Sometimes, you just know when something is going to rock hard. Properly hard. The kind of hard that feels like sticking your face into a hurricane, knowing full well the blast will rip your skin right off. The kind of hard that means you might as well just drop to your knees and submit to its eye-watering, ear-splitting, jaw-breaking brawn.
Yeah, that kind of hard.
It should really come as no surprise that that’s the kind of hard we have here.
Since forming in the aftermath of the death of Lemmy in 2016, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons – the stalwart Motorhead guitarist and his actual sons Todd (guitar), Tyla (bass) and Dane (drums) along with vocalist Neil Starr – have been building up to an album just like this. We could have predicted it from their 2018 debut The Age of Absurdity. We could have predicted it from the way they honed their hard-as-nails brand in various high-profile support slots (whipping up a frenzy for the likes of Slash featuring Myles Kennedy). Honestly, we could have predicted it as soon as there was a whisper of new material.
Recorded and engineered during the lockdown, the frankly titled We’re the Bastards is just the biggest, burliest bruiser of a follow-up they could ever have summoned. To call this a wall of noise would be to make light of its impressive bulk: it’s a corker of a construction grounded on a massive slab of a rhythm section and raised on ropes of glistening, sinewy guitar. As if that's not enough, the whole edifice is bolstered by searing, open-lunged vocals and lifted just enough with well-muscled melodic wings. At times the sound is so gigantic you could well be standing at a gig just inches from the amps. Any further forward and we’d be talking rib-cracking territory.
But it’s not just brute force. The thirteen tracks here are real songs in the traditional sense – properly crafted, memorable and, most importantly, highly shout-alongable. This is clear as soon as the big dirty riff of opener We’re the Bastards kicks in. It’s not long until we’re right in the thick of the chorus – and if you aren’t punching the air from the sofa at this point, there’s something terribly wrong. Okay, it might be even better live, but in the meantime there’s endless fun to be had just chiming in anyway: ‘Cos we’re the bastards – and you’re a bastard too! Cos we’re the bastards – and we’re comin’ for you!’
Bastard credentials fully established, it’s time to appreciate the full range of big, dark grungy numbers here. Son of a Gun hooks us in with its relentless chugging rhythm, while Promises are Poison is all molten groove and driving drums, Starr’s earnest intonation pouring white-hot aggro over the whole thing. Yet the production is so clean you can hear every single part. And that’s quite something given the power of Dane Campbell’s drums: on Keep Your Jacket On – surely one of the standouts – he goes off like mortar fire and just gets louder. And louder. It’s noise therapy at its unshackled best.
Elsewhere, Phil C’s 32 years in Motorhead come to the fore: Animals runs amok towards its anguished refrain of addiction-denial before taking off full pelt again; Hate Machine, meanwhile, is a full-blooded thrasher that kicks along with the might of monstrous biker boots. And then there’s Destroyed, an irresistible pure punk riot full of joyful fuck-yous.
And if you were thinking there might just be some big-ballad respite in there, think again. Final track Waves might be the slowest – and definitely the most commercial – but its mammoth, brooding chorus is deep and dark and soaked in lyrical self-recrimination.
None of this is for the faint-hearted and that’s just as it should be.
It really is that kind of hard.
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