March Or Die
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/19/2017
By the end of 1991, Motörhead could probably hardly believe their luck. They had finally attracted the attention of a major label, and despite being put on a small division of Sony Music, they had the backing of one of the big boys for the first time in their history. Their previous album 1916 had received some of the best reviews they ever experienced. And, to top things off, they found themselves nominated for a Grammy.
But, as Lemmy Kilmister and crew knew all too well in their career, what goes up has to come down… hard. First, Kilmister was faced with the sad duty of firing drummer “Philthy Animal” Taylor, though the reasons will differ depending on who you talk to. Then, somehow trying to craft an album that would break them through to mainstream popularity, they came up with March Or Die, which paired Motörhead up with such hard rock/heavy metal names as Slash and Ozzy Osbourne… and found that their label support dried up faster than an ice cube in the Sahara desert.
The end result turns out to be one of the worst albums Motörhead ever did in their career… but there are just enough redeeming moments to keep this one from being relegated to the trash (though, honestly, it's the one I listen to the least).
Let's start with the strengths. The highlight of this disc – and what everyone seems to agree should have been Motörhead's first American hit single – is “I Ain't No Nice Guy,” a duet with Osbourne featuring Slash on the guitar solo. Yes, it's a departure for the band – but, dammit, it works! A perfect mixture of gentle guitar and piano (!!!) lines, Kilmister's surprisingly subtle (if a tad scratchy – but, hell, that was Lemmy anyway) vocals, and the bridge which rattles your teeth, this song – to me, at least, rivals “Ace Of Spades” as being the ultimate Motörhead composition.
Also noteworthy is Motörhead's take on “Hellraiser,” a track Kilmister originally co-wrote with Osbourne and Zakk Wylde. I'm not going to sit here and say whose version is better, as each one has its own unique qualities… but I will say that Kilmister and crew handle this one very well, almost as if it was their own song.
And then, things absolutely fall apart. For starters, who in the hell thought a cover of Ted Nugent's “Cat Scratch Fever” was a good idea, especially for a band featuring a prolific songwriter such as Kilmister? In fact, the whole first half of the album (save for “I Ain't No Nice Guy”) nosedives. From the opening blandness of “Stand” to the forced jauntiness of “Jack The Ripper,” there is almost nothing noteworthy about the first few songs to save it from the scrap heap.
While March Or Die does redeem itself with “I Ain't No Nice Guy” and “Hellraiser” (and, to a lesser extent, “Asylum Choir”), the damage done is too great to be overcome. “You Better Run” might have been a better fit on a different album, but it just sinks into the muck here, while the title track almost tries to recapture the sinister feel of “Nightmare/The Dreamtime” off of 1916, but just doesn't have the chops to do so.
So what happened? The truth is, we'll never know. Did Kilmister somehow try to grab the brass ring of popularity by making a more commercial-sounding album, thus destroying the credibility they had built up for over 15 years? Was the band pressured into putting out this shitstain by a label who would then turn tail and refuse to promote it, due to changes in the front office and a shift in their promotion priorities? Or would it just have been a bad album, no matter what the circumstances?Whatever the case, while there are still a few songs worth your time and attention on this one, March Or Die is a disc which seems to demand the listener choose an option… and, as much as it pains me to say it, death seemed like the better choice.