Motörhead: Live In Bonn, 12 December 1996 (Motorhead Records)
The good people of iMotörhead.com provided the faithful Motörheadbangers with a special treat this Christmas with the release of a previously unreleased recording of Motörhead live from Bonn, Germany. Recorded on 12 December 1996 at the conclusion of the Overnight Sensation European Tour, the release coincided with Lemmy’s birthday and the second anniversary of his death on 28th December. It’s a superb recording, even if the crowd sound distant in the mix. The band is on fire, a well-oiled machine, with the interplay between Lemmy and Phil Campbell first class. Opening with a blistering Iron Fist, the band tear through Stay Clean and Sex And Death in record time, before Phil and Lemmy demand that front desk manager Dave ‘Hobbs’ Hilsden turns the volume up, Lemmy promising the present of deafness for Christmas! Civil War from Overnight Sensation leads to Metropolis, Lemmy’s Rickenbacker bass lines rampaging like a lead guitar and Phil’s bluesy soulful playing mixing magically.
Burner is possibly the fastest track the band had ever written and they demonstrate it with aplomb, a ball-busting charging track which speeds along before crashing into the classic The Chase Is Better Than The Catch. Lemmy’s much missed gravel-soaked delivery brings a lump to the throat, his inimitable delivery and dry humour with the crowd reinforcing why the man was so loved in the rock and metal communities across the world. The blues and rock ‘n’ roll formed the foundation for all Motörhead’s music and nowhere is that more noticeable than on Overnight Sensation with its relentlessly addictive riffage and No Class, which despite its title is one of the most brilliant tunes Motörhead ever wrote.
The set is bursting with classics but also recent material with the pulverising Sacrifice from the 1995 album of the same name and by now you are truly appreciating the sheer athleticism of the beating heart of the band, drummer Mikkey Dee whose powerhouse drumming remains impressive and leaves you wondering if he’s now slightly under-utilised with the Scorpions. The blues soaked rock out of You Better Run from March Or Die and Broken from Overnight Sensation alter the pace before the home straight and a five-track finish which will better any band in the world. The epic Killed By Death and Going To Brazil precede the always powerful Bomber and then it’s the double finish of Ace Of Spades and a pummelling Overkill. 21 years after its recording, Live In Bonn provides another reminder, as if one was needed, of the full force of Motörhead at their best. Play it Loud. Play it Often. Magic stuff. 9/10
Venom: 100 Miles To Hell EP (Spinefarm Records)
A three-track limited edition from the original black metal gods shot across the bows just before Christmas. A gift from Cronos, Rage and Dante, which smoulders with malevolence. The bass is as slipshod as ever, massive and in your face whilst Rage’s guitar work slices and churns. Dante’s drums are huge, bashing the fuck out of everything in the way Venom always do. Fused with a punk attitude, the three tracks here are a timely reminder that whilst Venom Inc can also lay claim to the Venom throne, Cronos’ distinctive vocal always comes up trumps. Of the three songs, it’s the title track that kicks hardest, with a thunderous groove underpinning the rampage. Stirring stuff. 8/10
Defecto: Nemesis (Prime Collective)
Formed in 2010, it’s been a busy two years for Copenhagen progressive metal outfit Defecto who released their debut Excluded in 2016 and followed it with album number 2 Nemesis in late 2017. The dramatic operatic intro to Nemesis, The Final Night Of Silence is reminiscent in many ways to the intro tapes that UK metal legends Hell use; in fact it’s almost identical, with soaring strings, chiming bells and thick organ chords with thunder and rain lashing down. Opening strongly with the title track, a spiralling fist pumping song, which allows vocalist and guitarist Niklas Sonne to immediately validate a powerful and rich melodic voice. Intense interplay between guitar and keyboards provides confirmation that whilst progressive, Defecto also lean to the heavier end of the melodic metal spectrum. It’s clean singing, harmonies throughout but with sufficient edge to have those who like their metal served with a portion of heavy nodding their heads. Endlessly Falling follows, a track full of pomp accompanying some chunky riffage and a chorus with a tasty hook. Plenty of effects litter the album but let’s take nothing away from the quality of the songs.
Savage has elements of Audrey Horne with its melody, The Nameless Apparition features a meaty riff before it opens out into a heavy yet melodic thumper. Interestingly and perhaps less effective is the occasional burst of guttural vocals which appear out of place. Ode To The Damned is a schizophrenic beast and a good example; growling vocals and crashing guitar compete with cleaner vocals and a synth heavy riff, pummelling drumming accompanying the duel. At seven minutes long, it really needs to be the centrepiece of the album and it just about succeeds with some neat guitar work rescuing the track around the four-minute mark. In complete contrast, the album closer, another seven-minute track, Ascend To Heaven, which appears to be intended as a dramatic closing tune but unfortunately turns into a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde song, beginning in soft rock ballad style but morphing into melodic death metal with piano with some Dream Theater style time changes. It’s all a little disjointed and confusing. Overall, it’s a decent sophomore release which certainly had me turning it up at times. 7/10
Hollow Earth: Out Of Atlantis (Self Released)
If retro rock ala Pink Floyd around A Saucerful Of Secrets floats your boat, then Hollow Earth may well be your thing. The Swedes journey back in time to early Floyd and Deep Purple for a 40+ minute trip which sits firmly in the decades of the past. The band, Cristobel Nemo on organ, guitar and vocals, Don Pharaoh on bass and vocals and drummer Rod Handel V, noodle and meander their way through six tracks, starting with Electric Eden and climaxing with the lengthy and snooze inducing Behind The Ivory Gate. Whether there is anything in Out Of Atlantis which can introduce a new slant on old ideas and genuinely excite is debatable. It’s not really something that got me fired up. In fact, a nice cup of tea was probably more of a thrill than first listen. Not my bag man. 6/10
Aerodyne: Breaking Free (Street Symphonies Records)
Another review, another Swedish band. Aerodyne formed in Gothenberg in 2016, apparently from several other outfits. Breaking Free is their debut album and is a routine slab of hard rock with some astonishingly 1980s lyrics. A bunch of stolen riffs (e.g. Setting Hell On Fire = Thin Lizzy’s Are You Ready) and little originality combine to offer little to excite. Citing a range of classic rock outfits amongst their influences, it’s a surprise to see Steel Panther absent with lyrics such as “Spread your legs and show me you’re a lady” (Comin’ For You). If I saw these in a sunny field with a beer in my hand I might watch for a bit. However, if I want the 1980s then I’ll dig out my old school stuff. I’m afraid it’s just tepid and tired in 2018. 5/10