Another Motorhead album celebrates its 40th birthday, and it's quite the party

Three Amigos’ farewell sumptuously re-packaged with added demos, booklet and essential previously unreleased live set

Motörhead Iron Fist (40th Anniversary Edition) cover art
(Image: © Sanctuary)

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For all of their longevity, Motörhead’s reputation as the loudest, fastest and most exhilarating band of their ilk was forged back in the late ’70 s and early 80s by the classic line-up of singer/bassist Lemmy Kilminster, guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil’thy Animal’ Taylor. 

Forget the High Street t-shirts that reduced the band to brand, this was the trio that elevated heavy metal to an entirely new level of excitement thanks to a run of utterly demented albums that included Overkill, Bomber (both 1979), 1980’s Ace Of Spades and the chart-topping live album No Sleep ‘Till Hammersmith from the following year. And that’s before we consider their ram-raiding of the UK Top 10 Singles Chart in the shape of The Golden Years and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre EPs, the latter of which saw them teaming up with Girlschool.

Iron Fist, the final album from this celebrated trio, is one that seems to have fallen down the cracks of Motörhead’s history. With Lemmy expressing his dissatisfaction with Eddie Clarke’s production in the wake of Vic Maile’s departure from the band’s sphere, it’s easy to see how his influence may have tarnished the album’s reputation. 

And while there may be some extra gloss to Motörhead’s sound here, this 40th anniversary edition displays that some historical re-appraisal is certainly in order. Right from the off with the title track, Motörhead lay down the law with the dynamic that was uniquely theirs: Lemmy blasting out distorted chords on his overdriven bass guitar, Eddie Clarke’s high velocity guitar and Phil Taylor adding extra low-end heft with his two bass drums. 

Elsewhere, Lemmy’s lyrics are on point, especially on the righteous howl that is Don’t Need Religion and the self-aware America. With the tracks clocking in at around the three minute mark if not less, Iron Fist is an album that refuses to outstay its welcome.

But what makes this re-issue particularly desirable is the addition of a warts’n’all live set recorded at the Glasgow Apollo in March 1982. This is Motörhead in full flight – a breathless gallop through Iron Fist’s highlights and glorious dips into the material that preceded it. The pace is frenetic throughout and by the time they reach the climactic triple-whammy of Overkill, Motörhead and Bomber, it feels as is they could derail at any moment. They would soon after but certainly not here, making it a fitting requiem. 

Julian Marszalek

Julian Marszalek is the former Reviews Editor of The Blues Magazine. He has written about music for Music365, Yahoo! Music, The Quietus, The Guardian, NME and Shindig! among many others. As the Deputy Online News Editor at Xfm he revealed exclusively that Nick Cave’s second novel was on the way. During his two-decade career, he’s interviewed the likes of Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Ozzy Osbourne, and has been ranted at by John Lydon. He’s also in the select group of music journalists to have actually got on with Lou Reed. Marszalek taught music journalism at Middlesex University and co-ran the genre-fluid Stow Festival in Walthamstow for six years.