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Whenever anyone needs a reminder that the words primitive and bad are not synonymous terms when describing a metal band, Motorhead’s well known 1980 lawn killer of an album “Ace Of Spades” is the place to send them. It’s the sort of album that hearkens back to those days where the lines between hard rock, punk and metal were pretty well blurred, and there was a place for bands to play primitive pentatonic riffs and Chuck Berry inspired guitar solos yet do it in such away that rekindles the shock factor of both after about 25 years after they were introduced to a wider audience. It represents a band that is quite apt at testing the manhood of its listeners, while still keeping that non-conformist 70s punk element at the fore.
While definitely not being the most consonant sounding band, this is the sort of sharp edged, cigarette steeped goodness that can be sung along to. Lemmy’s vocals are about as gritty and gravely as they come, yet there is still a discernable melody in his minimal range. But the real winner here is the wicked combination of chunky, distorted bass work with crunchy rock guitar riffs that create an aggressive feel that is nasty enough for hardcore, yet precise enough to be mistaken for the emerging NWOBHM. A few of the band’s signature live songs can be found on here, along with a tiny side order of older rock influenced numbers that could be qualified as filler, yet are still solid and fun.
Perhaps the biggest flaw at play here, which is typical to most Motorhead albums, is generally a lack of variety. The songs tend to be either up tempo, or really up tempo, and consisting in a very simple yet highly energetic mixture of simplistic 70s riffs played a little too fast and dirty, and drums that get a little too happy on the double bass at times. The shorter and faster things tend to be, the better, as is the case with most 70s punk albums. Most are familiar with the wickedly gritty title song that kicks things off, though perhaps not so much with the equally energetic yet somewhat cleaner cut closer “The Hammer”, but both are classic examples of the solid speedy goodness Lemmy and company have been delivering since “Overkill”. Other quintessential highlights include the flashy rocker “Fire, Fire” and the sloppy little ditty “Bite The Bullet”.
Pretty much everyone can have a genuine appreciation for this band, although being able to fully appreciate an entire album of their’s is a different matter as they have a fair share of songs in their repertoire that rarely see the stage, and “Ace Of Spades” isn’t really an exception to the rule. There’s still a lot of old school rock present in the mix here, and most people who go for heavy metal might not go for the pre-NWOBHM tendencies at work here, anymore than they might some of the lesser known early Judas Priest and Black Sabbath songs. But this is the sort of album that can be appreciated by most fans of straight up heavy metal at high tempos, and should definitely be looked into.