Does loss lead to a better album?

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Even in its closing stages, 2015 wasn’t without surprises. As Lemmy Kilmister, legendary bassist and frontman of Motörhead passed away, rumours emerged that the original Guns N’ Roses line-up was to reform for Coachella 2016 after decades of bad blood between Slash and Axl Rose.

Justifiably, the world of music drenched social networks with tributes for Lemmy. The band followed suit, with drummer Mikkey Dee announcing “Motörhead is over, of course” to Swedish newspaper Expressen. Sadly, Motörhead join the likes of Led Zeppelin in having their artistic contributions to the world cut short after the tragic death of a member and friend. But Dee’s “of course” is less apt than one might think, given that the death of a member does not always spell the death of a band.

Queen make for a particularly egregious example. No words need to be added to the tributes surrounding Freddie Mercury, whose death prompted bassist John Deacon to retire out of a wish to preserve Mercury’s memory and the band’s artistic integrity. Yet Brian May and Roger Taylor regularly wheel out the hits while editing and releasing Mercury’s old vocal takes – divisive moves critically, emotionally but, tellingly, not fi nancially.

Like Queen, Metallica and AC/DC suffered hard-hitting tragedies, but they occurred in their youth, before fame, with Metallica suffering a tour bus crash which robbed us of original bassist Cliff Burton. Believing that Burton would have wanted them to continue, they found a replacement in Jason Newsted (in turn replaced by Robert Trujillo 15 years later.) AC/DC’s story is somewhat similar, with Geordie Brian Johnson stepping in for Bon Scott after the latter’s untimely death – the first album on which Johnson featured was Back in Black, the second biggest-selling album worldwide.

Slipknot’s .5: The Gray Chapter is a full-on elegy to bassist Paul Gray who passed away in 2010. Here dedications to Gray are plentiful, but thinly-veiled shots at former drummer Joey Jordison, unceremoniously sacked in 2013, also feature.

Perhaps, though, the vicious break-up has been perfected as an art form by Blink-182. Original drummer Scott Raynor was sacked due to alcoholism, and was publicly dismantled in 2000’s scathing single ‘Man Overboard’. Indeed, +44, formed after Tom DeLonge left Blink-182 for the fi rst time (he left once more in January 2015) became an outlet for indirect rants for jilted bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker.

Blink-182 are currently in the studio with Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba replacing Delonge. Their comeback album will be joined in 2016 by Bloc Party’s Hymns, after the band parted ways with two of their original four members over the last few years. If the past proves anything to us, losing a member (or two) is always a transformative time, often imbued with catharsis and soul-searching – two factors which almost always lead to a band’s best work. Examples of triumphant comeback albums are plentiful (Manic Street Preachers after the disappearance of Richey Edwards; New Order after the demise of Ian Curtis and Joy Division) so they’ll certainly be hoping that this sentiment rings true. Never has the pressure to perform been greater.

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