"Old Lions Still Roar" (Nuclear Blast; 2009)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

It has been said that Motorhead was Lemmy. And there's certainly no denying that. Motorhead died the night that Lemmy died. But Motorhead, for the last several albums, tours and years, was a little more at the same time. It was the big-biceped drum thrashing of Mikkey Dee, and it was the flawlessly loud and fast guitars of Mr. Phil Campbell.

It seemed that when Lemmy died that Phil kind of faded into the background. I don't know Phil; we've exchanged a couple of e-mails in the past but that's it. So I'm really just assuming that he was so devastated by Lemmy's loss that he sat things out for awhile, stayed out of the limelight. I know he soon started a band with his sons, the marvelous Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, and did a lot of shows and recorded a few albums with them. And I was happy for him. It seemed to me to be a healing thing to do, recording music and touring Europe with your sons and paying tribute to Motorhed, and Lemmy, at virtually every stop.

I love everything Phil and the Bastard Sons have done. It's loud, it's bombastic and it kicks some serious ass. It was proof positive that, although Lemmy was Motorhead, Motorhead was a little more than just Lemmy.

So I was very excited when I first heard that Phil was going to do a solo album. It seemed the natural thing for him to do. And as I followed it as it came together, I grew more and more excited about it. And you know what happens when you expect too much from something, right? You're usually disappointed when it finally arrives.

Not so with Phil's solo album. "Old Lions Still Roar" finally hit the stores and, from its awesome title all the way through its amazing guest list, Phil's CD is an incredible piece of hard rock artistry.

Take a deep breath, because I'm going to go through these tracks one-by-one:

The album begins with a bluesy number entitled "Rocking Chair," and it's autobigraphical lyrics (sung by The People The Poet's Leon Standrod) tell the story of Phil's life from his first job to his time with Motorhead. The parts about "wanting his best friend back" will tug at your heart but Stanford's vocals and Phil's guitar keep the track rocking.

Next up is "Straight Up" with the Metal God, Rob Halford, on vocals. A harder edge than the opening track with riffs that grab you from the first note.

"Faith in Fire" is a lumbering number (if you can say Godzilla lumbers) with Orange Goblin's Ben Ward on vocals. It's crushingly heavy and hook-laden.

Alice Cooper takes on vocal duties on the jaunty "Swing It," which is reminiscent of some of Alice's latest music with an old school flavor.

Skin and Hand of Dimes vocalist Neville MacDonald joins Phil on the next track, "Left For Dead," which is as close to gospel as rock'n'roll ever comes. It's a very spirtual song with MacDonald's vocals giving it a jolt of honesty.

"Walk the Talk" is the next track and it's a crushing tune with biting, punkish vocals by Nick Oliveri and a punchy sound, perhaps courtesy of the other special guests on this track, Danko Jones.

 Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider sings with his snarled style on "These Old Boots" and his vocal prowess and Phil's guitar slashing go hand-in-hand.

Track 8 is my favorite track on the album. "Dancing Dogs (Love Survives)" is the heaviest track on the CD, and the vocals of Ugly Kid Joe's Whitford Crane have never been better. Mick Mars and Chris Fein of Slipknot also guest here and the depth of this track is obviously intensified by their presence.

The final vocal track is "Dead Roses," a powerful ballad with sweeping vocals by Skindred's Benji Webbe. It's a powerful way to close the album and something completely different than you might expect from Phil Campbell ... which makes it even that much more powerful.

There is one final track: An instrumental tune called "Tears from a Glass Eye" featuring Joe Satriani. Strangely, it was the only track on the album that hasn't grabbed me. In fact, I didn't even make it through its tiny 2:41 running time the first two times I listened to the album. It's just one of those instrumentals that never seems to go anywhere. Weird.

The key theme for virtually the entire album is the openness and honesty in the lyrics. The songs are frank and offer no apologies. They tell tales of life in the music business, of aging in an industry that worships youth, of long lasting relationships and the joys and struggles of trying to continue to remain (and I hate this fucking word) relevant. It's a celebration of one's accomplishments and a promise to keep going on. It's inspirational and mighty and a joy to listen to.

It's what I hoped for and expected from a solo project from Motorhead guitarist Phil Campbell. And that pretty much says it all.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2019 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.