The lines between rock and the early days of punk were intrinsically drawn, never the twain destined to meet until a certain ex Hawkwind member Lemmy Kilminster formed Motorhead. Here a band completely confusing those apparently deep rooted divisions, rockers identifying with their solid blues based rock sound, but the punks also appreciating increased speed and sheer raw energy intensity of the eponymous debut, the omission of which proves the only downside to this collection, for anyone unaware, or not owning an album by one of, if not the originators of speed metal, although a myriad of pleasures still on offer within this six album package, guaranteed satiation of any extreme music thirst. During the late 70’s into 1980, "Overkill," "Bomber" and "Ace of Spades" proved a trio of the finest metal albums known to man, their influence still as far reaching as those early days and virtually every extreme band of the last 35 years influenced directly or indirectly by the three piece of Lemmy, “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Philthy “Animal” Taylor. They grabbed rock by the ear, dragged it kicking and screaming down a grubby back street, increased the volume and tempos, leaving a trail of destroyed hammers, anvils and stapes in their cataclysmic wake…the ultimate power trio. It’s very likely, the metallic growls and demonic rasps of an unfathomable amount of bands emanate from the guttural tones of Mr Kilminster, a man who changed the whole concept of how vocals could sound. Robert Plant, Ian Gillan et al, must have looked on in despair as Motorhead began their ascendency.
As an initial introduction, the opening and title track to “Overkill” absolutely impeccable, everything which makes Motorhead great totally apparent. Pummelling drums, lightening guitar riffage, searing solos and Lemmy’s ever present propelling bass clubbing the listener into capitulation, the false endings only adding to the awe inspired aura created on initial exposure. A brilliant album, track after breathless track, including further particular highlights, “No Class,” “Damage Case” and the immense “Tear Ya Down” .
Bomber continues in a similar vein, perhaps even a more rounded and complete album, another completely unforgettable title track, Kilminster also taking the opportunity to spit lyrical bile in “Lawman,” and “Poison,” at police and family issues. Bomber furthermore incorporating my ultimate Motorhead track, “Stone Dead Forever” compressing their whole tenet into just under five glorious minutes, Lemmy’s bass leading throughout. Bomber also includes “Step Down,” an untypical track although well worthy of note due to swirling psychedelic blues properties and Eddie Clarke commandeering vocal duties.
And so to the universally acclaimed highlight of the Motorhead back catalogue, “Ace of Spades.” Surely the song itself familiar to all music fans, name checked as possibly the greatest rock track of all time, catapulting the band to mainstream attention. A massive step forward from “Bomber”, cleaner, more audible production provided by Vic Maile bringing all the instrumentation to the fore, Lemmy also famously suggesting Maile encouraged him to sing, rather than just shout all the time. There isn’t a substandard track on “Ace of Spades,” a completely timeless slice of Heavy Metal, to be enjoyed over and over again by generation after generation, securing Motorhead’s position as God Fathers of the genre, whilst highlighting their ability to not take things too seriously (musically anyway) within “Dance.” While “Ace of Spades” the track, certainly worthy every plaudit administered over the years, the last three tracks provide a perfect culmination to a definitive compendium. “Bite the Bullet” segued with the slower rumbling tempo of “The Chase is Better than the Catch” prior to the murderous drubbing delivered by “The Hammer.” Pure magnificence.
Live album “No Sleep til Hammersmith” was recorded at the Leeds and Newcastle shows during the Short, Sharp Pain In The Neck five-date tour in 1981, apart from “Iron Horse/ Born To Lose” taken from a 1980 gig. A “best of collection,” covering the first four albums, going some way to capturing the essence of Motorhead live, the three piece at the peak of their substantial powers, performing dynamic, cranium crushing shows. It’s literally impossible to fully appreciate the sheer power and more so, the sheer volume of Motorhead live, with actually being present. By all means crank up to the max, but even multiplied by ten, you’re still nowhere near the sonic assault levels administered on tour.
By Iron Fist, the cracks begin to show in the classic line-up, proving the final release by a Kilminster / Clarke / Taylor triumvirate. Apart from yet another superior title track, the fifth studio outing sounds tired and weary. Even though Motorhead maintained a certain equilibrium through their material, this time round ideas are thin on the ground, many of the songs almost re-workings of earlier glories. With an acrimonious split from Eddie Clarke during an American tour soon to follow, could this be the end for one of Britain’s most influential and loved metal bands.
Instead of capitulating, Kilminster employs ex Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson to complete the U.S tour, signing a one album deal, becoming heavily involved in writing and recording “Another Perfect Day.” The easiest option, make yet another conventional Motorhead album, refreshingly nevertheless, there’s a re-invention of sorts. Admittedly openers “Back at the Funny Farm” and “Shine” follow a similar pattern to previous work, from “Dancing on Your Grave” onwards however, punk aspects give way to more 70’s rock foundations, layered guitars encouraging less frenetic playing all round, Robertson’s style and influence apparent with an overall larger, psychedelic sound. “Another Perfect Day” a brave album, attesting the Motorhead Juggernaut far from running out of steam, still the case to this day. Vitriolic titles including “Die You Bastard” and “Dancing on Your Grave” also suggest “Another Perfect Day” an emotional release for Kilminster as the band move into a new era.
Motorhead still stalk the stages of the world, revered as ever, Lemmy’s gargantuan personality ever present along with guitarist Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee on drums. If the band don’t inhabit your LP collection, CD rack or download folder and you wish to enjoy the title of rock / metal fan, this an absolutely crucial box set or a vital factor in the development of extreme music is missing, furthermore an inhuman metallic crime being committed.
Review by Andy Barnes