Pedal to the Metal

Motorhead stays true to its hard-core roots with its latest opus 'Hammered.'

It's certainly never hard to critique the latest Motorhead album, perhaps because they all basically sound alike--aesthetically not a reason to be alarmed; that's exactly what longtime Motorhead fans want to hear. No more. No less.

After 27 years of humping equipment endless miles on the grinding tour circuit, and recording dozens of albums to little or no fanfare (usually noticeable only to their rabid cult following), the raw, dirty and ear-blasting speed-metal fury of Motorhead has not wavered one bit. And they'll definitely substantiate their primal urgency Monday when they bludgeon the Rialto stage with a rare concert appearance (the second date of a proposed world tour beginning this spring) in the Old Pueblo.

After countless gigs in long-forgotten clubs and demolished arenas, and having recorded more than 75-plus albums (including live sets, anthologies and various imports), Motorhead keeps plugging away despite the lack of commercial success or wooing by major labels. Nothing stands in the way of the rebellious image of founder-singer-bassist Lemmy Kilmister, who refuses to alter the elemental, full-bore assault of Motorhead, the group he founded in 1975 after being kicked out of psychedelic space-rock pioneers Hawkwind. His sole mission is to recreate the same teeth-rattling melodies of his spiritual ancestors: Chuck Berry, the Kingsmen, Hendrix, Yardbirds, Amboy Dukes, Stooges, Pink Fairies, MC5 and later on, the Ramones.

Once proudly announcing an eardrum-piercing 126-decibel live experience of loud and fast hard rock that later became rapid-fire heavy metal, Motorhead helped pave the way for the new wave of rawer British metal bands during the late '70s/early '80s. Though Lemmy honed his chops in the prog-rock predilection of Sam Gopal, and later Hawkwind, he didn't adhere to the space-rock fundamentals of his former acid-damaged art-rock outfits. Instead he opted to augment the heavy biker-rock rudiments of Hawkwind with the newfound speed and nihilism of the exploding UK punk scene (thankfully, without the Mohawk hairdos and safety pinned fashions).

Not unlike AC/DC, Motorhead wasn't punk--they both existed before the Sex Pistols--but they were each equally similar at pioneering loud'n'fast heavy metal boogie. Ask any metal band out there today and they'll categorically cite Motorhead as an influence. Motorhead was the first to channel the reckless power of punk into what became speed-metal and thrash. Despite numerous line-up changes during the past quarter century--with Lemmy remaining the only consistent member and the group's primordial force--Motorhead has never altered its focus or aggressive presentation as confirmed by its latest thrash-metal opus.

Hammered, soon to be released on Metal-Is Records, a division of the Sanctuary Records Group (the CD hits record stores next Tuesday), revisits the excellent, critically under-appreciated albums Motorhead released in the '90s on similarly-minded smaller, independent labels. Hammered offers a muscular, rock solid set of napalm-tipped guided missiles that whiz past at expeditious speed, containing topical songs of lust, hate and destruction that nearly generate as much terrifying nuclear chaos as the bombing attack on Hiroshima (which occurred in 1945, prophetically, the same year Lemmy was born).

From the opening spoken exultation spewed forth from Lemmy's mutton-chopped mug ("Rip it out," he sneers), the Sabbath-y "Walk A Crooked Mile" ripples with the strength and teeth-gnashing ferocity of pure gristle and bone that is unmistakably Motorhead, and picks up where the exceptional We Are Motorhead album from two years ago left off. The fire-belching guitar leads from Phil Campbell snake through the melody like a venom-spitting cobra causing your knees to buckle in mortal fear. Lemmy's trademark gruff growl of a singing voice annihilates the twisted lyrics as the sledgehammer pounding of ex-King Diamond drummer Mikkey Dee secures the whole earth-shattering shebang. "Mine All Mine" is the closest Lemmy ever got to writing a love song. Here the terminally horny bachelor and Rickenbacker-mauling rock god seeks to hit the sheets with another nubile young victim, the kind he lasciviously stalks in his favorite Hollywood watering hole--probably the same one he's been hanging out in for the past 10 years, like some revered horn dog on the never-ending prowl since relocating to southern California in 1990.

"Shut Your Mouth" is like one of Motorhead's late '80s "Monsters Of Rock" tour-de-forces that crackles from start to finish with Lemmy's possessed howl commanding center stage, Campbell's nimble six-string leads injecting the battleground oeuvre with vigor and grit, and the rock-steady skin-slamming of Dee bringing up the rear like a rampaging bull. The sonically charged "Kill The World" (perhaps their rebuttal to the 1988 cult-hit "Eat The Rich") rumbles wildly, a biting guts-and-glory diatribe where Lemmy prescribes every individual to live life to its fullest, dismiss preconceived notions and ultimately, screw the consequences.

"Doctor Love" is another bleary-eyed, alcohol-fueled Rainbow Room epic of wanton sexual exploits where Lemmy revisits the same territory Kiss did back in 1977, as he fantasizes himself physician of affection requesting a thorough, oh-so naughty private examination to any or all hot looking babes that frequent his favorite L.A. hangouts. The brutal speed-metal frenzy of "Red Raw" oozes the succulent fat and bloody juices of undercooked prime rib--deliciously decadent and entirely bad for your health--snarling like some bloodthirsty demon navigating a runaway freight train packing a 10-ton cargo of gasoline and animal fertilizer.

Lemmy delivers a faux-scary though somewhat bloodthirsty spoken word introduction to "Serial Killer" that segues directly into a "bonus" track of "The Game," the official theme song of WWF wrestler Triple H (who briefly guests on vocals), a pile-driving creep show that is more Grand Guignol-gone-circus showmanship than anything else. Frankly, if Lemmy can make a few extra bucks by plucking some greenbacks from the deep pockets of multi-millionaire slimeball Vince McMahon, more power to him.

The set's second closing "bonus" number is a live European concert tour version of 1996's "Overnight Sensation" recorded two years ago, where the disproportionate recording levels bury Lemmy's rasp in favor of loud, thwacking drums, ear-splitting guitar and a blurred rhythm section (sizzling solo from Campbell though). A throwaway track clearly not necessary to help sell a new album of worthy studio material, but nevertheless, a satisfying bonus for extreme Motorhead fans that clamor for any concert material that hasn't been released before.

Hammered is a yet another slab of uncompromising, no-frills loud rock that only Motorhead, one of the greatest, unsung bands in the annals of heavy metal, can produce. Come out and experience the Motorhead phenomenon--and bring your earplugs--you'll never hear a deafening racket this glorious again.