I like Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons. I like them a hell of a lot. Honest, with plenty of blood, sweat, and tears poured into each release, they are ageing like fine wine. Hard-working, they are a cohesive unit who smash it every time I see them live. And now, they’ve released a career-best album in the shape of Kings Of The Asylum.
Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons – Kings of the Asylum (Nuclear Blast)
Release Date: 1 September 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
It was late 2020 when sophomore release, We’re The Bastards, saw the light of day. Except there wasn’t much light in those strange times, and it’s taken a long time for Phil and the boys to exorcize those ghosts.
Playing live is the very lifeblood of this band, and whilst we loved the new album, the lack of opportunity to see the songs live was damaging. Of course, since things returned to normality, the band have been almost constantly on the road. Their 2023 itinerary has been something to behold.
But in between all that, they’ve also managed to craft their most mature album to date. Kings Of The Asylum is a stunning album in every respect. It marks the recording debut of singer Joel Peters, who joins Phil and sons Dane, Tyler, and Todd in an 11-track release which contains very little that isn’t top-drawer.
For a man who did it all with Motörhead over 35 years, it’s particularly pleasing that Phil is so happy with the album. He has nothing to prove, after all. “It’s been a great experience writing this album alongside Joel and the rest of my lads,” he told us. “We’ve come up with some monstrous riffs and hooks for your listening pleasure. We can’t wait to play some of these songs at some of our old favourite towns and cities and visit some new places too.”
He’s not wrong. The sound is huge. From the opening burst of Walking In Circles, the drive of the first single Schizophrenia through to the potty-mouthed ending of Maniac, this is PCATBS at full bore. It’s high in energy, high in anthemic songs, and high in every respect.
And regardless of what you think and feel, to me, the spirit of Lemmy remains present, guiding Tyler’s thumping bass lines and the overall direction of the music. There remains a rock ‘n’ roll swagger that underpins everything the lads do. Grab the groove of the second single, Hammer And Dance, or the punch of Show No Mercy, and I defy you not to nod your head along.
Peters’ debut is nothing short of jaw-dropping. He oozes confidence and impresses throughout with his prowess. He handles everything with an ease that only comes from heavy touring. He’s got the chops to bring it on every song and has just the right level of aggression to fire these songs through.
He’s clearly pleased with the results. “I’ve had great fun working on this album alongside Phil and the boys,” he says, “and this is an album I am immensely proud of! Looking forward to everyone hearing it and touring these songs for the first time! We’ve got some definite bangers here!”
And there are bangers, for sure. The heads-down power of Schizophrenia, Too Much Is Never Enough, and Maniac are all in-your-face piledrivers designed to get things moving.
But there is also plenty of subtlety here, with some pleasingly varied writing to enjoy. The clever Strike The Match is infectious. The title track has a smouldering blues vibe that allows the band to slow it down a little and sees Peters deliver a measured performance, whilst Phil’s guitar work is sublime.
Whilst this is a definitive band, they would never want to lose the association with Motörhead. And they ensure that the tie with Lemmy and Co remains with The Hunt and No Guts! No Glory! Both songs could sit on any Motörhead album with their powerful feel.
And like any good album, there is a delicious, curved ball that grabs you on every play. Here, it is Ghosts that does the trick here. It’s a real grower, one that has a sublime melody and quality performances from all.
It’s got a luscious hook that lingers long in the memory and a dark, brooding flavour that casts a sinister shadow. For me, it’s the standout track on an album that has no chinks in the armour whatsoever.
Whilst The Age Of Absurdity and We’re The Bastards are a crucial part of the band’s discography, Kings Of The Asylum sees PCATBS elevate themselves to another level completely.
A shoo-in for one of my albums of the year, without a doubt.