


01 – Overdrive
02 – Rewind
03 – The Dark Horse
04 – Somebody Save Me
05 – Sweet Summer Girl (Florida)
06 – The Truth
07 – Changing Lights
08 – It’s the World
09 – Down Day Drag
10 – While I’m Away

Steve Riley – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Kelly Nickels – bass, backing vocals
Scotty Griffin – lead guitar, backing vocals
Kurt Frohlich – lead vocals, rhythm guitar



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