Rock ’n’ roll is a primal beast, and few groups personify that so completely as Motörhead. Hurtling onto the scene in the 1970’s with their speedfreak brand of thrashed out rock, they haven’t slowed down since. Their new album Bad Magic marks the band’s 40th anniversary and is their 22nd LP release to date. A powerful back catalogue, and one marked by their stubborn immutability; they may be older but Motörhead are still as unweathered as the rock from which they sprung.
Often classed as heavy metal, it’s true that Motörhead rode the wave that spawned thrash and speed metal, but at their essence they are a rock ’n’ roll band. It’s fast and loud, in fact Lemmy once boasted that “it will be so loud that if we move in next to you, your lawn will die”, but Motörhead’s foundation is very much grounded in rock. Despite the speed there’s a swing to their rhythms, 60’s inspired chord progressions and bluesy melodies buried in their songs. And this is still true of Bad Magic; just as fast and furious as they were on Ace Of Spades, sitting heavy on Lemmy’s power bass and unmistakable grit, and guitar solos that last just long enough to open another bottle of beer.
Lemmy’s spits “Victory or die!” as the album opens, launching a barrage of power riffs and thunderclap drumming. His vocals are perhaps a touch thinner than they were, and in places Lemmy actually sounds tired, but you know what? He’s approaching seventy, and so far that is the only sign of age from Motörhead. The band absolutely nail it in terms of the music and the song writing, precise and full of fight tracks like Thunder & Lightning drive through the solid force of Mikkey Dee’s drumming and fall into a soaring guitar solo from Phil Campbell that is an absolute celebration of their genre.
Barely leaving breathing space, Bad Magic battles on relentlessly. Stomping numbers like The Devil still have the groove of rock ’n’ roll behind their storming pace. The slower burning Til The End is completely evocative of rock greats; calling up Deep Purple and The Eagles with a guitar solo that definitely holds a candle to Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. A cover of The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil also holds its own, true to the brilliance of the original but shot through with Motörhead’s spunk and virility in place of Jagger’s swagger.
Rock was built on legends, and Lemmy has become his own legend – a tangle of myths and extreme truths. And it seems that Motörhead will see their story through to the bitter end, the music still plays on, and everything that comes with it. It will take more than age and infirmity to slow Motörhead down.