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A bluesier sound makes for an interesting release - 78%

Ghoulhound, November 14th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, UDR Music (Limited edition, Digibook)

Going into Motörhead's 22nd studio effort 'Bad Magic', I was uncertain of what I'd be getting. Would I be getting an 'Inferno' reprint like the last 4 albums? Or would I be getting the Motörhead album to usher in a new era for the band? Well, the album happens to deliver more of the latter than the former; and let me tell you, this is a rock solid Motörhead album. More than anything, I was hoping that the album would be as good, if not greater, than Motörhead's previous album 'Aftershock'. Wishful thinking really, 'Aftershock' happened to be the band best album since 2002's 'Hammered'. So 'Bad Magic' didn't quite live up to my wildest hopes and dreams; and I wouldn't call this outing from the band great, but 'Bad Magic' is a good album none the less.

I give 'Bad Magic' props for definitely deviating from the formula. I do not believe this to be the same Motörhead that we've seen on the last 5 albums; there is something else that drives this one. I found the band takes a more bluesy, laid back approach to the songwriting. That's not to say that the tight, blistering speed metal cuts don't crop up here and there (see: Victory or Die, Tell Me Who to Kill), it's just that more often than not I find the band dropping more mid-tempo/slower tracks throughout the album. The lyrics on the album I thought were fairly weak. Besides the choruses (which really save a lot of these tracks with mediocrity, seriously the choruses on this album are awesome), the lyrics seemed regurgitated from the band's back catalog with minor tweaks and changes. It's mostly the same nonsensical/war and death/bar brawls/pretty women/life on the road lines that spew from Lemmy. Luckily, the music is nowhere near stagnating. The old flame that's driven the band this far burns bright as always. Mikkey Dee's trashy drumming really reminded me of that late 70's Phil 'Philthy Animal' Taylor sound. Phil Campbell's new found bluesy-ness both helps and hurts a lot of the songs, and Lemmy's bass playing is pretty top-notch; I think that his bass is the best its sounded in awhile. I wasn't fond, however, of Lemmy's vocal performance.

Lemmy's voice practically hasn't changed since the band's 1977 self-titled debut. This album proves an exception. Lemmy's voice sounds aged, not hardened, on this album. His vocals honestly are what hold a lot of these tracks back from greatness. His voice sounds slurred a lot of the time, and he's harder than ever to understand. As far as the tracklisting goes, I'd say this album has a great deal more filler than their last album. 'Till the End', the album's ballad, is pretty god-awful. Mopey lyrics, tired songwriting, and an uninspired performance makes this one of the worst Motörhead songs I've heard in a long time. 'Choking On Your Screams' also did not impress me in the slightest. Lemmy sounds as hoarse as ever, and the song suffers from the same flaw nearly all Motörhead filler tracks suffer from. Weak songwriting, plain and simple. Motörhead is not a band that writes boring songs often, so whenever one (or a few) make it on to an album, it really sticks out. It's also interesting to note that the main riff from 'Electricity' is ripped straight from 'Smiling Like a Killer' on 'Inferno'. Regardless of whether or not this was intentional, I didn't enjoy it.

Many of the tracks on 'Bad Magic' have the ability to be excellent concert staples though, I personally think that Motörhead will be playing the likes of 'Thunder & Lightning' and 'Shoot Out All of Your Lights' multiple times in concert. Also, I was surprised to find how many of these tracks grew on me as time went by. That's why I waited so long to write this review; my score for the album was constantly changing. Take 'Fire Storm Hotel' for example. Upon my first listen of this song, I simply passed it off as one of the weaker tracks on the album. Now, after quite a few listens to 'Bad Magic', it's one of my favorite cuts. The same is true (except to a lesser extent) for the cover of 'Sympathy For the Devil'. It's honestly a great end to this album. A bit unorthodox, but it works.

Overall, this is a good Motörhead album. As I stated previously, I truly believe that this is the album to usher in a brand new era for Motörhead. It's a new sound for them that might take a little time to grow into, but in the end, it'll be more than worth it. This sound has a lot of promise and a lot of potential, and I'm excited to see what it'll evolve into.

