Retrospective: Yes, The Entire Motherfucking Motorhead Back Catalogue!!!


Hard to believe it’s been five years since Lemmy left us. I remember seeing Motörhead for my final time, and it was really sad. Lemmy was obviously struggling up onstage while the band played “Overkill” and “Ace of Spades” at practically half-speed. It was rough. Then we got the news that Lemmy died a mere four days after he turned 70, which is to say, four days after Christmas. 

Well, it’s Christmas time again (sort of), and subsequently around the time of Lemmy’s birthday (not to mention death day), so to commemorate Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister, I wrote a review of every Motörhead album.

But, let’s get one thing straight once and for all; Motörhead is a METAL band. For some reason, people have a hard time admitting this fact, attempting to claim Motörhead is Chuck Berry with heavy distortion or that they’re long haired punks or something. That’s just how punk rockers who are too hip to listen to metal rationalized listening to Motörhead.

You’re just kidding yourselves; there’s definitely a punk influence in Motörhead’s music, but they play blues-based heavy riffs through Marshall Stacks, their music has a strictly formalist approach that punk and its “learn three chords, start a band tomorrow” approach does not, and every member who has passed through Motörhead’s ranks is a top tier professional muso, often from other hard rock and metal bands; such as Thin Lizzy, Persian Risk, Saxon, King Diamond, and Don Dokken. Not to mention, that when Fast Eddie Clarke left Motörhead, he started Fastway with Pete Way of UFO, and Mikkey Dee joined the Scorpions after Motörhead came to an end. 

But there IS a certain rock ‘n’ roll-y quality to the music of Motörhead, where they try to make their songs tight and compact, rather than engaging in the more epic side of metal. And primarily Motörhead stuck with the blues scale in lieu of any of the neoclassical shredding of their contemporaries. That’s probably the reason Lemmy always says Motörhead isn’t a metal band, but a rock ‘n’ roll band.

Or he’s just being cheeky. Maybe one day, I’ll get to ask him…

On Parole (recorded 1975, released 1979)

The band formerly known as Bastard began as kind of an underground supergroup consisting of Lemmy from Hawkwind on bass and vocals, Larry Wallis from the Pink Fairies on guitar and vocals, and Lucas Fox drums. Fox lasted all of seven months, and though he recorded drums for On Parole, Philthy Animal Taylor came in and rerecorded them for all but one song; that being “Lost Johnny”, if you were wondering.

On Parole is certainly a great album; that is, if it’s literally the ONLY Motörhead album you ever plan to listen to, and you want to act like time stopped in 1975. It’s more of a curiosity for hardcore fans and collectors of obscure 70s rock, than anything I’d call “essential Motörhead.” It’s for people who prefer UFO before Michael Schenker joined.

The functional components of a Motörhead album are mostly there, but Larry Wallis’ guitar is definitely stuck in bluesy space rock la-la-land, distorted but not really heavy; so faster songs like “Motorhead”, “Vibrator”, “Leaving Here”, and “City Kids” sound like some kinda weird bluesy space punk, “On Parole” sounds like spacy rockabilly/pub rock, “The Watcher” is as trippy as the original Hawkwind version, except it’s not acoustic, and “Iron Horse/Born to Lose” sounds like a total mid-60s blues jam with even a bit of country twang! Lemmy’s also doing way more singing than shouting on most of the album.

The majority of the songs would end up either on the real first Motörhead album or some other releases related to it; excepting their cover of “Leaving Here” by the Birds (not the Byrds!) and an original tune called “Fools” that Larry Wallis wrote. It’s a shame the latter exists ONLY on On Parole, since it’s a damn good blues rock song that attacks greedy managers and agents in the music biz. 

The production is also kinda shitty, which is why United Artists refused to release it in the first place. But, obviously not SO shitty, as to not release it four years later after Motörhead got popular. 

But why did they cut the tasteful buzzing sound when they rerecorded “Vibrator”?

Motörhead (1977)

Although Lemmy is the only original member left in Motörhead, the classic lineup with Fast Eddie Clarke on guitar and Philthy Animal Taylor on drums makes its grand debut. 

The first Motörhead album comes right out of the gate with the one-two wallop of “Motorhead” and “Vibrator”, and ends with a raw and punky cover of “The Train Kept a Rollin’.” But, even these faster, punkier numbers are giving way to bluesy metal solos and guitar/bass interplay, which betray the fact that Motörhead can actually, ya know, PLAY. 

And by the time we’re at the slow and heavy biker anthem “Iron Horse/Born to Lose”, the War-Pigs-like groove of “White Line Fever”, and the grimy rocker “Keep Us on the Road”, which has a KILLER bass solo, we’re in total blues metal territory. 

Also, I don’t know if it’s just the lo-fi production or what, but there’s still a bit of spacy residue left over from On Parole; especially on “The Watcher.” In fact, if anything, I’d say Motörhead crosses the proverbial divide not between punk rock and heavy metal, but between the Ladbroke Grove underground rock scene, full of bikers, hippies, and anarchists and the more codified heavy metal that would follow; especially since “Motorhead”, “Lost Johnny”, and “The Watcher” were all Hawkwind tunes, and “City Kids” was originally by the Pink Fairies. 

Now, just so nobody yells at me, I should note, the original release of Motörhead has eight cuts out of a total thirteen which were actually recorded. The group’s label slapped one of the best songs from the session “City Kids” onto the b-side of the “Motörhead” 45, and released the other four cuts as the “Beer Drinkers” 12” EP in 1980. Of those tunes, you have a neat cover of the ZZ Top classic “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers”, the 12-bar pub rock boogie of “On Parole”, a pointless but okay instrumental called “Instro”, and a speedy cover of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers’ “I’m Your Witchdoctor.” 

But, thankfully, every CD version of the album has included all of the bonus cuts, because “On Parole” rules! It’s this fun, good time song about a psycho killer who’s out on parole and goes around shooting people. 

Also, Joe Petagno’s original cover design for Motörhead is naughty. 

Overkill (1979)

With the release of their second album, Motörhead have left the underground and become the flagship band of this new musical movement called the New Wave of British Heavy Metal; even though most of the album sounds like the OLD wave of British heavy metal! Seriously! I wonder what Geoff Barton heard that I didn’t when he called Overkill a cross between punk and metal. Most of the songs sound like early/mid 70s blues metal and heavy rock!

Other than the song “Overkill”, which does have a pretty aggressive double bass drum opening, and maybe the second half of the last song, “Limb from Limb”, most of Overkill is pretty slow! If you saw that awesome album cover with Snaggletooth exploding, and you’re like, “YUSSSS!!! This is where Motörhead get all fast ‘n’ shit!”, prepare to be hella disappointed. 

And I’m not the first person to mention how “No Class” blatantly ripped off the riff from “Tush” by ZZ Top. I guess it’s an easy riff to copy, since Motörhead would do it again eight years later. Hell, Saxon borrowed the riff for their song “Stand Up and Be Counted” on their second album Wheels of Steel, which is an odd coincidence….

