originally posted on Saturday, 23 November 2013
Has there been a hard rock band more distinctive than Motörhead?
There probably is, but I can’t think of one. The “Godfathers of Speed” is something they’re not called enough, but it’s true, wouldn’t you say? Listen to their earliest albums, especially Overkill, which is where they truly found their sound. Musically it was heavy stuff, I mean good crunchy and of course fast. But when it comes right down to it, it’s the almighty Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister who makes the band everything that they are. It’s no secret, everyone knows it. While at the time, music wasn’t generally as fast as Motörhead, but as time passed, they influenced thousands of aspiring bass players, guitar players and drummers to turn things up a notch or two…or maybe even three. But as time passed and more bands got faster, some even sounding roughly the same as the others, you could always point Motörhead from the heard. The reason is almost completely thanks to that voice of Lemmy’s. His bass playing has always been famously unmatchable.
Over 35-years into their career and more than 20 albums in, the band still plays strong. With the exception of some scary health issues Lemmy has been famously having lately (ones that spawned silly death rumours that are fortunately far from true) the band still sounds like they are in their prime, having just released their 21st studio album, Aftershock. But let’s back up a bit.
Motörhead have been categorized in a group of bands who seem to release the same material over and over. Also on this list are Slayer and AC/DC. (Give respect to Slayer though, because they admit to not being interested in changing things up with each album.) While it is true that some Motörhead albums seem to sound like a continuation of the previous album, it needs to be taken in to consideration that the band has gone through some different eras. There were the early days, in the late 70’s with what many, including me, regard as the classic line-up of “Fast” Eddie Clarke on guitar and “Philthy Animal” Taylor on drums, but then there was the 80’s which saw the band release roughly similar material just under different album titles such as Orgasmatron and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Then they have a surprisingly melodic albums like March ör Die and Bastards in their repertoire, only to turn up the distortion on the album Sacrifice.
Recent years have seen Motörhead stick with the sound of their early days, just somewhat modernized. They turned down the super heavy distorted guitars and went to more of the hard rock, somewhat blues influenced sound that they adopted more than 30-years ago. They have now released eleven albums with the most consistent line-up the band has ever had, with Phil Campbell on guitar for exactly 30-years and Mickey Dee on drums for 21-years.
The new album Aftershock is admittedly not completely different from recent releases, but that doesn’t take away anything from the album. The opening track, Heartbreaker, alone is enough reason to make this album credible compared to others the band has released. The song does more than just show people that the band still has every capability to rumble anyone’s ear drums.
The album does have its fair share of familiarity. Coupe de Grace is just like those fast thrashing, lyric spurting tracks that Lemmy just seems to make work. End of Time is even faster, but a little less fast spoken, sort of reminding me of their classic track Ace of Spades. While Do You Believe brings in the heavy boogie-woogie style of song that Motörhead just does so well.
I enjoy that Motörhead had no shame in returning to some good old blues rock for the album. Lost Woman Blues gives the album perspective just the way Metropolis did for their classic Overkill album, only LostWomanBlues is even less like your average Motörhead song. It’s a bit slower and has more of the aspects of a classic blues song, barely even making it a hard rock song until it starts to pick up a bit at the end.
The middle of the album has what I like to think of as a small suite of songs. They definitely weren’t meant to be thought of as a suite, but they seem to have the shortest tracks on the album one after the other. I enjoy this when listening to the album all the way through. Death Machine, the first of the songs, uses a slower hard rock approach, reminding me somewhat of their song Capricorn (yes I’m doing a lot of comparisons to the Overkill album.) Dust and Glass brings another slow blues track to the album. Unfortunately, unlike Lost Woman Blues, this track just ends too quickly, clocking in at 2:51. It does lead into the last and fastest of the three song (self proclaimed) suite, Going to Mexico, which I regard as one of the better fast paced songs on the album. It is right up there with the opening track Heartbreaker.
The remainder of the album has its spotlights, like the slow but aggressive Silence When You Speak to Me, but it is mostly just the straight forward, sometimes boogie-based hard rock that the band is known for. One track being Crying Shame; a single released from the album that I don’t really think should have been a single. I mean, comparing it to the rest of the album, I believe a better choice could have been made.
Since I always spotlight the closing track in my articles (no one says I have to, but I only feel it is right,) I will talk about Paralyzed. One thing I must make clear, though some of the songs on the album don’t stand out quite above other Motörhead tracks, this does not make the album any less dynamic than it is. Paralyzed, however, delivers a punch that the rest of the album just didn’t have, ending the album on the best possible note, reminding us once again that Motörhead is far from slowing down.
I wouldn’t say the album stands up to past Motörhead greats such as the classic era line-ups albums, nor would I regard it as better than some albums to have come after that era, such as Another Perfect Day. However, considering those albums were all released over 30-years ago, it would be fairer to compare the album to those that have been released in the more recent decade, such as the predecessor The Wörld Is Yours, to which I must say Aftershock is superior to. Not necessarily in song writing or anything highly analytical, but in the sense that I feel Motörhead really went back to some important basics that were long overdue.
“Heartbreaker” – There are a few dominating tracks on the album, but I believe Heartbreaker to be the most effective of them all. It is melodic where it has to be, in order to properly hook its listener, but at the same time it has balls. Of course the whole album has balls, but there is no better song to show that fact than the opening track, which I believe is a successful recipe of nice fast Motörhead licks and a seemingly barely-changing Lemmy on vocals.
8 (Out of 10)
|“Coup De Grace”||3:45|
|“Lost Woman Blues”||4:09|
|“End of Time”||3:17|
|“Do You Believe?”||2:59|
|“Dust and Glass”||2:51|
|“Going to Mexico”||2:51|
|“Silence When You Speak to Me”||4:30|
|“Queen of the Damned”||2:41|
|“Keep Your Powder Dry”||3:54|