For anyone not of this planet, Phil Campbell was the lead guitarist with Motorhead for over 30 years until the death of frontman Lemmy in 2015, which was no mean accomplishment in the hard-rocking band. In doing so, Campbell moved himself into legendary status and no one could have blamed him if he had decided to take things easy, but instead in 2016, he formed Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons, releasing their debut album The Age Of Absurdity (which is a superb album itself and features Campbell’s three sons in the band also) in 2018.
But Campbell has had an idea for some 20 years or more that he has been mulling over – he wanted to put out a solo album which also enabled him to bring a few friends in on vocals. Now someone with the stature of Campbell could have bought in a whole raft of famous frontmen, but instead he has gone for a mixture of not only living legends but also lesser-known singers to give us Old Lions Still Roar and it’s good…..in fact, it’s very good. I make no secret of the fact that I have been looking forward to hearing this record for some time and it didn’t let me down.
Campbell throws a curveball to start us off, leading us in with Rocking Chair, an acoustic track with a hint of country, which is stripped back to allow Campbell’s playing and fellow Welshman Leon Stanford’s vocals to take the spotlight and it really works. This is a biographical track about Campbell’s life and includes a nod to his former Motorhead friend when Stanford sings “I want my best friend back, just to play it one more time, playing in a rocking band”.
‘Straight Up’ sees Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford join the proceedings and the result is as different to the first track as it is possible to get. From the outset, you get a grinding riff that will be in your head for the rest of the day, alongside the thumping beat and Halford’s instantly recognizable vocal. ‘Faith In Fire’ is an even a harder rock track with Ben Ward (Orange Goblin) taking the frontman’s spot, but even with all these friends around, there is no danger of Campbell being overshadowed and he is still there on every track, in this case with a series of anthemic riffs.
‘Swing It’ just oozes energy as it drives through your brain at 90 miles an hour with fierce riffing, an explosive drum beat and of course the king of shock rock, Alice Cooper, who is a perfect fit. The vocals and lead guitar trade blows throughout with Campbell wielding his axe until it all comes to a sudden stop. Mesmerizing. Exhausted for a brief moment I sat back and just took in ‘Left For Dead’ but there was no let-up as Campbell continued to fly the flag for Welsh rock when Nev McDonald stepped up to lend his voice to the slower, almost ballad, track. This is the track of the album for me and my God does it have some competition. Out of all the quality on this record the Skin frontman gives us a stunning vocal performance, whilst the track has a hint of gospel and more of Campbell’s breathtaking playing, wrapped together in an incredible track.
I was barely able to get my breath back before we were into ‘Walk The Talk’ which again takes us off in another direction whilst still retaining that hard rock sound, as Campbell is joined by Nick Oliveri (ex-Kyuss), Danko Jones and Ray Luzier (Korn), before the pace is picked up once again with ‘These Old Boots’ which throws us back to the eighties with a real nostalgic sound – no surprise then that lauded ex-Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider guests on this, rolling back the years and giving a performance that fits the track perfectly.
There are so many high points in this record, but what stands out is that every one of the tracks seems to be written with the singer in mind as each plays to the strength of the vocalist whilst allowing Campbell’s playing to shine through. With son Todd producing in addition to playing guitar and other sons Tyla (bass) and Dane (drums) also appearing, you get the feeling that everyone knew exactly what Dad was trying to achieve and what their job was – and then they nailed it.
As we move into the final third of the album Whitfield Crane (Ugly Kid Joe) fronts the band as shredding riffs and pounding drums from all things Campbell, rip it up behind him on the meaty ‘Danger Dogs (Love Survives)’ before we slow down for ‘Dead Roses’, with Benji Webbe (Skindred) leading from the front over a calming piano-led track, which once again shows us a different, softer side to Campbell.
The final track returns to where we started, with a curveball. ‘Tears From A Glass Eye’ is as different as what you would expect as can be, where Campbell is joined by Joe Satriani and together they produce a nostalgic acoustic track, which allows us to hear the versatility of Campbell’s playing whilst gently sparring with Satriani. Talking about the guitar Campbell says “It is such a special, exciting instrument”, he raves. “You can take it as far as you want as long as you know what you’re doing.” On this album he does just that, not only mixing vocalists but also musical styles and the result is an outstanding record. It’s been over 20 years in the making and it’s been worth the wait.
Old Lions Still Roar is released on Nuclear Blast on 25 October 2019
Reviewed by: Howard Whitelaw
Tracklisting and musicians
- ‘Rocking Chair’ (feat. Leon Standford (vocals), Todd Campbell (guitar), Will Davies (bass)
- ‘Straight Up’ (feat. Rob Halford (vocals), Tyla Campbell (bass), Dane Campbell (drums)
- ‘Faith In Fire’ (feat. Ben Ward (vocals), Tim Atkinson (bass), Robyn Griffith (drums)
- ‘Swing It’ (feat. Alice Cooper (vocals), Chuck Garric (bass), Dane Campbell (drums)
- ‘Left For Dead’ (feat. Nev MacDonald (vocals), Mark King (bass), Danny Owen (keyboard), Tyla Campbell (acoustic guitar), Dane Campbell (Drums)
- ‘Walk The Talk’ (feat. Nick Oliveri (vocals, bass), Danko Jones (voc.), Ray Luzier (Drums)
- ‘These Old Boots’ (feat. Dee Snider (voc.), Mick Mars (guitar), Chris Fehn (Drums), Todd Campbell (guitar)
- ‘Dancing Dogs (Love Survives)’ (feat. Whitfield Crane (voc.), Tyla Campbell (bass), Dane Campbell (drums)
- ‘Dead Roses’ (feat. Benji Webbe (vocals), Will Davies (bass), Matt Sorum (drums)
- ‘Tears From A Glass Eye’ (feat. Joe Satriani)
Produced by Todd Campbell
Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons – Old Lions Still Tour upcoming tour dates
29/10/2019 – Sugarmill, Stoke
30/10/2019 – Classic Grand, Glasgow
1/11/2019 – Rebellion, Manchester
2/11/2019 – The Dome, London
3/11/2019 – Epic Studios, Norwich
4/11/2019 – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
6/11/2019 – Engine Rooms, Southampton
7/11/2019 – KK’S Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
8/11/2019 – Phoenix, Exteter
9/11/2019 – Tramshed, Cardiff–