Thursday, 8 October 2015

Motörhead's 'Bad Magic' - Album Review

Motörhead need no introduction, as they are one of the most legendary rock acts in history. Making waves in both the rock and metal worlds, Motörhead made a name for themselves playing hard, fast, and uncompromising music that appealed to many due to it's simplicity and no-holds-barred attitude. Since releasing the enjoyable, yet generic Aftershock in 2013 (which I reviewed here) things have not been going well for the band - or, more accurately, for founding member and all-round rock legend Lemmy. It appears that, despite what seemed apparent for years, he is not untouchable. Since Aftershock's release, Lemmy's health has been in decline. A European tour for the end of 2013 was cancelled and then rescheduled for early 2014, only to be cancelled again; and, unfortunately, this situation has been fairly common since. I saw Motörhead at the Eden Project back in June of this year and, despite still putting on an enjoyable (if rather short) show, it was clear just how much Lemmy's heath has deteriorated. Years of hard drinking, drug use, and touring has finally caught up with him, and he is a ghost of his former self. Dates on the band's recent tour of America were also cancelled, leading to much speculation about the band's future. Due to these factors, I had fairly low expectations for Bad Magic, the band's twenty second studio album. I wondered just how much Lemmy had left in the tank to produce songs that match Motörhead's traditional energy and speed. This is why I was surprised that, when the album arrived in the post, it turned out to be as strong as it is! While I am not the world's biggest expert on Motörhead, I feel that I know enough about them to be able to effectively judge their output. I have bought more Motörhead albums this year, and find myself becoming more and more a fan of them as time goes by. Produced again by Cameron Webb, Bad Magic is easily the band's best album for quite some time. It is certainly better than both preceding albums: 2011's The Wörld is Yours and Aftershock; despite both of these albums containing some great songs. The band just seem revitalised once more which, considering Lemmy's health problems, is a big surprise. Guitarist Phil Campbell's riffs are full of energy and fury once again, and drummer Mikkey Dee has picked up the pace again after relying more on groove on the more recent albums. The chemistry of the three musicians is clear here, and this is a fun album to listen to because of it.

The album gets underway with Victory or Die which is classic Motörhead. Campbell's bluesy riffing drives the song, and forms the backbone of the entire album. From the outset, you can really feel the energy that the band has on this album, and Lemmy's voice still sounds strong despite his recent health issues. It is a furious song that recalls Motörhead's past, and is a perfect way to get this album going. Campbell lays down a great solo midway through, before Dee takes over, laying down a solid beat for Lemmy to sing over without anything else. A strong track, and one all rock fans will enjoy. Thunder & Lightning picks the pace up further, and comes rushing out of the gate with another big riff and driving bassline. The chorus is a little more pegged back, but this is to shine a light on Lemmy's vocals, which are strong and melodic. It is a very memorable chorus, as is Campbell's short, explosive guitar solo that follows. He, in my mind, has always been a very underrated player and on this album he shows his skills well. After that hard and fast double salvo, the groove-based Fire Storm Hotel slows things down a little. It is a great mid-paced rocker built around a solid bassline and some barked lyrics from Lemmy. Again there is a memorable chorus, but the highlight here for me is the instrumental section that sees both guitar and bass trading short leads before morphing into a bluesy, wah-drenched solo. Shoot Out all of Your Lights is a bit of a showcase for Dee, whose double-bass drumming is used extensively throughout. He is a very talented drummer, and this song shows how his simple, but uncompromising style has been perfect for Motörhead since he joined the band in 1992. This is another fast song, and one that Motörhead fans will lap up gleefully. The Devil is another groovy tune that features Brian May (Queen) performing the song's guitar solo. Despite this, Lemmy's bass is actually the dominant instrument here. It's signature growl fills your speakers throughout, and drowns out Campbell's riffs. The solo is not instantly recognisable as May, as it does not really use his signature sound, but it is a great burst of energy from the legendary Queen founder. Lots of the songs in the middle of this album are short, and Electricity is the shortest of all. It is fast, yet unremarkable, but still sounds like Motörhead. It is the sort of song that we have come to expect from Lemmy, so it passes without making much of an impact. Evil Eye is much the same, and is only a few seconds longer than Electricity. They are both filler tracks to an extent, but neither are particularly bad - there are just better songs here.

Teach Them how to Bleed starts off with some bluesy lead bass from Lemmy, before exploding into another fast rocker with some excellent guitar work throughout from Campbell. The riffs throughout the verses are great, and really bring out the best in Lemmy's voice. It also contains what could be the best guitar solo on the album, with plenty of fast blues licks, and hard bends. Dee attacks his drum kit with venom too, and this song gets the album back on track after a couple of less interesting tunes. Till the End is one of the slower, almost ballad-like songs, that Motörhead have been doing recently. Big clean guitar chords mix well with Lemmy's tamed bass sound to create an interesting sound that Lemmy sings well over. The sparser sound reveals the limitations of Lemmy's voice, but this actually suits the ballad-type song in my opinion. You can actually hear the emotion in his delivery, which gives the song a different to feel to the rest of the album. Tell me Who to Kill picks the pace up again with some more classic Motörhead riffing. Like Electricity and Evil Eye though, it is slightly generic and does little to excite. The riffs and melodies just do not stand out as much as they do on other songs here, which makes it one of the weaker efforts. Choking on Your Screams is better. The mid-paced, bass-heavy riff has a rather sinister feel to it, and Lemmy uses a deeper vocal delivery than usual which helps to add to this feeling. It is a very crunchy song with plenty of attitude and power. Motörhead do this sort of song well, and this one is full of plenty of big hooks to keep you listening. When the Sky Comes Looking for You starts out sounding a bit like Uriah Heep's Easy Livin', but soon ends up sounding like Motörhead again. There is a very bouncy, 1970s classic rock feel to it though, which makes it one of the few Motörhead songs with a true up-beat feel. I think it works in the song's favour, as it makes it stand out from the pack. Campbell's excellent guitar work also helps with this, and he lays down plenty of memorable licks here. The album ends on a slightly strange note with a cover of The Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil, which actually works surprisingly well. It is pretty faithful to the original, but works well with Lemmy's voice and big bass chords. Campbell lays down some piano here too, which shows he is a multi-talented chap, and it adds something to the traditional Motörhead sound. The percussive sound here is really enjoyable and, as far as covers go, it works well. Overall, Bad Magic is another very enjoyable album from Motörhead. It is probably their best for a few years, and it helps to show there is life in the old dog yet, despite all the worrying reports out Lemmy's health.

The album was released on 28th August 2015 via UDR GmbH. Below is the official promotional video (made by fans for a competition) for Thunder & Lightning.

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