In 1984, when Phil Campbell joined fellow unknown Würzel to realise Lemmy’s vision of fronting the post-Robbo Motorhead with twin guitars, he never could’ve dreamed he’d continue playing with our most untouchable band for the next 30-plus years. Or making such a towering solo album debut.
After Lemmy’s 2015 death ended Motorhead, Campbell could’ve gone two routes; selling a lucrative Marky Ramone-style tribute band or striking out under his own name.
Thankfully, out of respect and appreciating the impossibility of even tickling Lem’s colossal cowboy bootprint, Campbell chose the latter, fulfilling his old boss’s repeated affirmation he had a great solo album in him.
First he kept it in the family with last year’s energised The Age Of Absurdity, credited to Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons as it boasted his offspring Todd on guitar, bassist Tyla and drummer Dane.
Old Lions Still Roar, which could be referring to himself or even Lemmy, is more polished, diverse and personal, calling up heavy friends in his contacts to join his sons, including Rob Halford, Alice Cooper, Mick Mars, Dee Snider and even Joe Satriani, who sprinkles his crystal virtuosity over jazzy closer Tears From A Glass Eye.
Such star-spangled affairs can often sound phoned in, but there’s obviously a lot of love in the air on what amounts to one of the year’s hard rock landmarks, despite the possibly unlikely combination of Campbell’s Pontypridd domesticity and larger-than-life Hollywood rock royalty.
The personal tone is set perfectly by age-defying ballad Rocking Chair, featuring Leon Standford, before the big, meaty rifferama of Straight Up, Rob Halford giving it some upper register welly, followed by Orange Goblin’s Ben Ward giving it some Lemmy on Faith In Fire; like much of the album, deploying sturdy mid-tempo rather than full-pelt Motorhead, if upping gears for Alice’s spirited romp through Swing It.
Big, windswept slowie Left For Dead features Nev MacDonald’s vocal and one of the scorching Campbell guitar solos that frequently elevate the set. Former QOTSA singer Nick Oliveri growls Walk The Talk and cowbell-strutting anthem These Old Boots ropes together Snider, Mars and former Slipknot percussionist Chris Fehn.
After Whitfield Crane gooses Dancing Dogs (Love Survives), Benji Webbe quavers heartfelt ballad Dead Roses, with Matt Sorum on drums.
Campbell has made the solo album of his dreams. Lemmy would be proud.