Motorjesus – Hellbreaker Review

In one of my previous lives, I used to be a mechanic. I’ve worked on everything from gas to diesel, muscle cars to big rigs, forklifts to farm tractors. Working on vehicles until blood meets grease is one of my favorite things. Hitting the road is also a great time. Not to mention that driving is the only way I get to see the little Griers. Windshield time also gives me the chance to re-explore my favorite albums. I rarely listen to new promos on the road. This time is dedicated to albums from the Road Gods. Give me something bluesy, something rocking, something upbeat, something I can blare with windows down and my foot inching closer to the floor. Give me something I can scream at the top of my lungs and shift gears to. The simpler, the better. The groovier, the sweeter. 

Enter Jesus. Not the Easter one. I’m talking about Motorjesus. With over fifteen years of road tunes under their belt, these German rockers have it down to a science. Combining Load and Re-Load-era Metallica and bluesy Brand New Sin with Down-ish groove and AC/DC simplicity, these boys are my blacktop in the desert. Twenty-eleven’s Dirty Pounding Gasoline is their highest point and an album that my oldest truck appreciates greatly. But, the filler has begun to creep into their records. Is Hellbreaker another gasoline guzzler, or will your neighbor’s Tesla zap it?

Motorjesus‘ “Howling” Birx has also lost some of his Hetfield gruff and Anselmo crooning. Oddly enough, many of the choruses of Hellbreaker and Race to Resurrection before it, give off Stu Block-era Iced Earth vibes. You can hear this oddity in songs like “Dead Rising” and “Lawgiver.” Both songs seem fitting for Iced Earth. The first one could be the zombie movie track of the doubtful Horror Show 2, and the Judge Dredd-themed “Lawgiver” would be perfect for Dystopia. But, I digress. Both tracks are fun in their own right—simple as Ragu spaghetti sauce, with catchy choruses. This is the main feature of Hellbreaker: find the songs with the best choruses, and you’ll find the best songs. In this case, the best choruses are “Firebreather,” “Hellbreaker,” and “Car Wars.” The first has a big chorus, but we all know bigger isn’t better unless done right. And, “Firebreather” delivers. “Car Wars” and the title track follow a predictable verse-chorus-verse-chorus-slow-interlude-biggest-chorus-yet type of formula, but they’re the catchiest numbers on the record. And a lot of their road-worn success is due to their layered vocals.

On the flip side, the band’s poppiness is getting too extreme. Songs like “Battlezone” and “Beyond the Grave” are borderline radio hits. But not always in the best way. The latter is so poppy and rock ‘n’ roll oriented that it would share a late-night college “metal” radio show with Nickelback. These tracks aren’t bad, but they don’t sit well next to the band’s previous material. The other thing is the band’s love for acoustic contrasts. The last couple of songs on the album have short sections of clean or acoustic guitars, with the closer being a two-minute acoustic guitar outro. On an album like Dirty Pounding Gasoline, it worked. But here, it sounds forced and out-of-place.

If we were to rate Road Metal albums from ripping around mountain roads in a 1969 Oldsmobile 442 to backing into another car in a retirement community parking lot with a 1983 Plymouth Reliant, Hellbreaker is cruising a straight patch of asphalt in a beat-up 1999 Chrysler 300M. You look cooler than you would in a 1977 Chevy Chevette, but you bought a four-door sedan for the fam that eats more gas than a full-size pickup. It’s not your fault. It’s Chrysler: the king of fuel inefficiency. Plus, it looked better than a Chrysler Voyager. But when I’m passing you on a double yellow in a 2007 Pontiac Vibe, you know you’re not quite the king of the road. Hellbreaker has the band’s classic elements, but they’re playing it safe. Not that they’ve ever gone off the beaten track, like your dickhead older brother climbing rocks in his once-restored 1974 Ford Bronco, but Motorjesus has done some pretty fun stuff. This new album is pretty much the middle of the road.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: AFM Records
Websites: motorjesus.com | facebook.com/motorjesus
Releases Worldwide: April 9th, 2021

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