BUT Overkill is STILL a great album. I mean, right after proto-thrasher “Overkill”, you get the awesome “Stay Clean”, which has a killer groove and that righteous bass solo. And, in “I Won’t Pay Your Price”, Lemmy is telling off some dude he doesn’t like, threatening to stick his finger in his eye. 

But, I must say, while “I’ll Be Your Sister”, “Damage Case”, and “Tear Ya Down” are all scorching examples of what can be done in the somewhat limited approach of power trio heavy 70s rock, I cannot extend similar praise to “Capricorn” and “Metropolis.” To this day, I have no idea why these are considered such classics and were performed nightly for three straight decades. “Capricorn” is barely a song; it’s just a couple of chords and a bunch of guitar solos, and “Metropolis” is just the kind of typical heavy blues rock you’ve heard from bar bands a hundred times over; not horrible, but certainly not worthy of the band that now was at the helm of a new musical movement!

ESPECIALLY since “Too Late, Too Late”, a faster and more rocking song, was relegated to the b-side of the “Overkill” single rather than being included on the album! 

Do I need to mention their cover of “Louie, Louie”?

Bomber (1979)

Now THIS sounds more like a cross between punk and metal. More than half of the songs on Bomber are actually pretty fast, unlike most of what’s on Overkill. Bomber does have some pretty slow and plodding songs, like “Sweet Revenge”, which has this really angry-sounding three chord riff that some might think is too simple, but I think is totally awesome, and “Lawman”, which is another straight blues metal song. But the rest have kicked up the tempo a bit.

Speed is, of course, relative, and since Bomber was released in the 70s, the “fast” songs are like Ramones-fast, not “Ace of Spades” fast. That doesn’t stop these songs from kicking my ass, though. Well, except for “Step Down.”

Fast Eddie Clarke sings on that one, and it kinda sucks. It’s another slow one, and it’s really bluesy, but it doesn’t really go anywhere or do anything; it just sort of sits there as Fast Eddie Clarke sings a few lines and plays a few licks and then it just fades out. Why couldn’t they have put “Over the Top”, another far better and more rocking song, onto the Bomber album and put “Step Down” on the b-side for the “Bomber” single rather than the other way around? 

These songs are actually pretty angry and topical too. The previous two Motörhead albums mostly had songs about rock ‘n’ roll, chicks, and stickin’ it to the man, but on Bomber, Lemmy’s all like got something to say! Seriously! “Lawman” is against narco-cops; “All the Aces” calls out greedy record executives who take advantage of artists; “Talking Head” puts the media and its talking heads on blast; “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is an anti-heroin song; and on “Poison”, Lemmy even attacks his OWN DAD! He calls him POISON!

Thankfully “Sharpshooter” is a light hearted song about shooting people. 

Ace of Spades (1980)

The rare case where you can like the most popular album by a band and not be a poser.  

I have no idea what happened between 1979 and 1980, but Motörhead just got really fast all of a sudden. When people talk about the signature Motörhead sound, where they merge the speed and aggression of punk with the heaviness and tight musicianship of metal, ultimately giving birth to thrash metal in the process, they’re talking about Ace of Spades. Yeah, yeah, I know Lars Ulrich says that already happened on Overkill (makes jerk-off motion), but as we discussed earlier, the only song that sounds like that on Overkill IS “Overkill.” And after you listen to Ace of Spades, from its opening title cut to the last second of “The Hammer”, the albums before it start to sound sluggish in comparison.

It’s like, once 1980 hit, the group broke a certain threshold of velocity that wasn’t possible in the 70s. If you want more proof of that, listen to the LIVE version of “Overkill.” It’s way faster than the studio version.

But, yeah, Ace of Spades is the definitive Motörhead album, flawless from start to finish. Everyone and their mother knows the roaring title cut, with the rumbling bass at the beginning, the drum roll, and that catchy chord progression that SOUNDS easy as hell to play, but is actually pretty difficult when alternating between the open E string and the chords! 

And while most of the album sticks to blues-metal-type riffs, whether it be slow tunes like “Fast and Loose” or fast ones like the boogie metal “Dance”, Clarke’s began making ample use of palm-muted chugga-chugga riffs on tunes like “Shoot You in the Back” (Western movies!), the rather debased and incriminating “Jailbait”, and the punk-metal MONSTER “Live to Win”, which has a KILLER opening bass line. And, how can I not mention the amazing riff in “Love Me Like a Reptile”, the thrashing roadie tribute “We Are the Road Crew”, or the mid-tempo metal stomper “The Chase Is Better than the Catch”?


But my favorite tune on the album is without a doubt “Bite the Bullet.” I just love this song; it’s less than two minutes long, and it’s built around this awesome bass line that’s accentuated by Fast Eddie Clarke hitting a chord at the beginning of each bar. And every verse ends with the line “Bite the bullet (space) I’m leaving you.” It’s so much fun to sing along to, and it catches people off guard the first time they hear it, because they forget the space before “I’m leaving you.” 

Ace of Spades absolutely deserves its status as a classic.

No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith (1981)

I guess some people consider No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith to be the quintessential Motörhead experience rather than Ace of Spades. For millennials who are hardcore fans of legacy hard rock and metal bands, due to easy access to many live recordings on the internet and the fact that these bands have saturated the market with live albums, live albums tend to lack a certain “essential” quality.

So, I’m guessing the reason so many people who are several decades older than me consider No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith to be the pinnacle of Motörhead’s career is because they got to experience the intensity, heaviness, speed, and aggression of the Motörhead show on their home stereo for the first time ever.

Well, that’s not even true, since Motörhead released a live 12” EP called The Golden Years the previous year. 

But I digress…

I guess Bronze records didn’t feel like Motörhead was worth investing the capital to deliver a double album with the entire concert, instead giving the fans a 40-minute snippet which includes (big sigh) half of the songs from Overkill, including my least favorite ones, “Capricorn” and “Metropolis.”

On the plus side, Motörhead play older tunes like “Motörhead”, “Bomber”, and “Overkill” faster now that it’s the 80s. And Lemmy refers to Philthy Animal Taylor as “Little Philbert”, so that’s cute.

Iron Fist (1982)

For some reason, fans, critics, and Lemmy himself consider Iron Fist to be a step down from previous Motörhead efforts. I have no freakin’ idea why. One theory I’ve heard is that fans didn’t think Iron Fist was as intense as No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith; but who compares a studio release to a live album? I’ve also read that Lemmy was too preoccupied with his relationship with Wendy O. Williams to give Iron Fist his full attention and that the label rushed the band. 

Wendy

That all might be true, but I still wholeheartedly disagree that Iron Fist is in any way not as good as previous Motörhead releases. In fact, it’s not only a bit heavier than Ace of Spades, but I find it more enjoyable than the ones that came before Ace of Spades. It follows a similar formula; it has the opening title track with a rumbling bass line at the beginning, and the rest of the tunes alternate between speedy punk metal thrash and slower blues metal numbers, but it’s also a bit darker than its predecessor.

