Motorhead Buyer's Guide: the Good, the Bad and the Weird

Choice cuts from the back catalog of rock's finest speed freaks.

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Don't know where to start with Motörhead's immense back catalog? Our buyer's guide has got you covered. Must haves, wild cards and turkeys are all detailed, so check it out!

It's been a rough couple of months for Motörhead fans. Classic era drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor's passing in November was a huge blow. The news that legendary frontman Lemmy Kilmister had succumbed to cancer just seven weeks later was nothing short of devastating.

While we've lost one of the great bands in heavy metal history, their music lives on. And, with Motörhead getting more media coverage than ever before, more people are hopefully being turned on to their excellent back catalog of music.

But where do you start when it comes to Motörhead album buying? One of the most prolific bands in heavy metal, Motörhead released 23 studio albums, 10 live recordings, 12 compilation albums and 5 EPs during their career For a newcomer, the choice is bewildering.

That's where this list comes in; a buyer's guide for newcomers to rock 'n' roll's finest speed freaks.

The Good:

"Ace of Spades" (1980)

The lead single from this album was the song that brought Motörhead to the attention of the general populace, but there's so much more to "Ace of Spades" than the titular anthem.

Motörhead's third classic album in a row following "Overkill" (more on that one in a moment) and "Bomber," "Ace of Spades" is a bracing blast of high-octane speed-rock riffery that doesn't let up from beginning to end.

Alongside the title song, it's chock full of Motörclassics including "Live to Win," "(We Are) the Road Crew" and "The Chase Is Better Than the Catch."

Elevating "Ace of Spades" ever so slightly above its classic predecessors is that the quality of the songs is matched by the quality of the production. Vic Maille makes the band sound as huge and relentless as they should, crafting the perfect Motörhead album in the process.

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"Overkill" (1979)

Lightyears ahead of their rush-released self-titled debut, second album "Overkill" was the record that established Motörhead's signature sound.

A pummelling record, "Overkill's" highlights are many. From the hugely influential title track, widely credited as popularising the use of double bass drumming in heavy metal, to the slow-burning (by Motörhead standards at least) Fritz Lang referencing "Metropolis" via the foot-stomping "No Class" (essentially a metal reworking of ZZ Top's "Tush"), there's not a dud track on the album.

The band's sound fully formed and their classic line-up of Lemmy, "Fast" Eddie and "Philthy" Taylor in place, it was "Overkill" that showed the rock fraternity what Motörhead was all about. The world would never be the same again.

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"No Sleep Til Hammersmith" (1981)

Arguably the greatest live album of all time, "No Sleep Til Hammersmith" is a welcome reminder of Motörhead's unparalleled intensity in the concert arena.

Fast as fuck, "No Sleep..." sees the band upping the ante on tracks that were already at breakneck speed on the studio recordings. The thundering performance is matched by an impeccable tracklist, comprising the very best of the band's four previous albums.

A blistering, intense, snarling bastard of a live album, "No Sleep Til Hammersmith" was an affirmation of Motörhead's status as an unstoppable metal force when it came out in 1981. Over 30 years later, it's lost none of its potency.

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The Bad:

"March ör Die" (1992)

A huge part of Motörhead's appeal was their unwavering commitment to fast, uncompromising heavy rock. So it's unsurprising that the album that deviates from that formula, "March ör Die," is the worst in their back catalog.

Inspired by his successful collaboration with Ozzy Osbourne on his massive "No More Tears" album, Lemmy attempted to transform Motörhead's unrelenting sound to something more accessible and commercially viable.

The result was an underwhelming selection of lukewarm tracks that were a dud on commercial radio and alienated hardcore Motörheadbangers. By way of a bizarre cover of Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever," limp ballad "I Ain't No Nice Guy" (which isn't saved by guest appearances from Ozzy Osbourne and Slash) and an unnecessary reworking of Ozzy's "Hellraiser," you've got the low point of the band's career.

Fortunately Lemmy quickly learned that mainstream metal was not Motörhead's forte. Follow-up album "Bastards" was a blistering to return to form.

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The Weird:

"Another Perfect Day" (1983)

When "Fast" Eddie Clarke left Motörhead in 1982, the band recruited his replacement from an unlikely source.

Best-known as the former axe-man in Thin Lizzy, Brian Robertson's penchant for bluesy riffing was the antithesis of the balls-to-the-wall speed playing of his predecessor. It was an approach that altered Motörhead's sound on 1983's "Another Perfect Day" and left a number of fans cold in the process.

By no means a bad album, "Another Perfect Day" nonetheless finds Motörhead's signature speed metal under threat from Robbo's more mainstream rock leanings. While the band was in classic territory like "Die You Bastard" and "Back on the Funny Farm," songs like "Shine" were more overtly melodic than anything they had ever produced and the boogie-woogie piano that showed up on "Rock It" must have set off alarm bells for the band's hard core faithful. The music is routinely great, but it doesn't always feel like Motörhead.

Interesting, if precariously wavering from the band's classic formula, the Motörhead/Robbo partnership was ultimately short lived. With the guitarist refusing to play classic tracks like "Bomber" on the album's supporting tour, he was out of the fold by the end of the year.

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By Alec Plowman

9 comments sorted by best / new / date

    peppersghost08
    I really like Inferno (2004) and Kiss of Death (2006). They contain my favourite Motorhead songs, In the Name of Tragedy and God Was Never On Your Side. Oh and Bastards also had Burner, which is like Overkill Pt.2.
    Captain_Albern
    Totally agree. I don't know why so many people think that as a "real fan" you're only allowed to like the old stuff. Fuck that.
    starfire666
    yup, Lemmy himself claims that the new stuff is way better than the old but somehow the "fans" think that they stopped recording new material after Ace of Spades
    Nightcrawler76
    And wtf is wrong with March or Die ?! March or die is a really cool album !! It's slower than the others but it's not crappy like Load or Reload !! If you don't know Motörhead , you can buy anyone !! They're all Motörhead and Motörhead never did a bad album !!
    Yabba Who
    I wouldn't call it a bad album either, but I would call it my least favourite Motorhead album. It's ok on it's own but when compared to the rest of the catalog it doesn't have much shine. It also didn't help that it was released between 2 fantastic albums in 1916 and Bastards.
    Leather Sleeves
    March or Die got some bad reception and reviews. I don't think I've heard the whole thing, but I'd agree that it's weaker than most of them. Should have just had a top 20 Motorhead albums list.
    starfire666
    wow, what a crappy list... 5 records, really?... oh and Motorhead did 22 studio records, not 23 (On Parole is NOT an official Motorhead studio album, learn your history)...