VERSUS: Overkill vs. Ace of Spades

VERSUS: Overkill vs. Ace of Spades

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them, and see which one was the better record.

In this edition of Versus, we are doing an internal battle this time around with one of the most legendary bands in hard rock and heavy metal, the legendary Motörhead. Fronted by the icon Lemmy Kilmister and formed in 1975, the band would inspire countless metal icons like Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Slipknot and Napalm Death. Motörhead would release a total of twenty three albums in the band's forty year career. Today, we are going to tackle what the fans and critics have cited as the band's two best albums. So raise your horns to this famous act and salute the legendary Lemmy in this matchup I'm calling "A Battle Between Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers".

In this corner, we have the band's second album in 1979's Overkill. Considered a huge improvement in sound and quality from the band's debut two years prior. Critics praised the album as the band's best record at the time and one of the best records in heavy metal history today. Combining the driving energy and speed of punk rock, with the heaviness of heavy metal, this would become the band's trademark sound and some would say be perfected on the album that is their opponent today. A sound that would become influential to acts like Girlschool, High on Fire and Midnight.

The album opens with Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor's driving kick drum on the title track, then Lemmy's guttural bass and sliding guitar by "Fast" Eddie Clarke starts the song. Lemmy's trademark gravelly, gritty vocals kick the song off. The pounding double bass just punches through the driving guitar and dirty bass tone. The gravely, sore throat sounding yell of the song's title sounds rough and war-torn and it sounds so good, especially in this mix. The ringing guitars of Clarke aren't super prominent on the track, until he gets a nice guitar solo before the halfway mark. With an unstoppable pace, the song is just pedal to the metal classic heavy metal. I love the fake-out after the halfway mark when you think it's gonna end. Before that driving kick drum and bass comes roaring back as one hell of a psyche out, going into another heavy and wailing solo by Clarke, with again another fake-out for one more sprint to the finish line of the song. Great opening track. "Stay Clean" has another reverb-heavy drum opening. A very Thin Lizzy-like guitar riff, with Lemmy's vocals dripping in chorus and reverb. The guitars have a heavy-Wah like effect, adding a 70's feel amidst the pulsing bounce of the drums by Taylor. Lemmy's bass plays prominent and heavy after the halfway mark in a nice, upbeat and aggressive solo. "I Won't Pay Your Price" has a fun tempo, almost 50's sounding guitar riff, with the band playing a very uptempo, high energy track. The beat is instantly head bobbing and makes you want to drum along to Taylor. With a groove to the bass and guitar, along with the pounding drum hits, its a nice mix and leans more towards the hard rock sound of the band, rather than the heavy metal sound we know the band for. The opening "I'll Be Your Sister" has that retro, nostalgic 70's style riff with the pummeling and front-heavy sound of Lemmy's bass, delivering his gravelly vocals on the track. I like the groove in the bass underlying the wailing, KISS like guitar solo on the track after the halfway mark.

"Capricorn" has a very cavernous drum opening with ringing guitars and pulsing bass throughout the opening. The song slows down on the vocals, with just the drums leading the charge of the track. Lemmy's vocals have more oomph in the delivery, with little accents of reverb and delay on the chorus. A more experimental sounding track so far, playing with progressive elements popular from Lemmy's previous band Hawkwind. The experimentation works for the band, where it does have that spacey 70's prog rock kind of sound you might hear on a Rush song, but heavier and brooding, fitting the band's persona. I LOVE the opening of "No Class". Instantly makes me think of "School's Out" by Alice Cooper in it's energy, drive and earworm guitar riff. Drums are pounding and heavy in the mix, adding the punch to the bass throughout the verses. I love the dueling guitars into the solo at the halfway mark, with Lemmy and Taylor amping up the pulse of the track and making it an instant headbanger.

"Damage Case" has a pulsing, classic Lemmy bass tone in the opening. His vocals again soaked in reverb, showcasing his grit in his vocals. Featuring another catchy, earworm riff by Clarke. Motörhead are the KINGS of that classic straightforward heavy metal style sound. They deliver that nostalgic sound, no frills, just right to the point heavy metal. While also adding groove and punch to the song at the same time. The opening driving bass of "Tear Ya Down" has a driving drum section, matching the bass and fretboard hopping of Clarke. A classic, toe-tapper head banger of a track, with the sound heavy in bass and pounding drums. I also love Lemmy's scream near the three quarter's mark since you don't usually hear him scream like that on releases. "Metropolis" has an eerie guitar riff opener, with accenting bass behind it. Opening in a very, sludge metal style riff that would sound like a great Down song. The guitar solo is nice in-between Lemmy's devil may care attitude in the vocal delivery. Taylor's short drum solo, before going into the second guitar solo and accompaniment by Lemmy's bass. was a nice combo of the band gelling well together on the track. The album's closer "Limb From Limb" has a HEAVY bass mix in the opening. Lemmy's bass rings high and loud in the song. I love the groove of the song. Taylor's in-the-pocket drumming, with Lemmy's high-toned, grounded bass adds such a great rhythm section behind Clarke on the track. The up-tempo feeling at the halfway mark, shows the band wanting to end fast and strong, with Clarke wailing and shredding all the way to the end. A strong closing track for the album.

It's opponent is the band's fourth album Ace of Spades, released in 1980. This would be the band's commercial breakthrough and would be the band's most successful album. Peaking at number four on the UK album charts and reached gold status the following year. Ace of Spades has also been cited as an influence in the early stages of the thrash metal genre, which Metallica has cited as an influence as well as a fan of the band. How does Ace of Spades compete against it's opponent today?

