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Only a matter of months ago, Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister had a defibrillator implanted in his chest, then suffered a haematoma shortly after. The band were forced to pull a run of European festival dates after doctors ordered Kilmister to rest. It looked as though 21st studio album Aftershock would never happen, while fans dreaded the imminent end of one of rock & roll’s greatest bands.
Indeed for most other bands, this would have been signal enough to call it a day. But Motörhead are not like most bands. For Kilmister, notorious for his balanced diet of cigarettes and whiskey, a setback like this was not going to terminate this loudest of careers. So to abolish any speculation regarding the band’s future, they’ve unveiled Aftershock to reassure fans of their position as “everything louder than everything else.”
The beauty of a band like Motörhead, is that you know exactly what to expect upon first listen. Pulsating guitars pumping out like an out-of-control steam train, a driving rhythm section keeping everything in check, and, of course, Lemmy’s trademark gravelly voice sounding remarkably familiar for someone who’s been suffering ill-health for the past year.
Heartbreaker kicks things off in typical, unmistakable Motörhead fashion, while Coup De Grace follows up with more of the same: the fast paced British hard rock that we’ve come to know and love over the past three decades.
Imagery of whiskey-soaked late nights are ever-present during the slow-burning Last Woman Blues, which features some handy guitar work by axeman Phil Campbell. Meanwhile End of Time ramps up the tempo once again, if only to remind the listener that the band aren’t about to change their formula to PG blues rock any time soon. Campbell is again at the top of his game with a blistering solo at the tail-end.
The streak of flawless axe work continues on Do You Believe, though you get the impression that for a more efficacious track, the tune should extend beyond a flat three minutes. Regardless, there are more than enough seamlessly-woven guitar solos throughout the album, clocking in just long enough to give Lemmy’s vocals a break between verses.
Whilst Going to Mexico could be innocently construed as the chronicle of a Pacific holiday, you can’t help but picture Lemmy and co. hauling some of the Mexican Cartel’s finest across state borders, eluding pursuing police and rival drug lords in the process. And you know that Lemmy’s not singing about the talcum variety in Keep Your Powder Dry.
The album’s most memorable moment comes in the form of Silence When You Speak To Me. With its thumping beat and Lemmy’s commanding vocals and lyrics, it’s custom-made to be played live to the masses. It’s perhaps the catchiest track they’ve come up with in a decade, but without compromising any of the distinctive characteristics that Motörhead are most known for.
Aftershock is a welcome return to form for a band whose legacy will live on long after the band eventually decide to call it a day, while mercilessly and unrelentingly stamping out any pesky rumours of Lemmy’s death.