Thursday, 28 November 2013

Motörhead's 'Aftershock' - Album Review

Everyone who is into hard rock and heavy metal music will at some point encounter Motörhead. While the band have never been wholly comfortable with being labelled as 'metal', there is no doubt that their sound and energy influenced many bands to come, particularly in the NWOBHM genre that emerged in the late 1970s. Aftershock is their twenty first studio album and one of the few that I have heard all the way through. I must admit, I am not the world's biggest Motörhead fan. I have seen them live and own some of their classic albums but I have never really been interested enough in them to go out and buy their whole catalogue. As far as I can tell, Aftershock is business as usual for Motörhead. Their sound has been established now for many years and, despite a few little tweaks here and there, has remained pretty much the same on every album. I always think that it is amusing how people seem to have a double standard about bands who released consistently similar albums year in year out. People think it is great when AC/DC, Status Quo and indeed Motörhead keep writing material that sounds very similar to their classic sound; but when bands like DragonForce do it they are accused of not moving forward in any way. I am probably one of the few people who wished that Motörhead would take a few more risks here and there, but I totally understand why they do not. When putting a Motörhead album on, people already have a pre-conceived idea of what it is going to sound like and diverting too far from that sound is likely to ruffle more than a few feathers. In that respect, Aftershock is a winner. Right from the outset, it sounds exactly like you would expect it to. There are plenty of big riffs, pounding bass lines and lots of Lemmy's signature gruff vocals. To it's credit, there are a few moments that do deviate from the norm slightly and, to me, these are the most interesting moments of the album; plus there are some genuinely enjoyable classiclly Motörhead-sounding songs that really rock. The rest of the album however, is a little uninspired and fairly unremarkable. I would say that Aftershock is a mixed bag. About half of the album is very enjoyable with the rest of it being fairly forgettable. The production is excellent however, and Cameron Webb has done a great job of making the album sound huge.

The album starts with one of the strongest songs Heartbreaker, which persuaded me to give the album a go in the first place. The main guitar riff from Phil Campbell is simple but catchy and Lemmy's vocal melodies are pretty inspired. There is a nice guitar solo too that borrows heavily from the traditional classic rock way of soloing. Coup de Grace is another solid track but it is let down by some pretty awful lyrics. I know that Lemmy is not exactly known for his insightful lyrics, but these are pretty hard to take when the accompanying magazine that came with the album (I bought the Classic Rock Magazine Fan Pack) tried to claim multiple times that his lyrics were fantastic. Despite that, it is a perfectly enjoyable song. Again, the main riff and solos are pretty memorable but it is nothing we have not heard before. Lost Woman Blues however is very interesting. It is a much slower song that borrows, pretty clearly, from the blues. Campbell's guitar is very tasteful and stays faithful to the traditional blueprint of blues music by keeping a nice groove down and breaking out occationally into little leads. Lemmy's bass line is also nice and compliments the guitar work very well. It picks up the pace towards the end and rocks out hard, just to remind you who wrote the song! End of Time is a nice punky track that is led by some fast drumming by Mikkey Dee. When you see the band live, Dee's drumming really stands out, but on the albums he never sounds that big or powerful. This is one of the few songs where he really gets to shine. It is hearing songs like this that make you realise how much of an impact Motörhead had on the trash metal movement. Fans of the faster and heavier end of the band's music will enjoy this one a lot. The next highlight is another slower number called Dust and Glass. The guitar work in this song is, again, very good. I really like the main riff, as it has a really smoky sound to it with just the right amount of effect. I really like the way Lemmy sings these slower songs. His voice really suits the mellower sound. The main focus point however is the guitar solo. I think Campbell is a pretty underrated player and his work on this album is very strong. His solos are always full of melody and stays away from too many speedy runs. The song ends rather abruptly though which is slightly odd and does spoil the effect a little.

Going to Mexico gets us back to more traditional Motörhead territory and serves up fast song with a very catchy chorus. The bass is very prominant here and drives the song along with Dee's powerful drumming. Again, Campbell gives us another great solo (with a little wah) and Dee backs him up nicely with some 'around the kit' drum work. Silence When You Speak to Me is a good mid-paced rocker with another good chorus. The riff is chunky and dominates the whole song, but the chorus is the most melodic part. Lemmy's voice rarely changes but there are some moments when it seems a little more melodic - and the chorus in this song is one of those. The next highlight is another speedy song Queen of the Damned. It has another very strong riff (similar to Ace of Spades actually..) but it soon descends into proper headbanging territory. I think, on the whole, I prefer Motörhead's faster songs than their more mid-paced ones. They tend to be fast, furious and never outstay their welcome. This is why Queen of the Damned is one of the best songs on the album. I think every self-respecting metalhead will love it! The last two songs on the album are also pretty good. Keep Your Powder Dry is a mid-paced song but one of the better ones. Again, the bass really cuts through the mix here and sounds obnoxiously fat - I love it. The chorus is also good. The guitar work under Lemmy's voice almost sounds like a tribute to 1960's rock 'n' roll music and the chanting of the song's title is likely to go down a storm live if the band decide to play it. The album comes to an end with another furious song called Paralyzed. While the song is nothing special, it ensures the album ends on an upbeat note and contains some nice tight drumming from Dee. Overall, Aftershock is another solid and enjoyable album from Motörhead but, as I said earlier, contains it's share of unremarkable songs. Fans of Motörhead will already have, and love, this album and those that have never liked the band are unlikely to find anything here to change their mind. However, having the slower moments like Lost Woman Blues and Dust and Glass definitely makes this album more interesting than your average Motörhead album and I think people should go and listen to these songs if nothing else, as these are different - in a good way.

The album was released on 21st October via UDR GmbH. Below is the band's promotional video for Heartbreaker.

No comments:

Post a Comment