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Review: Before their career as the sculptors of riff that framed future styles of metal, Motorhead were an exceptional roadhouse band, combining a tradition of simple and loud rock-country with the melodic songwriting technique of a progressive rock band and wrapping it in a fusion of angry punk rock and melancholic, balladesque heavy metal. It is in this style that the first and most musically consistent album of this band is created, rendering poetic tales in familiar song forms with heaps of new technique and noisy harbingers of the metal revolution to follow. While vocalist Lemmy actually sings for large portions of this album, the first touches of his unearthly gravel voice, forerunner of death and black metal, peek out behind the sonority.
At the time (1976) that this music was created, proto-metal had barely defined itself through Black Sabbath, and it was uncertain whether the new genre would flounder into its wankier tendencies or weld itself into a distinct artform. Motorhead were among the first to integrate the even simpler and more effective riff technique of punk, and simultaneously, took metal away from its emerging aharmonic properties, making songs that like those of Led Zeppelin and the Beatles were built around beautifully developing vocal lines supported by changing phrases in rhythm guitar that did not strictly conform to the verse-chorus riff distinctions favored by most rock bands. Although by today's metal standards this album is easy listening, at the time it was a venality of sound that similarly confronted a comfortable bourgeois lifestyle with images of road-veneered, outsider lifestyles, and unravelling tales of drinking, slackerdom, gambling, fighting, drugs and evading law enforcement. In this, Motorhead was closer to the Celtic folk-rock of AC/DC than the noodly neoclassical guitar of Judas Priest or Iron Maiden, but it maintained a strong tradition of songwriting that did not allow riffing to overwhelm the overall construction of continuity.
Much of this album seems artifact, including the bluesy leads and breaks, the aluminum voice of the second singer, some lounge jazz-influenced riffs, and a laid-back pace that often makes one wonder if this is indeed a metal album. However, by sidling up to the music of the day and approximating its behavior while injecting the new ideas of metal and punk, Motorhead created a bridge between the longstanding tradition of British and American roadhouse rock with the more structured music emerging in heavy metal. Artistically, it is the most consistent and sometimes challenging work from this pointwalking band.