Fans thus far might notice that Lemmy is recycling a few lyrical themes here. I feel Lemmy sufficiently covered the topic of “Speedfreak” on the first song of the first Motörhead album; ya know, the one the group was named after. And he already incriminated himself on the previous album’s “Jailbait”, so I don’t see why he would need to do it AGAIN on “Sex and Outrage.” And, of course, what’s a Motörhead album without an “up yours, the man!” song like “(Don’t Let ‘em) Grind Ya Down”, or songs where he calls various people assholes, such as “Heart of Stone”,  “Go to Hell”, and “Loser”?

But, then, all of a sudden, Lemmy throws in these NEW lyrical ideas! “I’m the Doctor” is a disturbing song about a soulless drug dealer who doesn’t care if he kills his customers; “heart attack, you’re never coming back, ‘cos I’m the doctor!” And, on “(Don’t Need) Religion”, for the first the time ever, Lemmy expresses his atheistic, anti-Christian views. He would revisit this theme a number of times on future albums, but the first time it must have been pretty shocking. In fact, I’d say Lemmy claiming he flat-out doesn’t believe in ANYTHING is more offensive than Venom or Slayer indulging in their Satanic vices, since after all, you can’t have a Satan without a God or Jesus.

On the other hand, the song “America” is about the joys of touring the United States. Because what kind of British metal band would Motörhead be if they didn’t write a song about that?

Fast Eddie Clarke produced Iron Fist, along with the first album by Tank! Nice work, Eddie!

Another Perfect Day (1983)

Then Fast Eddie Clarke quit to start Fastway, and was replaced by former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson.

It’s actually pretty surprising how negatively Motörhead fans reacted to Another Perfect Day. I mean, sure, Robertson’s harmony-laced playing style and chorused guitar tone is quite the change from Fast Eddie Clarke’s chugging 70s blues metal approach, but it still SOUNDS like Motörhead! Hell, the opening track “Back at the Funny Farm” starts with a rumbling bass line and bops along at a speedy pace just like the title tracks on the previous two albums. It’s just that the guitar playing is a little prettier!

I think fans had an issue with the fact that the songs don’t just go “bam-bam-bam”, one after another, and instead are longer and more exploratory, with multiple layers of guitar tracks and lots of guitar solos; to properly play the material on Another Perfect Day, Motörhead would have needed to get a second guitar player. 

And, I get how a fan of “Ace of Spades” would hate the damn near POP of songs like “I Got Mine” and “Dancing on Your Grave”, or the lengthy and near progressive tunes “One Track Mind” and “Another Perfect Day.” But, I DON’T get how fans can hate tunes like “Shine”, “Rock It”, “Tales of Glory”, or the AWESOME thrasher “Die You Bastard!”

Also, the song “Marching Off to War” is the first Motörhead song about the perils of war, another concept Lemmy would revisit a number of times on future Motörhead albums.

But, don’t worry, Motörhead fans! Motörhead don’t stay pretty and melodic for long!

No Remorse (1984)

No Remorse is just a best of compilation, of which Motörhead have many. The only reason it’s significant is because it contains four new songs by an entirely new Motörhead lineup.

The group fired Brian Robertson, because he refused to play classic Motörhead songs, and replaced him with a pair of new guitarists; Phil Campbell from an unsuccessful metal band called Persian Risk and Mick “Würzel” Burston, who, I guess, was in no bands of any real significance. Then, after they performed “Ace of Spades” on The Young Ones, Philthy Animal Taylor quit as well and was replaced by Pete Gill from Saxon.

Lemmy actually picked the songs to go on the compilation and insisted that his new lineup be represented on it as well. The four new tunes are a total return to the classic Motörhead sound fans were used to, but heavier.

I’m still not sure why “Killed by Death” is regarded as such a classic. It’s okay, but I have no clue why it gets played fourth from last at nearly every Motörhead concert. And “Steal Your Face” is a pretty good groove-oriented tune, but I’m confused about the lyrics. Is it about some serial killer or a rapist? When he says, “he’s gonna steal your face.”, does he mean that literally? 

On the other hand, “Snaggletooth” and “Locomotive” are total classic high speed Motörhead rippers! “Locomotive” was even used in the soundtrack for Dario Argeno’s Phenomena!

Orgasmatron

Orgasmatron (1986)

Just like Joe Petagno’s swirling, psychedelic rendering of Snaggletooth on the cover of Another Perfect Day represented that album’s lighter and more colorful vibe, his painting of Snaggletooth on the face of a speeding locomotive symbolizes Orgasmatron’s chugging and pummeling return to form.

And holy shit, is Lemmy’s new band, with guitarists Phil Campbell and Würzel and drummer Pete Gill, HEAVY! In fact, Orgasmatron is Motörhead’s heaviest album until the mid-90s when it was topped by Bastards and Sacrifice.

It kicks off with the mid-tempo, bloody, and brutal death march “Deaf Forever”, which conjures up lovely images of Vikings hacking and spearing each other to death in the mud and pouring rain, on their way to find out if “Valhalla lies beyond the grave.” After that, we’re right back in familiar territory with “Nothing up My Sleeve”, a speedy punk metal tune which starts with a rumbling bass line, as so many Motörhead classics do. 

The seven following tracks alternate between speedy punk metal numbers and mid-tempo, head-banging tunes, all of which are composed of simple but effective riffs, a guitar solo or two, and no subtlety, nuance, or superfluous coloring whatsoever. And, when I say simple, I mean, the riff on my favorite song from the album “Riding with the Driver” is the kind of basic three chord punk riff that the Exploited would do, and the verse riff on the album closing title track has ONE chord. Thankfully the chorus has more chords.

Whether deliberately or not, Orgasmatron seems almost like an apology for Another Perfect Day; almost as if Phil Campbell and Würzel were trying to nullify the previous guitarist’s progressive tendencies with just heavy riffs and guitar solos. And it works, which is why it is rightly considered to be one of the group’s best albums.

Though, for some reason, the album was produced by Bill Laswell. I have no idea why, since Motörhead wasn’t trying to be experimental or avant garde, but he doesn’t ruin anything, and I suppose it hipped a few hipsters to Motörhead.

Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987)

Well, Pete Gill is gone, but Philthy Animal Taylor is back, coincidentally around the same time Marky Ramone rejoined the Ramones, yay!

After proving they could make a straight ahead, crushing Motörhead album, Phil Campell and Würzel branch out a little. I mean, not TOO much; it still sounds like Motörhead. It’s just that, in comparison with the all-out metal assault of Orgasmatron, Rock ‘n’ Roll sounds more like, well, like ROCK ‘N’ ROLL.

First of all, there’s only one thrash song on the album; “The Wolf”, which might remind some of “Overkill” with its double bass drum attack.

