As an upfront and centre disclaimer, I’m a HUGE fan of Phil Campbell. I know that for a lot of people, the trio of Fast Eddie, Philthy and Lemmy were their definitive Motorhead, but I really rather prefer the final line up of the dirty bastards. I never really think that Phil gets the applause that he’s due, as the second longest reigning member of Motorhead, but also really as an excellent guitarist in his own right. It’s exciting then to get the debut album from his new band – which rather excellently features his sons Todd (guitars), Dane (bass) and Tyla (drums), alongside Neil Starr on vocals.
Opener “Ringleader” is as proper statement of intent as you’re likely to hear in the immediate future, with a rollocking hard rock riff that gives way to an infectious hook-laden chorus full of swagger and whiskey-soaked guitar licks. The band have been on recent tours supporting the likes of Saxon and Guns n Roses, and The Bastard Sons fit neatly alongside those bands, with a sound that straddles the honest, blue collar metal grooves of Saxon and the sleazy hard rock of GNR. “Freak Show” arrives next, with a stripped back bass-driven main riff. In terms of the overall sound of the band, it’s heavily accented in general towards the nifty axe work that you might well be entitled to expect from Mr Campbell, and there’s a solo on this track that wouldn’t have been out of place from Motorhead’s seminal “1916” album. “Skin and Bones” is a more muscular affair, with a sound that’s so punchy with the bouncing main riff that might well induce concussion at a hundred yards. “Gypsy Kiss”, with a Ramones velocity and punky vibe brings a different feel to the proceedings, with a proper “I don’t care” attitude. “Welcome to Hell” might be the dud of the tracklist to my ears; it’s a fairly limp modern rocker that never really seems to go anywhere. “Dark Days” is a fittingly sinister slow-crawling blues-soaked number, complete with neat harmonica during the intro. It’s here that Neil Starr’s vocals have the most to do, and despite initially not really thinking his vocals were powerful enough to do the rest of the band justice, I eventually came to appreciate the subtlety in his traditional rock voice.
“Dropping the Needle” is rock and roll through and through, channelling the pure spirit of Motorhead’s naked love of the medium through a younger generation of musicians. “Step into the Fire” is a proper head-nodder, with some simple but infectious drum touches, while “Get on your knees” has a filthy sleaze feel to it, with a main chorus melody that’s going to stick in your mind for a long time. “High Rule” has more than a touch of the Orange Goblin to it, with a towering groove that tramples all before it. “Into the Dark” is a fitting album closer, with washes of organ adding some texture to the epic balladry. It’s essentially an 80’s power-ballad, and it doesn’t see why it should apologise to you for that; nor do I.
“The Age of Absurdity” manages to do a number of things really well. Firstly, as a vehicle for the talents of Phil Campbell, it provides eleven more classic tracks where we get to hear his mastery of the axe. It builds on his influences and signature sound with a band that knows how to connect to the best of the medium, while having a stack of energy and confidence that shouldn’t really be there for a band so new, and so young. I’ve yet to catch them live, sadly, but on this performance, I wouldn’t wonder that they’d give any hard rock or heavy metal band a proper run for their money. Great stuff.
(9/10 Chris Davison)