1979, Music

Overkill (1979) by Motörhead

I have never listened to Motörhead’s debut in part because I have been warned off it by bad reviews. It came out a year and a half before this record but, in the meantime, the much more polished but still fast and relatively rough (for ’70s metal) Stained Class came out. What I’m trying to say is I’m not sure whether or not Motörhead was first in terms of combining punk and metal (i.e. NWOBHM), or at least some semblance of punk influence in metal. They’re among the earliest though, for sure. And the thing about Motörhead is that they are considerably closer to something akin to punk than just about any other NWOBHM band (if they can even be classified as such).

The songs are mostly blues-based but catchy enough to overcome the band’s own limitations (more on that in a second). There are at least two songs here that sound a lot like tracks on Ace of Spades in parts, suggesting that these guys didn’t have a huge surplus of riffs and licks in their career. (It shouldn’t be a surprise that a band that spent its entire career with one sound has songs that sound alike.)

I don’t worry too much about the lyrics when it comes to metal – they usually don’t hold up to much scrutiny. And that’s probably the case here, but I haven’t paid much attention.

The draw, and the reason this record is a big deal, is the sound. They play faster and rougher than most metal bands before them. And when they do slow it down, they play sludgier. Aside from a few of Fast Eddie’s guitar solos, most of this sound grimy and dirty and the only real point of reference for this kind of sound at this point is punk. (I guess you could make some comparisons to the sludginess of Blue Cheer, but they never played this fast.) And of course Lemmy’s voice makes everything even more distinct, as there’s certainly nobody who could have imagined him fronting a band in, say, 1967. (Whatever you think about Lemmy, a great singer he is not.)

The production is suitably muddled, though not so much that you can’t hear the individual instruments. (Apparently the production is awful on the first record and this is an improvement. I actually feel like it’s appropriate here.

Whether or not this record is the birth of something new likely depends upon your view of Stained Class, NWOBHM, Thrash and where this record fits in the histories of the latter two. Regardless, it’s a pretty big deal and a major step in the march away from Zeppelin and Purple and towards the really heavy stuff which would emerge in the 1980s.


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