The rest of the songs are mid-tempo hard rock and blues metal tunes. “Stone Deaf in the U.S.A.” borrows the riff from the ZZ Top song “Tush” AGAIN; the verse riff in “Blackheart” sounds like an Iron Maiden riff; the anti-businessman “Dogs” has a funky groove like Aerosmith or Guns ‘n’ Roses; and “Eat the Rich”, which is literally about eating rich people, was used as the theme for the 1987 comedy film of the same name, in which Lemmy plays a Soviet double agent named Spider. 

But probably the biggest surprise WTF moment on the album is “All for You”, this bittersweet pop metal love song, in which Lemmy sings impassioned and sincere lyrics about a love that burned out too quickly. Depending on where your threshold lies, you might have trouble taking it seriously, or you might think it’s a great song. 


Personally I love its big, melodramatic chorus and “urgent” guitar solos. But my old friend Ryan found the song to be unintentionally uproarious when I played it for him.

Someone’s gonna yell at me for not mentioning that Michael Palin from Monty Python appears on Rock ‘n’ Roll. 

No Sleep at All (1988)

The sequel is never as mind-blowing as the original, and in the seven years since the release of No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith, Motörhead are no longer the most crazy, heavy, fast, or aggressive band on God’s green Earth. That makes No Sleep at All just another live album, an inessential release containing a snippet of a live concert, in which you get to hear slightly sped-up versions of songs you already own.

But one of the more curious inclusions is “Just ‘Cos You Got the Power.” It was originally released as the b-side to the “Eat the Rich” 12” single, and is this eight minute long jam with a lot of guitar solos and a riff that sounds like “Stranglehold” by Ted Nugent. Not sure how the punks in the Motörhead fanbase square that one.

It is interesting to note how this late in the game, Lemmy and his pals began to straddle the fence between rock elder statesmen and underground cult metal band. Should Lemmy be hanging out with Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Queen, UFO, Thin Lizzy, Scorpions, Dio, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Van Halen, or is his rightful place among Venom, Slayer, Bathory, Voivod, Celtic Frost, Coroner, Sodom, Kreator, Destruction, Possessed, Annihilator, and Razor? Motörhead is certainly more extreme than the first group, but compared to the second group, whom they had influenced, they just sound like good ol’ fashion rock ‘n’ roll. 

No Sleep at All focuses primarily on the Phil Campbell/ Würzel era, but they still give you new versions “Ace of Spades” and “Overkill”, because Campell and Würzel aren’t assholes. Though, I’d still prefer to hear “Snaggletooth” over “Killed by Death.” 

1916 (1991)

Lemmy reinvents himself as a British expat living out his final 25 years in a cluttered, rent-controlled Hollywood apartment, and Motörhead sign a major label contract which would last all of two albums.

If anyone ever says, “Her-dee-her, all Motörhead albums sound the same!”, just hand this hipster/midbrain a copy of 1916.

First of all, since it is a hard rock major label release from the early 90s, the production is pretty polished with little low end. Secondly, the fast songs like “I’m So Bad (Baby, I Don’t Care)”, “Make My Day”, and “Shut You Down” would be played considerably faster had they been recorded on a non-major label album. Just listen to the live version of “I’m So Bad (Baby, I Don’t Care)” if you don’t believe me.

But, regardless of that, 1916 is still one of my favorite Motörhead albums. It’s also really all over the place; blues metal (“The One to Sing the Blues”), melodic poppy metal (“No Voices in the Sky”), 12-bar Chuck Berry style rock ‘n’ roll (“Going to Brazil”), big chord glam rock with a HORN section (“Angel City”), a creepy weird ass tune with keyboards (“Nightmare/The Dreamtime”), a BALLAD (“Love Me Forever”), albeit a dark one, ANOTHER ballad that’s all keyboards, really somber, and about two teenage soldiers getting killed in World War I (“1916”); and, of course, the 90-second tribute to the Ramones that does the Ramones better than the Ramones do the Ramones (“R.A.M.O.N.E.S.”). 

I seriously love this album, as it shows that Motörhead can apply their craft to a variety of musical styles. It’s definitely not their heaviest by any stretch, and you have to have an open mind to dig its myriad of approaches, especially the ballads; and you might think Motörhead is leaning a bit too close to commercial, mainstream hard rock with some of these tunes. BUT if you’re not just a mindless thrasher in a patch-covered denim vest—actually, the reissue of 1916 has “Dead Man’s Hand” as a bonus track, and that’s a total thrasher. So pretty much forget this entire paragraph. 

There are also some great photos of middle aged men wearing 80s glam metal headbands and/or with their greying hair all teased up, along with two topless broads with nice big titties, if you’re into that type of thing. 

March or Die (1992)

Well, Philthy Animal Taylor is gone again. And, although new drummer Mikkey Dee is pictured in the booklet, Tommy Aldridge from Ozzy’s band played drums on most of March or Die, since Mikkey Dee had prior commitments with Don Dokken. 

Idiot critics be like, “March or Die is Motörhead’s sellout album! They’re trying to snag the commercial glam/pop/hair metal crowd like Alice Cooper did with Trash and Hey Stoopid!” That’s a pretty stupid take, considering that glam/pop/hair/whatever commercial metal was already out of fashion by this point. Lemmy had recently written a handful of tunes for Ozzy’s 1991 album No More Tears, and I guess, decided to write some like that for his own band.

Which brings up an important question; is “Hellraiser” a cover? If Lemmy wrote the song, but Ozzy recorded it first, and then Lemmy recorded it after him, is Lemmy technically still covering Ozzy Osbourne?

Speaking of covers, “Cat Scratch Fever” has gotta go. I love me some Nugent, but couldn’t Lemmy have chosen a much less popular Nugent song that hasn’t been played fifty gazillion times? Ya know, like “Stormtroopin’” or “Motorcity Madhouse”? 

And same for “You Better Run”;  Motörhead have already covered “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man”, which is the same generic blues lick as Elvis Presley’s “Trouble”, which Danzig would cover the following year. It’s the same goddamned riff George ThooroBAD used on “Lame to the Bone” a decade earlier. The fact that Motörhead re-recorded “You Better Run” 12 years later as “You Better Swim” for the SpongeBob Squarepants movie doesn’t speak for it not being a dopey novelty song. 

There’s also an 80s hair metal ballad called “I Ain’t No Nice Guy” which features Ozzy and Slash on it. I have nothing else to say about this song.

March or Die is otherwise a good album that gets overlooked for the reasons stated above. While it is a bit more polished around the edges, perhaps more radio-friendly, like an Ozzy Osbourne album, it’s still got great stuff on it. “Stand” is a powerful opening cut. “Asylum Choir” and “Name in Vein” could be on other Motörhead albums. “Bad Religion” is not a tribute to the punk band of the same name. “Too Good to Be True” is another bittersweet love song but not nearly as melodramatic as “All for You.” 

And I was totally surprised by the noisy, clanking, industrial-metal title track at the end of the album. It’s actually pretty good!

