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Saturday 29 August 2015

Reviews: Motorhead, Pentagram, Idlewar (Reviews By Paul)

Motörhead: Bad Magic (UDR)

So after all the health problems which plagued Lemmy after the stunningly good Aftershock, Motörhead return to kick you full in the face with their 22nd album Bad Magic. And you know what, it is another full on, vital slab of no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll, and just as good as album 21. Victory And Die is a hammering start to the album, Mikkey Dee powering the trio forward whilst the Rickenbacker bass of the main man still acts more as the rhythm guitar than the bass. Thunder & Lightning is classic Motörhead. 100mph, full steam ahead, allowing Phil Campbell to shred for Ponty. He truly is one of the rock world’s most underrated guitarists and once again demonstrates this throughout Bad Magic. So how does Lemmy's voice hold up? Well, he’s no Bruce Dickinson but Lemmy, well, he’s fucking Lemmy. You know what you get. That gruff, rough delivery is back in all its glory and he holds it throughout. Firestorm Hotel has a huge bluesy feel, with some smooth backing vocals, and once again shows that whilst Motörhead do indeed play Rock ‘n’ Roll, they can mix up the formula just a bit. Campbell’s guitar work absolutely excellent once more.

Bad Magic really doesn't fuck around with only one track over four minutes in length but whilst it isn't The Book Of Souls, it remains a quality release and one that proves once more that Motörhead is still relevant in today’s metal world. Electricity, one of the first releases off the album is a magnificent driving track, powerhouse bass and drums and some sharp fretwork. The blues edge has become more and more evident in Motorhead's recent work, and nowhere is it more evident than on Evil Eye, a brilliant example of this. Bad Magic just gets better as it goes on; a change of atmosphere and tempo on Til The End allows Lemmy to show his softer side with some cleaner vocals and emotive lyrics. After you've wiped your eyes Motörhead grab you right in the balls and deliver the final punches. Tell Me Who To Kill and Choking On Your Screams, complete with an absolute ringer of a Hawkwind riff lead towards the final tracks, another feel good rock ’n’ roller When The Sky Comes Looking For You before a really interesting cover of the Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil closes one of the releases of 2015. As I write this news has reached me that Lemmy is once again in poor health. If this is the swansong, it would be a fitting one although as I have tickets for the 40th anniversary show at Hammersmith Odeon in January, I desperately hope the main man can maintain his fitness to deliver a couple of these tracks live. Motörhead, on album at least remain a most excellent outfit. Motörhead for Life indeed. Long live Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey. 9/10

Pentagram: Curious Volume (Peaceville)

Veteran doom merchants Pentagram have been around for a long time. They are one of those bands who have flitted in my peripheral vision without really ever coming into focus. Well known as one of the forefathers of metal and doom in particular, the band have been led by singer Bobby Liebling since the 1970s with the rest of the line-up a revolving door of musicians. Curious Volume is the band’s 8th full studio album; not a prolific return but given the turbulence that the band has experienced, maybe not that surprising. The current personnel consists Liebling, Victor Griffin on guitar, Greg Turley on bass and new recruit Pete Campbell on drums. Full of chunky, fuzz ridden riffs, rampaging bass and drums and Liebling's instantly recognisable vocal delivery, Curious Volume is set firmly in the 1970s with a sound akin to their UK counterparts Black Sabbath.

 Griffin’s guitar work is excellent throughout, his soloing on opener Lay Down And Die eerily close to that of Iron Man Tony Iommi whilst The Tempter Push combines Geezer Butler’s power with the stoner edge of Clutch. Unsurprisingly, a Pentagram album rarely has the feel of a bright summer day and Curious Volume is no exception. The dark despair of Liebling's lyrics contribute to the feel of foreboding and ruin that flows through the album, although there are exceptions such as Dead Bury Dead with rocks along at quite a pace and doesn't contain quite such an air of malevolence. Although several critics have commented that Liebling's new found sobriety has dented the edges of his delivery, I can’t say that I noticed and the hooks and huge chugging riffs which drive this doom and stoner tinged music forward remains as addictive as ever. Devil’s Playground is possibly the track on the album, a massive groove and again the Sabbath flavoured guitar work. A metal institution, Curious Volume propels you back to 1974 once more … without having to obtain the cocaine habit. 8/10

Idlewar: Dig In (Self Released)

Formed in Orange County in 2014, Idlewar is a power trio consisting of James Blake, bass and vocals, Rick Graham on guitar and drummer Pete Pagonis. Dig In is a stomping five track EP which showcases the band’s major influences; Clutch, Zeppelin and Kings X to name but three. Dig In is heavy on the groove, hook and toe tapping; Chunk Of Me, for example, as infectious as impetigo in a nursery. It’s raw, it’s simple but damn is it effective and straightforward. Thick, heavy riffs cascade throughout the EP, with the slower paced Feel The Pain adding a bit of calm in the midst of some quality stoner rock. Album closer Stronger allows Blake to really open the pipes whilst Pagonis smashes seven shades out of his kit. In a genre which is incredibly strong, it’ll be difficult for Idlewar to accelerate at speed but the promise is there in spades. 7/10

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