Over four decades, Motörhead released 23 studio albums, a vast array of music now embedded into rock folklore. It’s fair to say that without this band the whole shape of music as we know it today would have been very different.
Only Lemmy was an ever-present, of course, with 10 other musicians appearing at various stages of the band’s recording career. And not all of the albums are cast iron classics. However, there are certainly a number of landmark records, ones that appealed to punks, metalheads, rockers… something for all music lovers. Here are all 23 ranked from worst to best. And remember, as Lemmy often said, “We are Motörhead, we play rock’n’roll”.
23. Rock ‘N’ Roll (1987)
After the impressive Orgasmatron, and with ‘Philthy’ back on drums, much was expected of this record. However, it turned out to be something of a disaster. Apart from Eat The Rich, it’s a collection of misaligned songs which never get close to emulating the precision and energy that had made the band such a major global phenomenon. Exactly why Motörhead fell down so badly remains a mystery. But the fact is that the tracks sound rushed and lacklustre. It was as if there was no enthusiasm in the studio, maybe a measure of over-confidence.
22. March Or Die (1992)
It all unravelled for the band here. ‘Philthy’ Taylor left midway through the recording sessions, with Tommy Aldidge and Mikkey Dee coming in to complete the drumming on what was perhaps inevitably a messy album. The guesting presence of Ozzy and Slash was ill judged, as the band seemed to actively pursue more commercial success. Hellraiser was better suited to Ozzy, who recorded it himself for No More Tears, than Motörhead, and typified the misguided approach.
21. Snake Bite Love (1998)
Everyone involved with this album subsequently admitted it was somewhat rushed. Moreover, some of the songs were not up to the quality expected of this band. On all fronts, it sound as if everyone was too stressed. The likes of Night Side and Snake Bite Love were very poor, and bear the hallmarks of a band who weren’t in the mood to make an album properly. With hindsight, it’s an album that could have been improved with a little more application.
20. Overnight Sensation (1996)
The loss of Würzel meant a return to the classic trio style line-up for the band. But it’s clear they were somewhat struggling to get back on track with just one guitarist, after spending more than a decade with two. The style were eclectic and diverse, but the performances just came through as being a little confused, and none of the songs really endeared themselves to the Motör clans. The band lacked purpose, but at least the mistakes here gave them a subsequent momentum.
19. Inferno (2004)
While this wasn’t exactly a bad album, there was still a feeling here of a band treading water - something that was anathema to them This could have partly been because producer Cameron Webb came into the frame for the first time, and it would take him a while to get to grips with what the band wanted; Webb wanted to make them a lot heavier, and needed a firm reminder that Motörhead played rock’n’roll, not metal. Still, at least it was a step into a more contemporary sound. But too tentative to make a lasting impact.
18. Kiss Of Death (2006)
The second album produced by Webb, and his experience on Inferno allowed him to develop a more cohesive style in keeping with what Motörhead demanded and commanded. Guest appearances from Poison’s C.C. DeVille and Alice In Chains’ Mike Inez gave the band more profile, even though it was hardly needed. And songs like the acerbic Kingdom of The Worm showed the three were slowly getting their focus back, moving in the right direction..
17. Hammered (2002)
There’s a real curate’s egg feel to this album as the disc loses its way. But then the band found the right path to deliver the storming, punky Walking A Crooked Mile and the thrashy Red Raw. Although uneven, the best of Hammered proved to be entertaining, and underlined the belief that Motörhead were clearly capable to coming up with aggressive rock’n’roll as good as anything in the 21st Century.
16. Sacrifice (1995)
This was recorded under the shadow of Würzel’s impending departure; he may not have officially left until after the album was recorded, but the guitarist had little to do with what you hear. This didn’t help the atmosphere, and that came through. It was a very decent and consistent album, and had some strong songs. But what it lacks is real spark. To call Sacrifice the work of a band going through the motions is harsh, but it was far from inspiring
15. Iron Fist (1982)
The low point of the Lemmy/‘Fast Eddie’/‘Philthy’ line-up. It had the almost impossible task of following both Ace Of Spades and No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith, and Clarke’s production was a little stale, lacking the pared down guile that Vic Maile had brought to Ace…. The truth is, he was the wrong choice for the job. The album did have the title track, though, which became a live winner, but overall this was a disappointing way for the trio to end their time together.
14. Bastards (1993)
An album that everyone involved was pleased with at the time. It featured Born To Raise Hell, which quickly became a latterday Motörhead classic. There was an acceptable frisson about the songs, and Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me dared to tackle the difficult subject of child sex abuse. Bastards was a good response to the nadir reached with the previous March Or Die, proving that was just an unfortunate dropped stitch in the Motör tapestry.
13. We Are Motorhead
A good way to start the new millennium, We Are Motörhead was an all round statement of intent. There’s nothing new here – it’s grimy, loud rock’n’roll, which offers little in the way of subtlety, but then that was never this band’s forté. A powerful cover of the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen reinforced the long held connection with punk, and the spiky sound proved the trio were very much getting to grips with the demands of the fans and of the Motörhead heritage.
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12. On Parole (1979)
The first album the band recorded, in 1975. It wasn’t actually released for a further three years as United Artists, to whom Motörhead were signed, had serious doubts about it. Very much steeped in blues and fuelled by speed and booze, it’s a mix of new songs, plus re-recordings of material from Lemmy’s Hawkwind past and guitarist Larry Wallis’ time with the Pink Fairies. Yet, for all the hotch potch nature of the album, it created a firm template for the glories to come.
