Review: Phil Campbell & the Bastard Sons – The Age of Absurdity

Much like James Bond and Doctor Who, there’s a line-up of Motörhead which was your Motörhead. For me, it was Mikkey Dee and Phil Campbell (and a grizzled, mutton-chopped man in black). Having properly gotten into Motörhead during their purple patch with Cameron Webb at the mixing desk, The Wörld is Yours was my Ace of Spades. Phil Campbell has featured on some of my favourite Motörhead songs and had he packed his gear up and not given the world another song, it would have been a loss for music.

Thankfully, Campbell has rounded up his sons (Todd, Dane and Tyla – guitar, drums and bass, respectively) and Neil Starr (vocals) to continue the hard rock goodness with The Age of Absurdity. It’s not some ham-fisted attempt to continue Motörhead’s legacy nor is it a complete departure. Instead, it’s Campbell having fun and doing what he does best as well as flexing his muscles. There’s variation to the music but at the heart of it all, it’s still unmistakably Phil Campbell.

Hard, dirty riffs are rightly front and centre which squeal and crunch in only the way Phil Campbell can deliver them and make their presence right from the start with “Ringleader”. With a second guitar in the mix, Campbell Sr trades licks with Todd who proves he can keep up with dad. It’s clear he’s been an influence on him musically as he provides his own chunky riffs to wrap around them. Meanwhile, Tyla’s bass lines are so heavy, they come dangerously close to climbing out of the speakers and bashing your head in.

Following it up is “Freak Show” to make an excellent one-two punch of an opener and proves Campbell and his Bastard Sons aren’t messing around. With its chunky bluesy opening riff, it’s not dissimilar to AC/DC’s “Girls Got Rhythm”, and while it does sound like the Highway to Hell number on steroids, you can still picture a denim-clad Kirriemuir man belting this out as he gargles gravel. “Skin and Bones” goes in the complete opposite direction and with its chugging riff and Dane’s bombastic drums, sounds like something you’d hear from a band inspired by today’s modern day titans like Alter Bridge, Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry, etc.

Meanwhile, “Dark Days” doubles down on the blues vibe becoming far more sludgy and injecting it with a healthy dose of Southern sensibility to give a Clutch vibe. Actually, that’d be one hell of a tour, wouldn’t it? “Dropping the Needle” and “Step into the Fire” revert the album back to the normal service established with the opening two tracks and between the pair of them are probably the best representations of the band’s sound with their no-nonsense hard rock sound. “High Rule” acts as the title track as it puts politicians under the microscope with its hook of “Welcome to a new part of history – the age of absurdity” and while it may not be quite as poetic as Lemmy ever managed, you can imagine it prompting a wry grin from him.

Featuring as a bonus song is “Silver Machine”. Yes, that one you’re thinking of – which is essentially where it all started for Lemmy. The Hawkwind classic (and ironically their most successful single) has been reworked to sound like it was a Motörhead song and even features Dave Brock lending his guitar and vocal talents to the track. Whilst it may not feature on this review copy, it was played on tour with Airbourne and became a completely new beast in this form and one of the highlights in a set full of great songs.

I’ve been looking forward to this album for quite some time now and I promised I wouldn’t mention Motörhead and instead judge the album on its own merits. But it became glaringly obvious that would be impossible. This album manages to successfully stand on its own two feet and is good enough that I’d want to find more material from Phil Campbell if I was unaware of his past efforts. Miraculously, by trying not to be a re-hash of Motörhead and experimenting with styles, Campbell and his sons have not only managed to fill the void left behind but have also made something brand new. We may only be at Blue Monday and a wealth of great albums on the horizon but we may already have a contender for the best album of 2018.

The Age of Absurdity is released on 26th January on [amazon text=CD&asin=B077JHFSPM], [amazon text=digital download&asin=B077GHNKJX] and [amazon text=vinyl&asin=B077JHDX8P].

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November 16, 2020 7:31 PM

[…] an irrefutable fact – 2018’s Age of Absurdity was about the furthest away an album could be from being classed as a vanity project, given the […]