Bastards (1993)

Well, that didn’t last long. Motörhead get thrown out on their asses, but get quickly scooped up by a metal label, and the thrash and aggression are back in their sound. Well, on two songs; “Burner” is one of the band’s best thrashers ever. You’ll think, “Holy shit, they’re making THIS kinda music AGAIN?! They haven’t been this brutal since Orgasmatron!” The other, “Death or Glory” is no slouch either.


But the rest of the album hovers in mid-tempo territory, which in a way was a boon for Motörhead, since 70s blues metal had made its way back into metal with acts like Danzig, Type O Negative, Clutch, and Corrosion of Conformity. 

And the production on Bastards is just great; grimy, yet audible, and with a lotta low end. The way Motörhead was MEANT to sound.

But, what of the songs, you ask? 

Like with the two albums before, Motörhead is still on this diversity trip. TWO of the twelve tunes (thirteen if you count the bonus cover of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” on some versions) are ballads. And it IS kind of awkward hearing the super-melodramatic anti-child molestation “Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me” sandwiched between the party anthems “Born to Raise Hell” and “Bad Woman.” While the other ballad, “Lost in the Ozone”, is more like a normal ballad, about some drifting wanderer or some shit.

Elsewhere, you have ass-stomping, mid-tempo metal like “On Your Feet or On Your Knees”, “I Am the Sword”, “Liar”, and “I’m the Man”, the kind of stuff that’s heavy enough for the Pantera crowd, but has that thing Pantera songs do not; oh, what is it… a MELODY! 

But, then, out of nowhere, the album closes out with a pair of weirder songs, “We Bring the Shake” and “Devils”, which kinda sound like Motörhead were trying to bring back some of the Another Perfect Day influences, with the harmonies and lighter ethereal parts, but sound more modern. I dunno, I could picture these two tracks getting played on alternative radio, or something.

Sacrifice (1995)

HOLY SHIT!!! THE THRASH, HEAVINESS, AND BRUTALLY ARE BAAACK!!!

Since 1987, for eight years and four studio albums, Motörhead were doing pop metal love songs, experiments with keyboards, normal mainstream heavy metal, and even BALLADS.

Sacrifice is Motörhead pushing the reset button. No keyboards! No ballads! No pop songs! No stupid cover versions! No acoustic guitars! Just 11 tracks and 37 minutes of punky no frills heavy metal.

Geez, I remember hearing the song “Sacrifice” on the TRomeo and Juliet soundtrack and thinking, damn, this is pretty brutal! And this is from 1995? Motörhead was together for 20 years when they made this? So this geezer dinosaur band is still cranking out music like this, while Metallica and Megadeth have eased into this not-at-all aggressive mid-tempo vibe? Crazy!


Now, don’t get me wrong; Sacrifice isn’t an incredibly fast record throughout; in fact “War for War” is really slow and plodding, and most of the album stays in the mid-tempo range. Its raison d'être is its dirty, punishing, and heavy RIFFS, of which it has a ton. Hell, I’d go as far as to say that Sacrifice is the closest Motörhead came to doom metal in some parts.

It also has some pretty weird rhythms, such as the start-stop aggression of “Order/Fade to Black” and the snare heavy groove of “Make ‘em Blind.” Hell even, “Sacrifice” gets pretty busy with the snare drums. Mikkey Dee has said that he doesn’t get to experiment with different rhythms much in Motörhead, so it’s kind of neat hearing that he’s more than just a human metronome that can fire off 4/4 beats in his sleep.

Speaking of rock ‘n’ roll with 4/4 beats, what’s a Motörhead album without a ripping three chord, two minute punk song (“Sex and Death”) or an AC/DC style boogie rocker (“Don’t Waste Your time”)? 

I used to play “Sex and Death” on my GVSU radio show all time. I always got a kick out of line, “the answer to life’s mystery is simple and direct/SEX AND DEATH.” 

Overnight Sensation (1996)

Now Würzel is gone too. He was on Sacrifice but left before the album came out. So, rather than messing around trying to find a replacement, Motörhead settled on being a trio again. And after all the different lineups, Motörhead finally found the one that worked. The lineup of Lemmy, Phil Campbell, and Mikkey Dee would remain unchanged for the next 20 years. 

Which is why it’s so annoying that Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee don’t get nearly the same recognition as Fast Eddie Clarke and Philthy Animal Taylor. Stop living in the past, people!

Overnight Sensation isn’t as heavy as its predecessor. It’s kinda like how Orgasmatron was the group’s heaviest album at the time, and then they released the more rock ‘n’ roll Rock ‘n’ Roll. This is kind of a repeat of that. 

Although, I will say that Overnight Sensation does have more fast tunes; album-opening, anti-war thrasher “Civil War”, the three-chord punk metal of “Eat the Gun”, which I guess is making some sort of statement about how men join the military because they’re compensating for a lack of masculinity, and “Them Not Me”, a song about how people are addicted to violent sensationalistic media. For some reason, the NEXT song, “Murder Show”, is also about how people are addicted to violent sensationalistic media! This topic must have been on Lemmy’s mind at the time, I guess.

Most of these songs are just good hard rock and heavy metal tunes; your AC/DC style boogie complete with a harmonica (“Crazy Like a Fox”), your funky blues metal (“Love Can’t Buy You Money”), and your basic, catchy, mid-tempo metal (“Overnight Sensation”, “Broken”). There’s even a really great acoustic pop-rock song at the end called “Listen to Your Heart.”

On the other hand, “I Don’t Believe a Word” and “Shake the World” are two of my least favorite Motörhead tunes. Just seem kinda lifeless and dull, I dunno, they can’t all be scorchers.

Snake Bite Love (1998)

This one’s kinda weird. I also read it was pretty rushed, but whatever, I dig it. 

Snake Bite Love is Motörhead generally doing "they thang"; focusing more on rawk ‘n’ roll tunes than metal crushers. But there are some pretty strange moments on the album. For one thing, there’s the title track. It’s a pretty cool Ramones-y tune, but it’s about Lemmy’s obsession with snakes. They’re not a metaphor for anything, I don’t think. He just wants to go to the zoo or outside and see all the different types of snakes. Whatever, Lem!

Then there’s “Assassin”, which I’m guessing was Mikkey Dee’s idea, since it’s got an atypical rhythm and has this crazy tribal percussion breakdown. The whole thing makes me think of Rambo running through the jungles taking out terrorists.

But the weirdest track on the album is “Dead and Gone.” It’s kind of a ballad, but it’s more just soft, trippy, and pastoral sounding; like hippies sitting in a field. And then I realized Lemmy had borrowed the guitar line from a song called “The Sky Is Burning”, which he wrote 30 years earlier for Escalator, the psychedelic album he did with Sam Gopal! 