Recommended track: 'When the Sky Comes Looking For You'

Same old bag of goodness - 80%

Pratl1971, October 29th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, UDR Music (Limited edition, Digibook)

At the time of this writing, Lemmy Kilmister has been going through a serious life-transition. His body is slowing down and performances are becoming laborious and shorter. It truly is heartbreaking to see this larger-than-life musical giant becoming so fragile right before our eyes. I suppose we forget that as we age, our heroes also grow older. That said, I find it nothing less than typical that Motörhead has issued yet another strong album in Bad Magic. At nearly 70-years of age, Lemmy still provides the fans with 110% heavy metal goodness.

The Motörhead of old is gone, of course, but this lineup of Mikkey Dee and Phil Campbell is the most solid and long-lasting of any of the previous incarnations, and if it ain't broke, don't touch it! The opening track, "Victory or Die" pretty much sets the tone for the record, offering a weighty alternative to some other recent offerings by aging bands that are, for all intents and purposes, laboring through mediocrity. That thick, recognizable sound of that Rickenbacker bass still thumps out of the speakers with all of the shyness of a bowling ball down a freshly-waxed lane. I would honestly never guess that this band was at AARP status because there is no sign of Motörhead slowing down the pace, despite the aforementioned ailments Lemmy is currently handling. Everything that makes for quality metal music is found here, with a crisp guitar sound, drums that fill the bottom end with subtle perfection, and the grimy and filthy vocals that are a staple of the Motörhead sound.

The magical formula that is Motörhead's existence is pretty much the blueprint for what basic, yet memorable metal music should be. The lyrics are, as always, pretty simple in that Lemmy doesn't offer up grand compositions to get his point across, and that is what makes a song like "Electricity" so damn perfect. The vocal melody follows a poetic pentameter that he has found comfort in for many years now, much to the delight of the fans who know exactly what each new Motörhead offering entails. The punk-laden opening of "Evil Eye" screams Black Flag-meets-Lemmy-in-a-scummy-alley all the way. It's amazing to see that the influence of this band still reaches back into the swirling cauldron of rock music and pulls forth a viable, fitting compliment in each track. The fantastic part is that Mr. Kilmister still sounds as gruffly evocative and familiar as he did some 40-years ago. The fact that his vocals will never win operatic awards is certainly not lost on me, but, as I said before, if it ain't broke....

Now there are some who will argue that this all-too-familiar and simple style that Motörhead encompasses is a lack of ability to advance or unwillingness to change the sound for a more updated audience. Bad Magic follows one of the greatest rock bands to ever grace a stage into its suggested 'retirement home' phase and spits directly into the faces of the naysayers who think it's time for Lemmy to hang up the Ric for good. When I hear "Till the End" and feel that bluesy influence just fill my torso, I know exactly what Motörhead has left in the proverbial tank, and they aren't ready to call it a day just yet. So many ancient bands today, who I'll mercilessly leave nameless, refuse to recognize the magical qualities of subtle repetition and instead flood their catalogs with meaningless drivel they've since copied from the lesser imitators of the legends' own early sound. Motörhead follows no leader and pretty much never has, so what might appear as a lack of diversity in the tunes is actually, quite simply, Motörhead music. Even the cover of The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" is a cutting, bass-driven piece of rock 'n roll history that Motörhead makes their own for 5:35 out of your day.

You simply can't go wrong digesting Bad Magic, because everything that the band is worth is spelled out for you in yet another great addition to one hell of a long discography. I challenge you to find one solid clunker is that line if you can. By the time you're finished finding fault with maybe two or three songs from any given album, you'll have taken in this record at least twice and will no doubt be utterly amazed at the prowess that Lemmy and the boys still have after all this time.

It gives us all hope to see those stupid social media memes about Keith Richards and how he's defied death after a life of unabridged excesses and know he's got absolutely nothing on Lemmy.

Good magic. - 79%

Empyreal, September 20th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, UDR Music (Limited edition, Digibook)

As with any Motorhead album, this is full of rock 'n' roll swagger, down and dirty punk rocking riffs and Lemmy Kilmister's ragged, hoarse shouts. Titled Bad Magic, it's pretty much exactly what anybody expected. I thought their last one Aftershock was really great, one of their best post-2000s albums overall, with tons of really great, memorable songs. This one by comparison is more punky and raw, with a pinch more aggression to it – I get the idea Lemmy was very consciously trying to reinvigorate his old flame and make music like he did when he was young. Even though, really, he never exactly stopped. But here we have this album anyway. On tracks like venomous opener “Victory or Die,” the bluesy smash “Fire Storm Hotel” (one of their best songs of the last few years) and the rugged speed metal “Shoot Out All Of Your Lights,” the band is on point, sounding fiery and energetic – really fucking good songs.

