MOTÖRHEAD — 1916 (review)

MOTÖRHEAD — 1916 album cover Album · 1991 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Vim Fuego
Motörhead’s “1916” came after four years of label problems, and other bullshit with the business side of music. That wasn’t what Lemmy was about. The man just wanted to play his own mutant version of rock and roll. The band’s previous album, simply called “Rock ‘n’ Roll” was not as well received as its predecessors, so expectations for “1916” were not high.

Fuck expectations. This is Motörhead. The band had occasionally dabbled outside the blues/rock/punk/metal mix. For example, “Orgasmatron” could be considered proto-doom-death metal, but most of their albums stuck fairly closely to the old formula. First track “The Ones To Sing The Blues” threw out the formula and shattered all preconceptions. Unlike a number of other Motörhead tracks, it’s not particularly bluesy, but thunders along, powered by Philthy’s legendary double kick drums. On “I'm So Bad (Baby I Don't Care)”, the blues does raise its leery head, along with Lemmy’s clever, incisive lyrics. What seems like a song full of tall story bragging actually reveals his inspirations. “Going to Brazil” is a blues boogie road song which only Lemmy could write. It has a bit of a story behind it. The band recorded four songs with producer Ed Stasium. When Lemmy listened to a mix of “Going to Brazil”, he asked Stasium to turn up four tracks, and on doing so heard claves and tambourines added without the band's knowledge. Stasium was fired and Pete Solley hired as producer. And thank fuck for that!

And next, a big step sideways. Judas Priest had faced a civil suit in 1990, around the time Lemmy was writing songs for this album, and one of the accusations levelled at the band was that they had hidden subliminal messages in their cover of Spooky Tooth’s “Better By You, Better Than Me”. Always one who stuck up against injustice when he saw it, Lemmy deliberately filled “Nightmare/The Dreamtime” with backmasked vocals and music, which were far from subliminal, giving the song a truly eerie vibe. And what did he actually say? Even that’s open to interpretation, perhaps proving once and for all that backmasking is rather an inefficient way of conveying a message.

“Love Me Forever” is a power ballad from an era when power ballad were ubiquitous, but it’s far from typical. For a start, it’s not weepy or self-loathing, instead showing both sides of love and relationships, a black/white, all/nothing contrast.

“Angel City” is a filler when you don’t write fillers. Like the “Going To Brazil” road trip, it’s a fun descriptive song of life in L.A. at the tail end of the glam era. It’s followed by another good time rocker in the form of “Make My Day”.

Lemmy was asked why he wrote the song “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” The answer? “’Cos I like The Ramones”. Best answer ever to a stupid question. The Ramones liked the minute and a half long song so much they covered it themselves. Basically, it’s The Ramones put through a Motörhead filter.

“Shut You Down” is an “I’m outta here” break up track, in a fashion only Motörhead could pull off, like a metal “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”.

These ten tracks would have made a very good Motörhead album, showing some new musical facets, and more energy and drive than the previous album. But this is Motörhead. Expect the unexpected.

“1916” is unlike any song ever recorded by this or any other metal band. First, it’s not metal. Second, it is such a visceral, heart rending tale, it is more an accompanied epic poem than a song. Musically, it is part hymn, part sombre march, with simple orchestration, cello, a military snare, and Lemmy’s voice quavering with more sensitivity than you might think possible. While it is a song about World War One, it is so thought provoking and emotionally wrought it could come from any war, where young men think they are heading off for a great adventure, only to be dehumanized, ground up, and spat out by an unfeeling, unstoppable war machine. Like no other song, “1916” vocalises the true stupidity, futility, terror, and waste of human life of war.

It seems Lemmy understood how deeply emotionally and psychologically damaging war could be to those caught in the fighting. My own Grandfather fought in the Pacific Islands during World War Two. In the 26 years I knew him, he spoke of the war to me only once, and then only to relate a funny tale of having to run flat out from tent to surf when going swimming, in order to avoid mosquitoes. In his last few lucid hours, he suffered nightmares and flashbacks to those days six decades before. Even though this song is of a different war, now a century past, it still makes me think of my Grandfather and the terrible things he may have seen and experienced, which are beyond my imagination and recognition. It took a special kind of bravery to have faced a mortal enemy, who was probably feeling very similar emotions and terrors, and then to return to civilization and lead a productive life, all the while keeping those horrors locked away. It may not have been the intention of this song to cause this reaction, but it does.

And so the song “1916” elevates the album “1916” from the realms of very good into great. It also secured Motörhead’s future, both financially and musically. The band finally had a decent record deal, and had explored some new musical avenues which opened new frontiers for the band to explore for the remainder of its existence. Albums like “Ace Of Spades” and “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” established Motörhead’s legendary status in rock and metal. “1916” cemented it.
Share this review

Review Comments

Post a public comment below | Send private message to the reviewer
Please login to post a shout
666sharon666 wrote:
1 year ago
Reviewer's Challenge points: 2

Review Index

Member Zone

Username:
Password:
Stay signed in

Metal Subgenres

Artists Alpha-index

MMA TOP 5 Metal ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
METALLICA
Buy this album from our partners
Moving Pictures Hard Rock
RUSH
Buy this album from our partners
Rust in Peace Thrash Metal
MEGADETH
Buy this album from our partners
Powerslave NWoBHM
IRON MAIDEN
Buy this album from our partners
Dirt Alternative Metal
ALICE IN CHAINS
Buy this album from our partners

New Metal Artists

New Metal Releases

Black Anima Alternative Metal
LACUNA COIL
Buy this album from MMA partners
Violet Hour Stoner Metal
ALUNAH
Buy this album from MMA partners
Primal Future: 2019 Thrash Metal
TOXIC HOLOCAUST
Buy this album from MMA partners
Collision Course Hard Rock
VANTAGE POINT
Buy this album from MMA partners
Highway Of Heroes Heavy Metal
SCREAMER
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Metal Online Videos

More videos

New MMA Metal Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions

More...

Latest Metal News

members-submitted

More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us

Buy Metal Music Online