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“Ace of Spades” is not your usual approach to creating heavy metal music. What Lemmy does here is crank up a bunch of modestly composed Little Richard songs to full gear. He gives them distorted guitars, wailing solos, gruff vocals, and a biker attitude that couple with some of the most sexually promiscuous and boozing lyrics you can imagine.
When the title track opens the album, you are immediately sucked into the galloping speed metal riffs. This song is dirty but catchy, and it’s no wonder that it’s remembered today as a rock classic. Motorhead got lucky with the breakthrough success of this song, and it’s no surprise that the others stayed only within the grasp of real metalheads (and punks). Songs like “Jailbait” are sleazy and in bad taste, but Motorhead are intended to be an advanced case of halitosis; that’s their purpose. They are the filthy scoundrels of hard rock and roll, and downright proud of it.
The faults of this album are rather apparent, though. There is little variety; there are no ballads, no instrumentals, or any sort of variation in songwriting. They are verse-chorus numbers that are not as aggressive as they could be. It seems that bands like Venom needed to kick Motorhead up a notch, because Lemmy and the guys are at their best during the real speed metallers like “The Hammer.” If every song were like this, or even like “We are the Road Crew,” this album would be a masterpiece. Unfortunately, while punkish speed metal may be my favorite style of music, it’s one of the most difficult to compose in because things get monotonous fast. There are very few classic full-lengths to be found in this niche style, and Ace of Spades isn’t quite a classic either. Well, the song is, just not the album.
If you don’t know what Motorhead sound like, get out from under your rock and listen to Ace of Spades. Or, if you’re curious about what Lemmy’s voice sounds like, you can just record a running chainsaw and put it down in a pitch shifter. Seriously though, he has quite the gravely voice and it comes to him all too naturally.
My conclusion is that this is a bit too light for my tastes in speed metal, but when it’s at its speediest it is indeed something to bang your head for.