The problem is just that it isn't really pushing things much. Not that I expected them to experiment, but some of the songs on here do tend to sound a bit in one ear, out the other. Songs like “Tell Me Who to Kill” or “Thunder and Lightning” don't see the band at its best, with stock riffs and melodies. They're still energetic and enjoyable while they're on, but you won't remember them when you think of the album. “Choking On Your Screams” is kind of a misfire with weird harsher vocals that don't work – certainly no “Orgasmatron” here. The latter half in general tends to run together a bit, as despite being entertaining, it feels like you've heard it all before. Some stronger choruses or riffs would have helped.

Fortunately they redeem themselves with “Til the End,” actually a touching and heartfelt ballad. Then “When the Sky Comes Looking for You” has a hook-barbed riff and some cool, biting lyrics – a killer track. The “Sympathy for the Devil” cover is excellent too, with a great vocal performance that benefits from Lemmy's wearier, more tired sound on this album – it sounds creepier and more standoffish, which helps the mood set by the twanging, ominous guitars.

So overall this is a solid album, and if you like Motorhead you'll enjoy it thoroughly. I don't think it's anything too noteworthy, but it's a solid chapter in the band's latter-day history and it's too much fun to pass up. Bonus points for the lyric booklet, which is full of study hall styled doodles that are actually hilarious. Like, one of them shows a dude stranded on an island Cast Away style, and he has a thought bubble over his head reading "I hope I didn't leave the oven on." Bands handle aging in different ways, and it's good to see Lemmy kicking back and still having such a good time. That carries over to the music, too.

“Wrong, dickhead, trick question. Lemmy is god.” - 93%

TheStormIRide, August 28th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, UDR Music

After an alarming health scare in 2013, many were left wondering if Lemmy Kilmister would continue to soldier on. Motörhead assured fans that everyone’s beloved whiskey loving mainman was doing well, having traded bourbon for vodka while cutting back on the smokes a bit (Lemmy admitted that he’s unlikely to stop altogether, as he’s been smoking since he was eleven). Despite the health woes, Lemmy claimed that he’s still indestructible and vows to continue performing until he can’t physically get on stage anymore. To prove his point, Motörhead, in their fortieth year of existence, along with Lemmy at a mere sixty-nine years young, released their twenty-third album, 2015′s Bad Magic.

Much like the rest of their career, Bad Magic could be described as business as usual. Lemmy’s healthier lifestyle choices, if we can call them that, prove to have little effect on his performance, as he’s still able to channel that whiskey-drenched, gruff delivery that only decades of living in sin could produce. Joined again by Phil Campbell on guitar and Mikkey Dee on drums, Motörhead continues with their twelfth album featuring this lineup. It’s safe to say that Bad Magic sounds mighty similar to the band’s last two decades of albums, but one of Motörhead’s strongest points over the years has been their ability to sound fresh and virile despite their longevity.

Falling in line with the band’s previous outing, Aftermath, the tracks on Bad Magic bring a wide swath of sounds, from the fiery and destructive “Shoot Out All of Your Lights”, with it steamrolling percussion, to the catchier, rollicking sounds of “Fire Storm Hotel”, which focuses Lemmy’s gruff tones and Phil’s bluesy rock licks. “Till the End” is one of Motörhead’s finest ballads in years as well, paying fine tribute to Lemmy’s rough delivery while Phil brings a solid melody. Really, Bad Magic is an amalgamation of all of Motörhead’s strongest points. The driving bass lines and ferocious riffs, not to mention Mikkey’s thundering double kicks, sound like a band rejuvenated, without belying the band’s four decades of experience. Let’s not forget the bonus track, which is a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”, which brings Motörhead’s edge to the classic, while not straying far from the original.

While there has yet to be an inherently bad album in Motörhead’s catalog, Bad Magic shows the band at their strongest in quite some time. Perhaps Lemmy’s health scare brought a renewed vigor and fueled a fire under their collective asses during song writing. Despite the reduction in smokes and booze, Motörhead’s latest effort captures the band’s essence with a blend of rollicking heavy metal, hard rock swagger and bar room attitude. Bad Magic shows that Motörhead is unstoppable and Lemmy is, indeed, indestructible.

Written for The Metal Observer.