Warfare – The Lemmy Sessions (3CD Set)


Perfectly melding metal aggression to punk attitude, Warfare was so far ahead of the curve that time is just catching up, and their influence can still be heard in various strands of extreme metal from death to hardcore via crossover thrash. So, when, in 1985, Motôrhead’s Lemmy was coerced into producing their sophomore album Metal Anarchy, the result was a marriage made in rock n’ roll heaven (or a punky purgatory) and the original mix gets its first release as part of The Lemmy Sessions. Also included is a newly updated version of Metal Anarchy, along with a third disc containing two contemporary EP’s, making this the perfect snapshot of a truly ground-breaking album.

Disc One: The Lemmy Sessions (Metal Anarchy: The Lemmy Mix)

While it’s certainly true that you can’t judge a book by a cover (or a record by its sleeve), never in the history of music has a band been more appropriately-titled than the North East’s finest, Warfare. The sound of a not-too-distant apocalypse, they delivered an earth-shaking rumble that still smokes most of what passes for metal today. So, when bass-monster Mr. Kilmister was brought in to produce Metal Anarchy, an ear-popping extravaganza was promised and that’s exactly what it delivers. Ripped from the original cassette, this disc comes with a disclaimer about the limitations of the source material and while there are a few blemishes, it captures the true essence Warfare. They were never about a crystalline sound; there’s plenty of dirt under the fingernails, which is always a more intriguing proposition, and The Lemmy Sessions are as gritty as you like.

If they did drop the nuclear bomb in 1985, then I’m sure they’d find Lemmy and Warfare somewhere in the rubble and banging out ‘Psycho Express’. Following the cassette’s running order, it makes for an opener that bursts from your speakers like a runaway train (the Orgasmatron?) and it rarely lets up over thirty furious minutes. Vocalist and drummer Evo was one of the few who could match Lemmy’s hard-living lifestyle, he hits the skins equally hard and this mix brings the rhythm section to the fore, often dwarfing Gunnar’s guitar. This focus on the bass and drums turns each song into a well-aimed punch, yet for all their brute force, Warfare never loses sight of melody or song structure and there’s a swing and a groove underpinning many of these tracks. It’s a delight to hear Lemmy’s gruff growl from the mixing desk, but if you only know the finalised, 1985 version of Metal Anarchy, prepare to have your minds (and eardrums) blown.

Disc Two: Metal Anarchy (1985)

The term ‘power trio’ is often thrown around with reckless abandon, but in the case of Warfare, it was an apt description. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the bombastic sound emanating from this disc was produced by just three people, yet Metal Anarchy is akin to a Panzer Division rolling across the Steppes. The use of serene music to precede a musical blitzkrieg is not a new trick but its never been employed so well as the bastardisation of The Sound Of Music that heralds the arrival of ‘Electric Mayhem’. It’s the perfect one-two punch that leaves you in no doubt of the approaching storm. This version of Metal Anarchy is far more nuanced that the first disc and employs far more light and shade; Warfare are still an unstoppable steamroller yet the solitary guitar at the start of ‘Wrecked Society’ adds texture and relief.

Lemmy’s production shows a great maturity; he hasn’t tinkered with the band’s sound too much; this is essentially the same Warfare who released Pure Filth the previous year but there’s a few nice touches here and there which move the band forward. The effects at the tail end of the eponymous ‘Warfare’ add an eerie atmosphere while those on the aforementioned ‘Wrecked Society’ ensures it gallops like classic Maiden at full pelt. That Motörhead connection is further enhanced with the appearance of guitarist Würzel on the explosive title track, and that’s where Metal Anarchy works best; when it’s thrashing at a furious pace (which is 99% of the time). ‘Psycho Express’ made a great opener on the first disc, and it makes an equally good closer on the second. Metal Anarchy by name, metal anarchy by nature.

Disc Three: Two Tribes 12” (1984) / Total Death EP (1985)

The history of heavy metal is littered with unusual cover versions, some good (Tank’s ‘Crazy Horses’), some not so (Xentrix’s ‘Ghostbusters’). Warfare’s take on Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Two Tribes’ is firmly in the first category, and was the title track of their 1984 12”. Apparently, this cover caused a lot of consternation in the Frankie camp (which I took to be a good sign) and it’s easy to hear why; Warfare take a familiar song, dismantle it, and then rebuild it in their own image (which is how all covers should be handled). It was such an attention-grabbing, bowel-loosening version that not only dwarfed Frankie’s version, but it overshadowed the other two tracks on the 12” (like a mushroom cloud).

The Total Death EP followed the Metal Anarchy album later in ‘85 and, weirdly enough, opened with an elongated version of ‘Metal Anarchy’. It seems strange that the band would release another version so soon after the album, and especially as the lead track on a new EP. After the pyrotechnics of the preceding release, Total Death falls a little flat, a situation not helped by Algy Ward’s muddy production. Tracks such as ‘Destroy’ are given a stagnant sound and it only serves to highlight how difficult Warfare were to capture on tape (and, by extension, what a great job Lemmy did). Overall, Total Death feels a bit rushed and is riding on the coattails of Metal Anarchy. However, things end on a high note with an apocalyptic (and aptly-titled) ‘From Hell’ mix of ‘Two Tribes’.

Rare and unseen photographs, linear notes featuring band leader Evo and, of course, three tracks of the very best skull-crushing music makes this the definitive version of a definitive album.

Track List:

Disc One: The Lemmy Sessions (Metal Anarchy: The Lemmy Mix)

  1. Psycho Express
  2. Disgrace
  3. Death Vigilance
  4. Metal Anarchy
  5. Living For The Last Days
  6. Electric Mayhem
  7. Warfare
  8. Military Shadow
  9. Wrecked Society

Disc Two: Metal Anarchy (1985)

  1. Intro
  2. Electric Mayhem
  3. Warfare
  4. Death Vigilance
  5. Wrecked Society
  6. Living For The Last Days
  7. Disgrace
  8. Military Shadow
  9. Metal Anarchy
  10. Psycho Express

Disc Three: Two Tribes 12” (1984) / Total Death EP (1985)

Two Tribes:

  1. Two Tribes
  2. Hell
  3. Blown To Bits

Total Death:

  1. Metal Anarchy
  2. Burning Up
  3. Rape
  4. Destroy

Bonus Track:

  1. Two Tribes (From Hell Mix)


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