Motörhead: Under Cöver (Motörhead Music)
It’s been two years since the final Motörhead album Bad Magic hit the shelves. A superb release, demonstrating the musical strength of Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey, and despite the legendary frontman's passing later in 2015 the band remain regularly on the play list of many rock music stations. New music may not be possible, but as in many recording sessions, gems are often hidden away. So, it is with this release. 11 tracks from the powerhouse trio, ranging from 1992 to those last sessions but with one absolute beauty which makes this release a must have. Yes, the cover of David Bowie’s Heroes, recorded during the Bad Magic sessions finally makes it onto a record and it is quite phenomenal. The understated vocal performance of Lemmy is quite beautiful whilst the playing of Phil Campbell is just stunning. Mikkey Dee, now doing sterling business with Scorpions demonstrates throughout this release what an underrated drummer he is.
The other covers are a curious bunch, with the 1992 version of Ted Nugent’s Cat Scratch Fever sitting alongside a double of the Stones Jumpin’ Jack Flash from 2001 and 2015’s fine Sympathy For The Devil. The Motörhead version of Hellraiser featured on 1992’s March Or Die and was originally written by Ozzy Ozbourne, Zakk Wylde and Lemmy for 1991’s No More Tears. What you get here is the unique take that Motörhead provide to every track, apart from the Biff Byford led vocal on Starstruck which featured on 2014’s Ronnie James Dio: This is Your Life tribute release. I’m rarely that impressed by a cover but this is a fine release which deserves to be played loud and proud. Raise your glass and remember the legend. It’s superb. 9/10
UFO: The Salentino Cuts (Cleopatra Records)
It’s no secret that I have a massive admiration for UFO, the UK hard rockers now well into their fourth decade as a band. It’s quite amazing that the band has not released any cover versions in their career but The Salentino Cuts resolves that with 12 choice cuts selected by the band based on their own personal favourites. For a band as seasoned as UFO, this must have been a blast to record and each track receives the unique UFO take. Some of the tracks are expected, such as The Yardbirds’ Heart Full Of Soul and Free’s The Pusher, whilst others are a little more obscure; Mad Season’s River Of Deceit, Paper In Fire, originally recorded by John Mellancamp and Montrose’s Rock Candy all receive the Mogg & Co swagger.
Each track is treated with a sensitivity which you’d expect from UFO, with Vinnie Moore’s soulful blues playing exceptional, for example, on the Bill Withers Ain’t No Sunshine which has no right to be as good as it is. Vocalist Phil Mogg continues to defy the years with a strong performance, notably on the rocking cover of The Doors Break On Through, an epic version of Mountain’s Mississippi Queen and a quite different version of ZZ Top’s Just Got Paid which showcases the quality of the entire band. The Salentino Cuts, as with Motörhead’s Under Cövers is another example of class is permanent. This is magic. 9/10
Belphegor: Totenritual (Nuclear Blast)
The Austrians had never really been on my radar until 2014’s Conjuring The Dead which was a fine piece of extreme black metal. Snarly and evil, the ninth album saw the band’s profile rise with a main stage slot at BOA in 2015. The arrival of new drummer Simon ‘Bloodhammer’ Schilling has seen him slot seamlessly into the band with the battering ram approach associated with the full force of this band unchecked. Totenritual rarely allows time for breath, although I will say that it is not as fast in places as its predecessor which was brutal from start to finish.
That’s not to say Totenritual is poor in anyway because it isn’t. In fact, it is another blistering assault on the senses, but with more atmosphere and malevolence than before. The guttural roar of main man Helmuth Lehner remains as distinctive as before with his guitar work carving patterns into the listener’s cranium. Alongside Schilling the pounding bass and backing vocals of ten-year veteran Serpenth crushes all. The album crackles with intensity, from the roasting opener Baphomat through to the piledriver of Apophis – Black Dragon and the haunting and unearthly title track which closes one of the best extreme releases of the year. 8/10
Deadlord: In Ignorance We Trust (Century Media)
Sweden churns out band after band and Deadlord are another who follow the classic rock vein and do it very well. You may have seen them supporting The Vintage Caravan or at HRH in 2016. The band, whose mantra is very much in the style of Tenacious D: We shall rock you with our rock, were formed by vocalist and guitarist Ha Kim Krim and include bassist Tobias Lindkvist (from Enforcer), Adam Lindmark (Morbus Chron) on drums and guitarist Olle Hedenström. The band’s previous sound focused very much on a Thin Lizzy blend with duel guitar work at the forefront.
In Ignorance We Trust moves away from that and although the guitar sound remains very much at the forefront there is more of a Blue Öyster Cult/ Roky Erickson style on this record. There are also shades of Tom Petty (check out Reruns for an example) and a move towards the Americana flavour. It’s all solid stuff and the hooks and melody of songs such as Too Late and Kill Them All rock along. I can’t say I’m enamored by the ballad Leave Me Be but overall this is a perfectly enjoyable release. 7/10