Even allowing for the inevitable hiatus that all 1980s bands seemed to have to undergo by law, it’s a fair bet that if you have managed to make albums for 35 years then (to paraphrase Motorhead) you know what you are doing and you can do it pretty well.
The trouble with landmarks like that, though, is well…they need marking. Germany’s Mad Max choose to do this in typically unfussy fashion. On “Thirty 5” the near title track– which comes about halfway through – hits the nail on the head and no mistake. “We are fucking 35,” sings Michael Voss, “and on we ride.” And nothing encapsulates the album better than that, to be fair.
If that is the centrepiece, then it arguably vies for importance in the great scheme of things with the closing “Paris Is Burning” which is a cover of the Dokken song and – although they have put their own stamp on it – the message is clear: Don is a huge influence.
Whether it was because this album marked the passing of time, or maybe the stars just aligned, but it would be fair to say “35” is one of the finest albums of their already excellent career.
Mad Max have always been a band that suckered you in to thinking they were one thing before delivering something else entirely. “35” begins with a solo “The Hutch” is a glorious intro too, before “Running To Paradise” dusts off its old Saxon collection and polishes off some very early Motley riffs to deliver something that is resolutely true to itself.
“Beat Of The Heart” is a superb slice of AOR – the 10-year-old Bon Jovi fan that still lurks in me is excited by the fact this could have gone on one of their first two albums – the modern world is taken to task on “D.A.M.N” which is a highlight anD proof that Voss is a damn fine guitarist, and if you aren’t nodding your head to the double kick drum masterclass and soaring chorus combo of “Snowdance” then in truth this album isn’t for you.
There are some who love to hear the avant-garde,the rest of us kinda like something that is fresh but familiar. “Familiar” sounds like FM do when they’re being crunchy, but the magic of Mad Max has always been that they weren’t just AN Other melodic rock band. A little like Magnum, they are metal band at heart. Fists in the air then, for “False Freedom” and the Priest like riff “Goodbye To You”.
As well as Thirty 5” there is a story about their careers too. “Rocky Road” which begins: “I was young and had a dream….” Is the sound of those fantasies realised by band who wouldn’t change a thing – and dear me, there won’t be a dry eye left in the house.
For all that, though, you don’t want to call this retro given all the connotations that comes with, but equally it is fair to say that it isn’t achingly modern, like so many classic bands try to be. Rather Mad Max’s gift is that their relevance comes from the fact that a great song never goes out of fashion. “35” has plenty, and suggests that rather than just looking back as so many would at a career juncture like this, they were right to keep going forward. “On we ride” indeed.