A couple other unique touches I noticed are the keyboard breakdown in the anti-politician thrasher “Take the blame” and the cool funky part in “Joy of Labour.” Otherwise, the rest of the album is full of great heavy tunes, whether they be happy mid-tempo rockers like “Love for Sale”, angry metal like “Dogs of War”, heavy boogie rock like “Don’t Lie to Me” and “Desperate for You”, or, well, more thrash like “Better Off Dead.” 

It does kinda bum me out that Mikkey Dee hates the song “Night Side”, though. I love that song! It’s about vampires!

Everything Louder than Everyone Else (1999)

The selling point for the group’s third live album is that this time you get the entire 25 song 90 minute concert across two CDs. 

And that would be a solid selling point before the era of Youtube or the market saturation of live albums from legacy metal bands. So, don’t expect me to review the 2003 or 2007 double live discs Live at Brixton Academy or Better Motörhead than Dead

But, as a live set, it’s got a nice smattering of tunes. And you get way faster versions of the 1916 tunes “I’m so Bad (Baby, I Don’t Care)” and “Going to Brazil.” But even this late in the game, they’re STILL playing HALF of Overkill live, including my least favorite tunes from that album, “Capricorn” and “Metropolis”; all while completely ignoring their self-titled debut, Another Perfect Day, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and March or Die


And, as stated before, I don’t get why “Killed by Death” is such a big tune in the band’s repertoire that’s always fourth from the end of their set. Why didn’t “Snaggletooth” become the one they revived on a nightly basis? 

It’s also clear how little the band thought of Snake Bite Love, since they only play TWO songs from it, when that’s the album they were touring on!

It seems Motörhead tend to slack on playing a lot of new material live in general, though. And that’s a damn shame; since I love all of their albums and thus want to hear them play new songs live. When I saw Iron Maiden in 1998 and 2000, on the Virtual XI and Brave New World tours respectively, they had zero problems playing more than half their new albums live. And, while I thought this made their shows drag, since I’m not a fan of this later period Maiden material, they obviously think very highly of it. 

Do Motörhead think less of their later material, or are they just trying to appease the casual fans that came out to hear “Ace of Spades”?

We Are Motörhead (2000)

They’re heavy again. Not that they weren’t heavy on Snake Bite Love, since Motörhead is always heavy, so to speak. It’s just that, once again, they’re focused on low-end metal riffing and high speed thrashing rather than good time boogie rock or Ramones-y songs about snakes. 

Speaking of the whole punk thing, a lot of people make a big deal out of the fact that Motörhead covered “God Save the Queen” on this album. They’re like, “See, told ya Motörhead was influenced by punk!” Megadeth, Mötley Crüe, and Green Jellÿ all covered “Anarchy in the U.K.”, and Megadeth covered “Problems.” The Sex Pistols are just a great band that made songs which other bands like to cover. A metal band covering punk songs wasn’t exactly novel in 2000.

And, really, does not their cover end up sounding like a number of other mid-tempo Motörhead tunes? In fact, the song right after it, “Out to Lunch”, sounds more punk than their cover of “God Save the Queen.”

“God Save the Queen” is a great song, and I’m glad Motörhead covered it, but it’s certainly not the centerpiece of We Are Motörhead. Curiously, you know what could be, though? The ballad “One More Fucking Time.” Yes, in spite of the expletive in the title, “One More Fucking Time” is a ballad, and quite good one too; and I don’t even like ballads! It’s just really bitter and angry, hence the use of the f-word in the song’s title and chorus.

But, ballad and cover notwithstanding, We Are Motörhead is another back to basics release. It opens with probably one of the group’s most aggressive thrashers yet, “See Me Burning”, which must have given Mikkey Dee’s legs quite the workout! And it closes with the title track, which starts with a rumbling bass line, the likes of which hasn’t been used to open a Motörhead song since 1986’s Orgasmatron!

And, in between, are just six more great heavy tunes of various tempos and beats; “Wake the Dead” has a bunch of time changes and odd patterns, so Mikkey Dee must have had fun on that one. 

Hammered (2002)

I guess they’re not heavy again. This seems to be the pattern with Motörhead; record a brutal metal album and then follow it up with a not-as-brutal hard rock album. 

And, boy, if you’re used to Motörhead being aggressive, heavy, and fast, you will definitely do a double take when hearing the opening cut “Walk a Crooked Mile”, this somber, melodic, six minute long, multi-part epic with some of Lemmy’s most introspective lyrics. 

The album barely picks up the pace from there; the anti-censorship “Brave New World” is kinda fast and punky, and you can totally bang your head to “Voices from the War” and “Kill the World”; and “Red Raw”, the album’s big finale, is the kind of thrasher you were hoping to hear the entire time in lieu of the rest of the material on the album. The lyrics are surprisingly violent for Motörhead, and if my ears don’t betray me, it sounds like Mikkey Dee is playing a BLAST BEAT, making it arguably Motörhead’s most aggressive song.

But the rest stays in mid-tempo blues metal (“Down the Line”), AC/DC-style hard rock (“Mine All Mine”, “Dr. Love”), and funky hard rock (“No Remorse”) territory. So, if you don’t mind a more laid back Motörhead, Hammered is a GREAT record with some excellent guitar work from Phil Cambpell. On the other hand, if you’re just in it to get pummeled, you might wanna look elsewhere. 

Though, they TOTALLY stole the “Kick Out the Jams” riff for “Shut Your Mouth”, and the last “song” “Serial Killer” is quite literally the worst thing Lemmy has EVER recorded. It’s this spoken word poem that’s recited over a wall of feedback which gets louder and louder before this stupid little track ends. What the hell was he thinking? 

Someone’s gonna yell at me for not mentioning that there a couple of “bonus tracks” on the CD. One is a live version of “Overnight Sensation”, which is pretty cool, and the other is “The Game”, a song Motörhead recorded for wrestler Triple H’s entry music. I GUESS it works for the loud, dumb, in your face atmosphere of WWE, but as a song, it’s about as exciting as Black-Album-era Metallica, which is to say, it’s the kind of generic mid-tempo metal you’d expect to hear blasting out the window of some jock’s enormous gas guzzling pickup truck. 

Inferno (2004)

Well, they’re heavy again! It’s almost like, right before they went in to make Inferno, they said, okay, now that we made another Another Perfect Day and pissed off some of our fans, let’s go back to what the fans want and expect, with no goofy surprises…

EXCEPT for the last track, this actually pretty good acoustic blues tune called “Whorehouse Blues”, which otherwise caps off another killer ass heavy, rockin’, and thrashin’ Motörhead album.

Like clockwork, Inferno opens with a speedy thrasher called “Terminal Show.” And, from there, you just get a whole lot of whiplash-inducing head banging goodness. And, no, that wasn’t a pun invoking the Motörhead cover of “Whiplash” by Metallica, which would appear on Metallic Attack: The Ultimate Tribute in 2005, earning Motörhead their first ever Grammy; it’s just the first word which came to my mind when talking about head banging. 

