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Album Review: Motörhead – Aftershock

3 min read

It’s often the case that bands of a heavier persuasion will forfeit a level of authenticity as they age – the venom that may characterise their catalogue loses its edge when it’s being spat out on stage by a musician in designer jeans who had to organise a babysitter to make it to the gig. However, it might be the bluesy undertones in Motörhead’s music – the blues being a genre for which a bit of life experience seems to be a necessity – but when I look at the 2013 manifestation of singer and bassist Lemmy Kilmister, I cannot conceive of a man more aesthetically appropriate to the strained roar that pervades the band’s latest album Aftershock.

Motorhead AfteshockLemmy’s rugged vocal quality is of course nothing new, and neither is the musical formula that Motörhead have employed with this album. The band is infamous for its volume in the live setting, and despite the fact that Aftershock is a studio album, the force with which they have approached the recording suggests that this is a kind of notoriety that they wish to maintain.

Whilst Motörhead’s songs do rumble along, by and large, at the same momentum, the group remains, for me at least, one that’s hard to classify. They are fundamentally rock‘n’roll, but their music seems to shift at points between a metal brutality and a punkier attitude. Aftershock’s opening track Heartbreaker, for example, kicks off with thrash metal ferocity, but the bare bones harmony in the lead-up to the chorus leads my mind to some punk bands most active in the ‘90s. Updated production methods have also had a rather large impact on Motörhead’s modern output – it’s added to the largeness of the band’s sound. Unfortunately though, I believe this is to the group’s detriment – the ratty speed-freak urgency that was a staple of their more successful albums has been replaced by a more generic metal tone.

The most notable diversions from Motörhead’s standard velocity on Aftershock are the relatively subdued Last Woman Blues and Dust And Glass. They both would go well on the soundtrack to a game of billiards in a biker saloon, and the fact that they abandon the balls-to-the-wall approach means that listeners are provided with a more natural exhibition of Lemmy’s voice. And these are the tunes that I remember after I listen to the album; the tunes that I wish Motörhead were making more of – Lemmy has the perfect grainy vocal timbre for a bit of lo-fi blues story-telling, and I’m certain he isn’t short-stocked on anecdotes.

Aftershock is Motörhead’s 21st studio album, and it has proved that the group have as much of a capacity to create savage rock songs now as they ever did, but the formula is getting tired. Lemmy has instructed – in regards to the new album – to ‘Steal it if you must, buy it if you can’. However, if theft is something you’re comfortable with, then know that this isn’t one you should rush to stuff down your pants at your local record store.

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