The album opens with the legendary bass line of the title track. A pummeling drum strike by Taylor and ringing guitars by Clarke. You are instantly hooked with the opening of the song and especially with Lemmy's bass and vocal delivery of the lyrics during the furious drumming. The part where the music drops and vocals just hit so good and give me goosebumps, especially when Lemmy yells "and don't forget the joker" before the guitar solo. An instant metal classic that can't be said what already hasn't been said. A lot of people's first introduction to the band and potentially the band's best song. Following that track is "Love Me Like A Reptile". With an aggressive, bluesy guitar tone and riff, the song goes into a chuggy riff wth Lemmy adding the chug and gurgly bass to the song. His vocals have such volume in the mix, with him singing louder then on Overkill and has more clarity in his vocals. The song was a tough act to follow compared to the opening title track, but it continues the energy and punch the band wants on this record. "Shoot You in The Back" has a drum heavy punch in the mix in the opening. The riff is catchy, adding a gritty undertone behind Lemmy's classic vocals. The bass again adds a great groove to the song, along with Taylor's drums. I love the reverb and chorus effects on his vocals during the chorus. Clarke gives a nice, strong and all over the place guitar solo, matching the intensity and fun of the song.

Following that track is "Live To Win". With a distorted bass opening, the riff and the drums kick the up-tempo track off. I love the rising guitars in the mix going into the chorus with random, louder guitar strikes. Accompanied with Lemmy's bass throughout it, it is an instant headbang along track with the riff and drums. Another great solo by Clarke, that gets in/gets out perfectly for the theme and feel of the song. The band is a lot faster and more aggressive in tone, finally cementing the sound that the band would be known for with this album. On "Fast and Loose", we get an opening riff, similar in the vein of Ted Nugent, but it fits the song with Taylor's drumming, which is very strong and prominent. Lemmy's bravado and machismo lyrics and delivery is trademark Motörhead, and fits the sleazy energy of the song.

Another classic track from this album is "(We Are) The Road Crew". With a start/stop opening guitar/bass combo, the drums lead the charge, along with the driving distorted bass. I love the energy and lyrics of the life of a rock band, delivered by a man who has lived that life and has stories to tell. Clarke's wailing guitar solo playing makes me think of Ace Frehley in his playing and style on the song. That pounding snare hit on Taylor's kit just cuts through so well, adding a relentless punching feeling with every hit throughout the song and in the mix. A true classic from the band. "Fire, Fire" has another atmospheric, ringing guitar opening the track, before we are back to the races of the song's up-tempo pace. I love Lemmy's vocals along with the gang vocals on the chorus. Something new in the band's sound on this album, and I love that. The drum solo into the guitar solo at the halfway mark is a BEAUTIFUL transition and continues the driving aggression of the song.

With "Jailbait", we get a 80's sounding opening guitar tone and riff. Lemmy's vocals are competing with the guitars on the track, but it is such a relentless track in its punch from the drums and the guitars, I don't mind it too much. Yea, the lyrics are a little "cringe" looking back at them now, but the riff and driving double bass on the guitar solo are really heavy and impactful. "Dance" has that bouncy, 50's dance style riff and play style that was more common on certain tracks of Overkill, but with better production and more forward guitar solos this time around. "Bite The Bullet" starts with a start/stop bass opening before the drums kick the door in with the opening verse. I love the groove of the bass as the guitars ring out in-between the chorus and verse section. It instantly makes me wanna pick up a bass and learn that riff. The song flies by, but is still a great song. "The Chase is Better Than The Catch" instantly reminds me of KISS in the song's guitar playing and bass sound. It has that energy, tone and feel of KISS, but Lemmy's trademark gritty vocals along with the riff, adds a sleaze to the song that the band does so well with their sound and it works. Making the song stand out as its own. The album closer "The Hammer" has a POUNDING drum intro with fast guitar playing. A proto-speed metal sound in its format, the song is just going 100 miles an hour off a cliff and laughing all the way. An unmatched energy, speed and intensity in the song. A great closer to this amazing record in heavy metal history.

The band's entire member listing throughout the band's entire career

After listening to these two, which one would I declare the winner of these two iconic and influential records? This is truly a tough call. Both records are impressive in their musicianship. Both records are different and pivotal times in the band's career. In my opinion, I would choose Ace of Spades as the winner. Overkill is my number two out of all of the band's discography, but Ace of Spades was just Motörhead finally perfecting their sound, image, swagger and legacy that would go on for the rest of the band's 40 year career. Overkill has some great songs on it and I do agree is one of the band's best records, but for me, Ace of Spades is the winner of this matchup of two legendary releases in Motörhead's history.

Motörhead would consistently tour and release music following these releases. The band's final album would be 2015's Bad Magic, which received positive reviews from the fanbase. During the tour supporting the album, Kilmister began to have trouble health wise, which affected his performance with the band live, sometimes cutting the set short after a couple songs. He was hospitalized for a lung infection in 2015. Kilmister would tragically pass away in December that same year. His cause of death, according to LA County coroner, was from prostate cancer, cardiac arrhtymia and congestive heart failure. Motörhead would disband following the death of Kilmister. The band and Kilmister's legacy lives on as not only one of the faces of heavy metal, but a band that lived and breathed what heavy metal was all about.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VS: Overkill vs. Ace of Spades - Online Poll - StrawPoll
What’s your opinion? Vote now: Overkill, Ace of Spades…

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