Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 10 Aug 2018
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Official Website
While metal has been revitalised by bands blurring the subgenres or bringing in other sounds entirely and folk metal wandering around the globe enlisting different cultures to the cause as it goes, rock has been revitalised too, especially in the UK, by what is increasingly becoming known as the New Wave of Classic Rock. I believe the idea is that, rather than looking forward, these bands look backwards to take heavy influence from the old school. Think Greta van Fleet and Led Zeppelin.
Well, one hot name on the NWoCR front in 2018 is Lancaster's Massive Wagons, who have found their moment in the spotlight after eight busy years on the road and a trio of studio albums, this being the newest. It even cracked the UK charts, making its way in at at number 16, hardly an everyday occurrence for a band on the Earache label, which has been spreading its stylistic net wider of late.
They're definitely looking backwards for their inspiration. There's some Thin Lizzy in here, some AC/DC and some Lynyrd Skynyrd. There's quite a lot of Saxon, some overt old school Status Quo on Back to the Stack (which is clearly a tribute to the late Rick Parfitt) and even a nod to the Scorpions in the lyrics of China Plates. However, they sound a lot more nineties to me than seventies or eighties. They'll be supporting Thunder in Germany in the spring and those London boys who were founded in 1989 and first split up in 2000 are clearly a major influence. On occasion, there are newer influences too, most obviously on Robot (Trust in Me), which has vocals that wouldn't be out of place on a Red Hot Chili Peppers album.
What this all ends up sounding like can be summed up by lyrics from Ballad of Verdun Hayes, which betray another rather unlikely further influence in the D-Day veteran of the title who famously went skydiving at the ripe young age of 101: Is there a better description of this band than, "Does what he wants, he listens to no-one. The man's a machine, he's lean and he's mean; a thousand lives won't see what he's seen." For all the sounds they're borrowing, they're doing their own thing and they wouldn't have it any other way.
While influences can be argued about, what's beyond debate is the energy that storms out of every track here because they're clearly giving it their all and loving what their hard work is resulting in. There's not much flash going on, because this is no nonsense stuff, good old fashioned rock and roll with a strong melodic line and a pounding underlying drive. Baz Mills is a born frontman too.
To put that into perspective, the slowest and quietest song is probably Northern Boy, which is also the only track to nudge over five minutes (two thirds of them are under four), and it's hardly a ballad. It will be a rare listener who doesn't tap their feet along to at least half this album and one of the reasons why it's made so many end of year lists for NWoCR fans has to be because there isn't a duff track here and the band just don't let up. It's catchy on the first listen and singalong by the second, if not before.
I got a real kick out of Billy Balloon Head and Back to the Stack, but my favourite here is Ratio, hands down. It builds a wonderful groove and just keeps on going. The thing is that my next favourite might change every time I listen through. Maybe I'll have figured that out by the time the Wagons release album four and, with a closer like Tokyo that talks down radio but shouts out to the fans, you can be sure that it won't be too far down the road.
Massive Wagons walk that fine line between radio friendly commerciality and the kick ass vibe of a band you'd love to see down the local pub. I do hope you managed that over the last eight years, by the way, because they're moving up fast and selling out bigger and bigger venues on each tour. See 'em now while you can afford it!