Motorhead are unique onto themselves: they are a notorious English hard rock band that were around when Led Zeppelin first released ‘Physical Graffiti,’ have maintained a cohesive lineup for the past several decades, and are releasing new material that rivals the breed of volcanic, whiskey-laced heavy metal which decorates their most celebrated of releases.
What the members of Motorhead present throughout the thirteen tracks which comprise their 21st studio album ‘Bad Magic’ is nothing short of pure, unadulterated rock and roll perfection. Although the preceding ‘Aftershock‘ remains a worthwhile listen several years since it first hit the shelves, ‘Bad Magic’ is a whole step – make that several steps above in regard to the assertive energy and attitude of the performance.
As though it were even possible, this sounds like a younger, more rebellious crew than what longtime listeners found upon the release of 1996’s ‘Overnight Sensation.’ When that raspy proclamation from mainman Lemmy Kilmister comes racing out of the speakers on the opening “Victory or Die,” the bar has been raised and Motorhead never fails at topping themselves over the course of the record.
The energetic speed metal thrillers “Thunder & Lightning” and “Choking on Your Screams” are among the most well crafted of Motorhead’s take-no-prisoners riff racers. The galloping rhythm work of guitarist Phil “Wizzo” Campbell deliquesces into the commanding percussion of Mikkey Dee so well that one almost neglects the fact that Queen alumni Brian May produces a riveting solo on “The Devil,” a bluesy hard rocker with enough grit to knock you straight out of a hangover.
Of the numerous moods that surface throughout this cast of ‘Black Magic,’ the fierce grooving progression of “Shoot Out All Your Lights” is one of the more vintage-sounding displays of guitarcadia. What commences as a Mikkey Dee spotlight solo abruptly transitions into an array of single string arpeggios which launch at the rate of machine gun fire, before Lemmy resumes his role as ringleader and leads the band into an anthemic battle cry.
“When the Sky Comes Looking for You” is a straightforward heavy metal groover, despite the fact that Motorhead openly detests such a notion. Perhaps that alone is an indication of how influential the music of Motorhead has been on the community of headbangers, the fact that they don’t even relate with the genre they themselves are recognized as a leader of.
Any Motorhead advocate could rattle off the moments where the heavyweights offered their own rendition of another celebrated rock favorite, whether it was the cover of Richard Berry’s “Louie, Louie” for the ‘No Remorse’ album or the versions of Ozzy Osbourne‘s “Hellraiser” and Ted Nugent‘s “Cat Scratch Fever” that found their way onto 1992’s ‘March or Die.’ This time around, Motorhead deliver an entertaining take on the Rolling Stones classic “Sympathy for the Devil” that has more intensity and elements of the Motorhead approach integrated then you might anticipate.
Forty years since they first began hitting the stage, Motorhead are still putting spells on the metal genre with ‘Bad Magic.’