11. Motörizer (2008)
This really marked the birth of the band’s final purple patch, which lasted until the end of their career. The spirit and dynamic of the performances here were surging, and underscored that the band had found a new ambition. There were some real winners here, with the cynical war song The Thousand Names Of God incorporating an emotional slide guitar part. Rock Out and Runaround Man also got a big reaction.
10. Bad Magic (2015)
The last Motörhead studio album, Bad Magic has a real stench of the blues running through it. Despite his health problems, Lemmy sounded forthright and confident on an album that, if anything, had a lot in common with On Parole. In that respect, it appeared to have the band coming full circle. There’s an adept cover of the Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil, while Teach Them How To Bleed and Victory Or Die are well constructed. A fine way for them to bow out, although nobody it at the time.
9. The World Is Yours (2010)
Dedicated to the memory of Ronnie James Dio, this was Motörhead purposefully hitting their stride, managing to remain true to their long held formula of playing excessive rock’n’roll, but doing so without ever seeming to be in a rut. Songs like Outlaw and Get Back In Line were noise symphonies, the production brought out the best in the three, and the whole atmosphere bristled with the type of energy that had long propelled the band to greatness. A lesson in simplicity for all the wannabes.
8. 1916 (1991)
After the disappointment of 1987’s Rock ’N’ Roll, Motörhead were firmly back in the saddle on an album where they showed a remarkable aptitude for taking risks. The title track was unlike anything the band had ever attempted before, being a mournful ballad about the unnecessary loss of life during the First World War, while R.A.M.O.N.E.S. was a tribute to the legendary band of the same name. If Going To Brazil and The One To Sing The Blues were more in step with what was expected of Motörhead, it was the intense diversity that made 1916 so compelling..
7. Orgasmatron (1986)
The first, and last, full album to feature drummer Pete Gill, it amply showcased that the new guitar alliance of Würzel and Phil Campbell was ready to take Motörhead forward. This is probably the band’s heaviest record, with the title track, Deaf Forever and Doctor Rock earning their spurs, proving this new line-up had plenty to offer. In addition, the dirty Motörhead groove which had made them so successful a few years earlier was still intact, this time operating under the expert guidance of producer Bill Laswell. Incidentally, ever wonder why there’s a train on the cover? Because the album was originally to be called Ridin’ With The Driver.
6. Aftershock (2013)
No Motörhead album sounds like anyone else. But maybe Aftershock had a little more of that style than anything they’d done over the previous 25 years. It was everything you wanted from them, but turned up just a little bit extra. There’s blues, 50s rock’n’roll and metal influence right up front, and songs like Loose Woman Blues and Going To Mexico piled on the rhythm. Here were Motörhead coming on with new glories to live alongside their past ones.
5. Another Perfect Day (1983)
When ‘Fast’ Eddie quit Motörhead in 1982, nobody expected his replacement to be former Thin Lizzy hero Brian Robertson. As a result, though, many believed this album – the only one to feature Robertson – to be a misguided clash of styles. However, time has proven Motörhead made an inspired choice of new guitarist. Robertson added a fresh blues edge to the music, while also delivering some of the finest lead work of his career. Lemmy and ‘Philthy’ ensured the essential Motör flash and groove remained inviolate.
4. Motörhead (1977)
Although this wasn’t the first album the band recorded, this self-titled record was their debut release. With the classic line-up in place, Motörhead actually wanted this to be a live farewell record, as they seemed to be getting nowhere slowly. Thankfully, they were persuaded to go into the studio, recording most of the album in just two days. The lack of time and budget suited their style. What comes across is a raw, aggressive trio, straddling punk and metal on songs like Iron Horse/Born To Lose, White Line Fever and the revamped Hawkwind number Motörhead. A vibrant and urging introduction to the band.
3. Bomber (1979)
Recording two albums in one year can have the effect of drastically diminishing the potency of the latter release. Not so here. Motörhead followed Overkill with a record that was almost its equal. Bomber kept up the momentum and quality of its predecessor through a succession of top songs, with Lemmy excoriating personal targets such as his father (Poison), the police (Lawman) and heroin (Dead Men Tell No Tales – ironic when you consider Bomber producer Jimmy Miller was heavily into the drug at the time). The title track became a de rigueur part of the band’s live show, thanks to the unforgettable 40ft replica of a Heinkel.
2. Overkill (1979)
The album that really started the Motörhead craze, and established their unmistakable style – one that’s barely varied to this day. It’s full of songs that have become Motör’ classics over the years, from No Class to Stay Clean, Capricorn to Tear Ya Down. And the title track is inimical yet also warm. The unmistakable, unmissable drum pattern stills draws gasps of awe. But what makes Overkill so successful as an album is that there’s a thorough consistency throughout – no song is wasted, no beat is merely thrown away. A lot of hard work and thought went into making this sound so simple. Three decades on, it’s an essential masterclass for Motörhead wannabes.
1. Ace Of Spades (1980)
There’s little doubt that 1980 was a vintage year for hard rock and metal albums – and this stunner was right up there with the best. If there’s one Motörhead record that defined the classic trio of Lemmy, ‘Fast’ Eddie and ‘Philthy’ Phil then this is surely it. Whatever happened in the studio produced a towering classic. Uncompromising yet commercial, edgy yet radio-friendly, Motörhead weaved a unique fabric of energy, riffs, melody and wit. Mere mention of the song titles – Ace Of Spades, (We Are) The Roadcrew, Jailbait – is enough to get the blood pumping. But the whole is greater than the sum of individual tracks.