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Motorhead’s celebrated Overkill album is not only one of the best records they’ve put out, but one of the most influential records to the early thrash scene. Sure, bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Diamond Head, Angel Witch, Scorpions, and Accept all had roles in elevating early heavy metal to new heights of speed and intensity, but it was Overkill that really showed the first shades of thrash. Listen to early Metallica and try to deny the influence. This is 70’s rock kicked up a few dozen notches and a heavy metal favorite.
But influence means nothing if the product doesn’t stand up after all these years (early Kiss was influential, but still sucks). This is where Motorhead truly shines, as this album is just as rad as it was back in the day, despite the fact that Lemmy and Co. have been doing pretty much the same thing ever since. Expect lots of quick, sleazy rock ‘n’ roll, outfitted with lots of lead guitar, double bass, distorted bass guitar solos, a nasty swagger and a pocket full of attitude. Lemmy’s voice is in peak form: gruff and rough as one would suspect. The production is also uniquely raw and features a very bass-heavy mix, so that even the slower, laid-back bluesy numbers are still pretty damn heavy.
Song selection on this album is a bit varied, despite being in the same vein as just about everything the band has ever done. The classic title track kicks things off in an unstoppable hail of heavy metal noise and the unrelenting double pedal assault of Phil Taylor. Eddie Clark solos all over this song, to good measure of course. “Stay Clean,” while not matching the pace of the former, reeks of classic Motorhead with a slightly hypocritical twist and a bass solo from Lemmy. The up-tempo blues rock continues up until “Capricorn,” which adds a subdued psychedelic flavor to the sound. Think Hendrix. Then it’s back to band staples like “No Class” and “Damage Case” for the duration of the album, with another psychedelic diversion in “Metropolis.” Most of these tracks are among the band’s finest tunes and are likely to be heard live even today.
The original album is classic, but considering that most of the band’s early discography has been re-released with a second disc of bonus material, chances are that the version you find in stores will be packed to the brim with B-sides, live tracks, and a half-dozen versions of “Louie, Louie,” the Kingsmen classic that upped their punk cred (punks love “Louie, Louie.” Ask one next time you see one). Either way, Overkill is a rock and roll classic and an essential Motorhead record.