There have been few bands as consistent as Motorhead over the last decade in terms of musical excellence and prolific output. Their latest release 'Inferno' is another worthy addtion to a massive catalogue that has seen seventeen studio albums (and several hundred live ones) in twenty seven years, an astonishing nine of them coming since 1991. The current lineup of band leader, vocalist and bassist Lemmy, guitarist Phil Campbell ( now twenty years into his tenure) and drummer Mickey Dee have been operating as a threesome since 1995, becoming the authorative version of the band, even if die hards still consider the 1977-1982 Lemmy, 'Fast' Eddie Clark' (guitar) and 'Philthy' Phil Taylor lineup to be the definitive copy. In my eyes latter day Motorhead has surpassed that era, the music more varied and heavier, 'Inferno' among their best yet.
For a band currently enjoying a renaissance in sales and popularity, there was a period where Motorhead appeared to be finished. Coming off the 80's when high chart positions were regular for a band who were one of thrash metal's pioneers, the early 90's were a dismal time for Motorhead. 1991's '1916' and 1992's 'March Or Die' were dire efforts that for me remain unlistenable. The music was stale, even the fast tracks laboured, without the menace of yesteryear. Lemmy was going through the motions in the worst way. He should have been strung up for rubbish like 'Ramones' and 'Love Me Forever'. Thanks to the person who stole my copy. He must have realised this, as 1993's 'Bastards' started a streak of classic albums which remins unbroken to this day. The following albums, 'Sacrifice' (1995, which saw the departure of guitarist Wurzel, leaving Motorhead a threesome again), 'Overnight Sensation' (1996), 'Snakebite Love' (1998), 'We Are Motorhead' (2000) and 'Hammered' (2002) were all uniformly excellent, with only the latter a minimal letdown. Every album has contained a handful of instant classics, making every new release more anticipated than the last.
The one aspect that amazes most is that of Lemmy. Now a mind boggling fifty nine years of age, it sometimes seems unfathomable for a man this age to still be creating metal this heavy on such a high scale. It might as well still be 1982. I recall thinking ten years ago that he was too old to still be doing this, but he shows no signs of easing up in any form. But I have to ask, where does he draw the desire from? Is it from being in the music industry for thirty years plus and still being broke? Or from everday anger? Perhaps just a general love of music and being a celebrity? From assorted interviews over the years all three are a safe bet. What it does is reinforce that you're never too old, and Lemmy is the first of his generation to still be recording music of this nature at such an age. True there are a ton of aging rockers in their late fifties and early sixties, but none of them play thrash.
'Inferno's opening track 'Terminal Show' boasts a guest appearance by Steve Vai, who lends a distinctive solo, but aside from that it's business as usual for Motorhead, the track soundwise able to fit on any of their albums from the last decade. It doesn't sound repetitive, the bands natural talent keeping things fresh. 'Killer's is reminiscent of 'Sacrifice', raw production, mainly in the guitar sound, while 'In The Name Of Tragedy' continues the savage opening, as the traditional backing vocals make their mark, much like those heard on 1996's 'Civil War'. 'Suicide' has an early 80's feel, minus the speed, displaying Lemmy's loyal approach to Motorhead's sound. 'Life's A Bitch' is the expected piece of metalized rockabilly, a crunching number in the vein of 'Don't Waste Your Time' and 'Don't Lie To Me', from years past. 'Down On Me' is by the numbers, obliterated by the thrash of 'Fight', which sees Lemmy asking 'put the bass up will ya'? Oddly this has a similar melody to Saxon's 'Nighthunter', which I'm sure was inadverdant. Matters crumble slightly with the plain 'In The Year Of The Wolf' and 'Keys To The Kingdom', which offer littel melody and speed, before the blues based 'Whorehouse Blues' ends the album rather sombrely.
Looking past the ordinary moments, this is clearly another success for a band who refuse to throw in the towel, in the process gaining strength and respect from all quarters. Not bad for a band who in 1992 were all but over, one reviewer making the comment 'in 1992 do we really need another album from Motorhead?' Considering that was during grunge it's not surprising, but the endless string of memorable albums ever since suggests yes, we do need another. And as long as Lemmy's kicking and breathing I'm sure there's more to come. At this rate the old bugger will outlive us all.