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Aftershock - 80%

stuw23, October 27th, 2013

It’d be easy to take Motorhead for granted, or even to (foolishly) write them off. A recent health scare for main-man Lemmy may have looked like it was going to slow the band down, but thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the case. After almost 40 years now as a band, Motorhead are still touring and releasing music.

Let’s put this in to context for a moment. This is an age in music where there seems to be a great appetite for reunions and bands performing “classic” albums, where reasonably successful musicians of all genres attempt to coast by on past glories. Yet here are Motorhead, arguably the epitome of rock’n'roll, who have penned more classic songs than anyone has a right to, releasing their 21st album a few months after their iconic front-man was hospitalised. Sure, they may play Ace Of Spades and Overkill at every single show, but there’s nothing wrong with giving the fans what they want and playing the classics rather than relying on them. At 67, no one would blame Lemmy for taking it easy and living off of past glories; but that’s not the kind of person he is; and for that we should all be thankful.

Musically, there’s no real surprises here for anyone who’s familiar with Motorhead beyond playing Ace Of Spades on Rock Band; but what might be surprising is just how good the album is. There’s plenty of high-tempo rockers, as well as some slower ones, and they’re as strong as almost anything else the band have recorded. The unmistakable blend of hard rock and heavy metal that forms the basis of the Motorhead sound is present and accounted for, with several tracks reminiscent of their back catalogue. The furious double-bass drum work on End Of Time propels the song along in the same way that Overkill charged ahead, whilst Queen Of The Damned’s bass opening isn’t a million miles away from the first moments of Ace Of Spades. It all still manages to sound modern though, aided by an excellent production job from Cameron Webb, who has also produced the past few Motorhead albums.

That’s not to say that the band is relying on past glories. More that, after so long, the band have their sound well-defined (hell, it was well-defined years ago) and know how to make it work. They’re not going to go all prog on us. Modern trends will pass them by unnoticed. Motorhead will do what Motorhead do, and that’s to sound like Motorhead; and that’s something they do so very well.

But as anyone familiar with the band will know, that doesn’t mean they’re a one-trick pony. They’re perfectly capable of writing something a bit different from time to time. Lost Woman Blues makes that clear early on, and it sounds like what you’d expect from the title. It’s slow, heavy blues, drenched in the atmosphere of rainy nights and dimly-lit bars as Lemmy laments the loss of a woman. The later half speeds things up, but it’s the first half that makes it a truly special song. Dust And Glass at the half-way mark further demonstrates that the band aren’t even close to running out of ideas. It initially sounding like another blues track, but there’s something more to it than that. Lemmy’s singing is as clean as it gets, and the verses have an almost regretful atmosphere not associated with the band. It’s a very successful change, and the faster tracks that follow it benefit from the change of pace it presents.

Even after the initial rush of the album has worn off, it still holds up well. It’d probably be an over-statement to describe it as the band’s best album (though frankly, arguing which one of their 21, mostly excellent albums is best is a pointless exercise), but it’s certainly a very strong record that holds up to repeated listens, and is worthy of note not just for the simple fact that it exists. There’s plenty here to get excited about, and I can’t imagine anyone who likes Motorhead being disappointed by this record.

Originally published at http://thesoundnottheword.wordpress.com/