You’ve got thrash (“Fight”), punk metal (“Smiling Like a Killer”), basic normal heavy metal with social commentary (“Suicide”), mid-tempo chugga-chug metal (“In the Name of Tragedy”, “In the Black”), fast-paced boogie rock (“Life’s a Bitch”), bitter heavy blues rock with anti-religion lyrics (“Keys to the Kingdom”), and middle-upper tempo motorcycle metal (“Killers”, “Down on Me”, and “In the Year of the Wolf”). 

Do I have to mention that Steve Vai plays lead guitar on two tracks on Inferno? Now Motörhead and Public Image Ltd. have TWO things in common!

Kiss of Death (2006)

You know what’s cool about Kiss of Death? It’s EVEN BETTER than Inferno! In fact, it’s without question, my favorite later period Motörhead album. It’s like Motörhead said, hey, you know how Inferno is just an all-out, raging metal album, albeit with different styles of metal, from start to finish? Well, why don’t we do that again! 

Except, okay, this time, they threw in this really melodramatic ballad called “God Was Never on Your Side.” But, otherwise, once again, as expected, unsurprisingly, not shocked whatsoever, the first track is a three minute, high speed thrasher called “Sucker.” Man, I’d hate to be the guy Lemmy’s yelling at in this song! Sure ain’t his day, indeed. 

I guess the one big difference between Inferno and Kiss of Death is that Kiss of Death has goodtime songs about sex, chicks, and rock ‘n’ roll, which were largely missing from its predecessor, which seemed darker and angrier than your typical Motörhead album. Kiss of Death definitely has some dark and angry songs on it as well, such as the heavy plodding “Under the Gun.” But it also has the swinging party rocker “One Night Stand” and the big major chord hard rocker “Christine”, which will always remind me of “Christine Sixteen” by Kiss. 

It’s also been a while since Motörhead did an uplifting song like “Going Down” about the power of rock ‘n’ roll; while “Devil I Know”, “Trigger”, and the anti-war anthem “Sword of Glory” are three of my favorite Motörhead songs EVER and show that there are still PLENTY of original riffs to be mined from the blues and pentatonic scales. Curiously, “Be My Baby” sounds way too angry to have a title like that. 


But the weirdest song on the album is “Kingdom of the Worm.” What’s up with that? It’s got an odd rhythm, some minor notes, cryptic fantasy lyrics, and a vibe of impending doom. Yet I have no idea what the song is about! 

They also re-recorded “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” to pay tribute to some fallen friends. 

Do I have to mention that C.C. Deville from POISON, who Lemmy actually PRAISED (!!!), and Mike Inez from Alice in Chains both appear on Kiss of Death? I guess the mediator between glam and grunge is a Motörhead album?

Motörizer (2008)

The final Motörhead album of the Bush administration does not complete an awesome triumvirate of 00s era Motörhead albums started with Inferno. It would be great if it did, but I ain’t gonna lie to you. If this were the first Motörhead I’d ever heard, I highly doubt I’d become a fan of the band. 

Where Inferno and Kiss of Death showed that Lemmy, Phil Campbell, and Mikkey Dee still had IT, that ability to craft these incredibly great heavy metal tunes, whether they be fast punky metal, mid-tempo chugga-chug metal, or big chord AC/DC-style party rock, way too much of Motörizer just sounds like rote, power chord bashing, the likes of which gives credence to the “heard one, heard ‘em all” argument people use against Motörhead. 

What really sucks is that the thrasher “Rock Out” is actually pretty weak. It’s two minute long, it doesn’t even have a guitar solo (!!!), and it sounds like they just threw it together in a few minutes. You can always hang your hat on the fast songs on a Motörhead album, so that’s disappointing. The other fast song, “Buried Alive” is certainly better, so, there’s that. 

Curiously, in between the two fast songs is this pretty cool blues rock song called “One Short Life”, where Lemmy pays tribute to his MOM, of all crazy things! Seriously! These are actual lyrics on a Motörhead song: “She said always mind your manners/and don’t you talk no trash/and if you hear someone dissing you/go over and kick his ass.” Really? Lemmy’s mom encouraged him to fight? No wonder he turned out the way he did!

Anyway, it’s like, for instance, the opening cut “Runaround Man” is an energetic opener with an okay crunchy riff, but it doesn’t really get aurally INTERESTING until the guitar lead and breakdown. Similarly, “When the Eagle Screams” has an okay verse riff, assuming you hadn’t heard many riffs just like it before, but it doesn’t really turn into a compelling listen until the solo section. THEN it’s great… for a few seconds. I can spot this same problem in the mid-tempo rocker “English Rose” and the blues metal “Back on the Chain”; even though that one has some interesting lyrics about a botched robbery. “Heroes” has the exact same problem, but it has an interesting drumbeat.

It seems that the nu-three amigos focused more on the breakdowns, lead sections, guitar/bass interplay, and other nuances, than the songs in their entirety! Obvious exceptions being “Teach You How to Sing the Blues”, “Time Is Right”, and “The Thousand Names of God”, which for a moment made me think, maybe it’s me. But, I tell you, I do NOT have Motörhead fatigue!

The World Is Yours (2010)

See what I mean? No Motörhead fatigue here! The first Motörhead album of the 2010s is most certainly better than Motörizer, though it’s still not as good as either Inferno or Kiss of Death. It’s also not as heavy either, as Motörhead have reverted back to doing the mid-tempo hard rock thing they were doing on Hammered. In fact, like Hammered, there’s only one speedy thrash tune, and you have to wait almost until the end of the album to hear it. And the songs “I Know How to Die” and “Bye Bye Bitch Bye Bye” are kinda fast and punky but the other seven tunes are mid-tempo rockers. 

But what The World Is Yours lacks in aural heaviness is strangely made up with thematic heaviness. In fact, I would refer to The World Is Yours as Motörhead’s existential crisis album, because, for an album with such an optimistic title, it’s really bleak! 

I know, not every Motörhead song is happy; Lemmy has written songs about breaking up with girls, war, corrupt businessmen and politicians, and even child molestation for Christ’s sake; so I get it, Lemmy isn’t ALL just sex, booze, and rock ‘n’ roll. But many of the lyrics on The World Is Yours are more of the existential type of negativity; as in, the world is doomed, that’s it, time to cash in your chips, game over. 

It’s bizarre, because Motörhead is a band you turn to when you wanna wave your fist in the air, rock out, and tell off the man, but as I read along to the lyrics of many of these songs, I just got a really unpleasant feeling. The opening cut “Born to Lose”, this groovin’ hard rocker with a really cool drum beat, has the lines “Stand up! Show your face, another victim of the cold embrace/before too long, no more singers, no more songs; “Get Back in Line”, which SOUNDS like a good time rocker, goes “the way we are is not the way we used to be, my friends/all things come to he who waits, the waiting never ends”; and “Waiting for the Snake” ends with the uplifting couplet “I see the world is dying, you know I sure ain’t lying/I see you pale and crying, waiting for the snake.”

