Released: 2006, Sanctuary Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
At almost 61 years old, it is a wonder how the metal mastermind known as Lemmy Kilmister manages to get his weary bones out of bed every day, let alone crank out the metal by fronting the legendary Motorhead. To summarize his autobiography, WHITE LINE FEVER, Lemmy cannot recall ever meeting a drug, drink or girl he didn’t like and on pace with constant touring sandwiched between releasing a new Motorhead album every two years, the man must have found the key to eternal life. Judging by his latest output, Lemmy isn’t ready for the retirement home yet, either.
On Motorhead’s twenty-first studio album, KISS OF DEATH, Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee deliver another slice of predictable, punk-and blues-based speed metal that will satisfy their fans and leave their critics wondering what all the fuss is about. There are no surprises here. KISS OF DEATH sounds almost exactly like Motorhead did in 1996 and 1986 and, like AC/DC, fans take comfort in knowing there will be no rapping, breakdowns, clean vocals or any other fad to sully the band’s musical reputation. Motorhead is timeless, plain and simple, and KISS OF DEATH is just another notch in Lemmy’s well-worn bedpost.
“Sucker” is a bruising opener in the vein of “Terminal Show,” “See Me Burning,” “Sacrifice” and “Iron Fist.” Phil Campbell’s rapid-fire riffs echo through the speedy track, while Lemmy’s rasping vocals are at the top of their game. “One Night Stand” features a blues-y rock groove and as Lemmy croaks out “I’ve been a slut all my life/Wish every night was a one night stand,” you just know he means those words. Lemmy and Mikkey Dee really gel on “Devil I Know” and Campbell’s biting riffs make the track one of the best on the album. “Trigger” is another fast one but the chorus is unforgettable. The darkly sinister groove of “Under The Gun” is reminiscent of MARCH OR DIE’s “You Better Run” but once Lemmy croons on the acoustic, string-filled ballad, “God Was Never On Your Side,” KISS OF DEATH begins to go south. As killer as the first five tracks on the album are, the next third really finds the band going through the motions. As repetitive as Motorhead can be, at least they manage to breathe fresh life into the familiar riffs but “Living In The Past,” “Sword of Glory (the best of the bunch),” “Be My Baby” just plod along, going nowhere. “Christine” contains a “happy,” rockabilly groove that seems rather kitschy but the off-time, downtuned heaviness and ominous vocals of “Kingdom of The Worm” evoke memories of obscure cuts like “Sacrifice,” “Assassin” and “Burner” upping the ante once again. Flashes of old-school Motorhead shine through on “Going Down” before the curious inclusion of “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.,” which seems to be the same version that appeared on 1991’s 1916 album! If there is any difference, I sure don’t hear it and what was the point of re-recording it anyway? Hmmm.
Several direct lyrical references are made to past Motorhead works including “Doctor Rock,” “All The Aces” and “Ace of Spades” on KISS OF DEATH. Whether this bears any significance to the whole album remains to be seen but it is a theme that I picked up on right away. Also, there are no overtly anthemic tracks a la “We Are Motorhead” here. Granted, “Devil I Know” and “Trigger” contain hook-y, memorable choruses but they certainly don’t possess the qualities that would make them a long-standing live staple. “Sucker,” though, is a sure bet to find its way to live audiences.
People will buy KISS OF DEATH regardless of not having heard a note simply because it is Motorhead. However, the last few Motorhead albums have been a major step downwards in terms of quality. Yes, the band has been cranking out albums steadily for almost thirty years but there is definitely a sense that Lemmy is running out of ideas. The middle third of KISS OF DEATH is evidence of this but with such a stellar opening third, things balance out. Even half-baked Motorhead is better than a lot of the tripe that bands try to sell the public but the end result is just what people expect—another Motorhead album—and KISS OF DEATH is nothing more and nothing less. In other words: buy it.
KILLER KUTS: “Sucker,” “Devil I Know,” “Trigger,” “Under The Gun,” “Kingdom of The Worm,” “Going Down”