Hell, even the song “Outlaw”, which you would think is a song praising society’s misfits and outlaws, is actually about an outlaw who gets killed in a shootout. “Outlaw, lying in the street/outlaw, the last gunslinger you will ever meet.” At least the music on “Brotherhood of Man” fits the downbeat lyrics!

In fact, the only uplifting song on the album is the fun, big chord “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music”, which brings a bit of hope to an otherwise depressing album.  

Did Motörhead’s manager hide the booze from Lemmy or something? 

"Yes, it's still fun. Why do you ask?"


Aftershock (2013)

Well, it was longer than usual, but after three years, Motörhead return with another album. I guess this is the start of the Lemmy-isn’t-doing-too-hot era of Motörhead. I distinctly remember when Aftershock came out, because the Motörhead Facebook and Twitter accounts were pushing it hard, publishing photo after photo of fans posing with their newly purchased copies. 

Longtime fans might notice that Aftershock has FOURTEEN brand new songs on it, the most Motörhead have ever had on an album, barring the bonus tracks on CD reissues, of course. While STILL not as good as Inferno or Kiss of Death, I believe that Aftershock comes pretty damn close to the quality of those two releases; and it most certainly surpasses Motörizer and The World Is Yours

You got FOUR speedy thrashers, a few middle-upper tempo chugging headbangers, a few upbeat good-time hard rock tunes, a bluesy song that gets heavy in the second half, and a somber ballad; a nice mix of the different types of Motörhead songs on display here. Probably the most unique tune on the album is “Death Machine” which has this really great, nearly funky groove going on; actually it almost reminds me of “Stay Clean.” On the other hand, the main riff in “Silence When You Speak to Me” is a little too close to “Man in the Box” by Alice in Chains for my taste and is only salvaged by its guitar solo. Now that I think about it, the main riff on “Crying Shame” kinda sounds like the one on “Love for Sale” from Snake Bite Love; at least Motörhead are only copying themselves on that one!

The lyrics still appear to be pretty bleak. In an earlier, more innocent time, a song called “Heartbreaker” by a band called Motörhead would either be about a woman who breaks men’s hearts or some kind of Casanova type who will never settle down with one woman. Now, however, it’s about how “everything has changed” and “all we know is black despair.”

And, I mean, there’s literally a verse in the song “End of Time” that goes, “standing by the ocean/wishing I could swim/wishing that the future/didn’t look so grim.” And “Going to Mexico” is NOT the spiritual sequel of “Going to Brazil.” I can’t tell if it’s about criminals crossing the Rio Grande to escape the law or if it’s about illegal border crossers being sent back to Mexico, but in any case, it does not have the goodtime party vibe of that Chuck Berry-ish, 12-bar number from 1916!

On the other hand, like with the album before it, “Do You Believe” extols the power and virtue of rock ‘n’ roll as the only thing one can believe in in this rotten world.

But who cares about lyrics anyway? 

I actually tried to meet Lemmy around this time. I was visiting some friends in Los Angeles, and we went over to Rainbow in hopes of catching the man sitting with his Jack and Coke and chucking quarters into the trivia machine. He wasn’t there, but we met Ron Jeremy instead. 

Bad Magic (2015)

And Motörhead ends their career with a bang! Hot damn, Bad Magic is easily the best Motörhead album since Kiss of Death, which was nine years old by this point. Hell, it might be their best album since Sacrifice, an album that came out TWENTY years before Bad Magic!

Let’s compare; Aftershock has 14 songs on it and clocks in at 49 minutes; not EPIC, but certainly longer than any Motörhead album before it, while Bad Magic has 13 tunes, is only 42 minutes long, and five of those minutes are blown on the cover of “Sympathy for the Devil.” 

Before anyone punches me, I don’t particularly care for Motörhead covering a Rolling Stones song I’ve heard fifty bazillion times. I don’t find it to be a “bittersweet sendoff” or “haunting.” I just find it to be a solid cover of a good song I’ve heard way too many times in my life. It’s not as if Lemmy KNEW he was going to kick off after this album came out, so any critics who wrote that they found it “haunting” or “profound” I find “suspect.” The album would have been BETTER if it ended with the bluesy rocker “When the Sky Comes Looking for You”, because now pretentious folk be projecting their sentimental slop onto a Motörhead album. 

With that off my chest, Bad Magic just knocks out song after song, alternating between classic Motörhead proto-thrash speed blues and middle-upper tempo headbangers; with the obvious exception being the ballad “Til the End” and the aforementioned bluesy number. Well, I guess “Firestorm Hotel” is a mid-tempo rocker, but otherwise, Bad Magic is primarily a fast album. I read a review of how the lyrics for “Til the End” have Lemmy coming to terms with his mortality or some shit. Whatever. 

I’d rather talk about how “Shoot Out All of Your Lights” has a cool tribal drum beat before kicking into second gear or how BRIAN MAY plays on “The Devil” or the freakin’ Bo Diddly jungle rhythm on “Evil Eye.” If you thought it was impossible to incorporate the Bo Diddly jungle beat into a Motörhead song that turns into a fast ‘n’ kickin’ punk metal tune, you be WRONG.


And I just love the instrumental break in “Teach Them How to Bleed.” All the music stops, and then the guitar goes, “boom-bah-waaah”, and the bass goes,”boom-bah-woom-boo-bah-boo-bah”, before the song starts up again. I was driving with a buddy while listening to this album, and I’m like, “Did you hear that? That’s cool!”

Also, it seems that Lemmy’s shaken his existential depression. While the songs vary in subject matter, the basic vibe and running theme across them all can be summed in the title of the first song, “Victory or Die.” The world sucks, but you gotta push through it anyway. And the speedy second track “Thunder & Lightning” astutely tells listeners, “You’ll get more pussy if you’re in a band.” Yeah, maybe 30 years ago, heh.

Oo, and “Choking on Your Screams” sounds kinda scary! Lemmy’s singing in a slightly lower register, bordering on death metal. It’s kinda like “Kingdom of the Worm” from Kiss of Death but doesn’t have a weird beat like that one. I wonder if Motörhead were listening to some Entombed when they wrote these songs. Speaking of comparing newer songs to older ones, “Electricity” reuses the riff from “Smiling Like a Killer” from Inferno. When you write so many damn songs, you’ll eventually rewrite one of your old riffs. 

Bottom line is the final Motörhead album is just as good a place to start with the band as any other. It certainly channels the group’s essence better than March or Die, Snake Bite Love, Hammered, or The World Is Yours, and thankfully it DOESN’T stink of “this is our last album, goodbye” syndrome. Probably because they didn’t know it was going to be their last album.

In a year that gave us such lousy releases from legacy metal bands as Repentless by Slayer and The Book of Souls by Iron Maiden, Bad Magic was a breath of fresh air. And then I read this on Wikipedia: In 2016, the album received an ECHO Award nomination for Best Rock/Alternative International, but eventually lost to Iron Maiden's The Book of Souls

The world really does suck.


Edwin Oslan
Revenge of Riff Raff
14th January, 2021

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