Carl Sentance has quite the varied career in music and this solo album, only his second after 2009's Mind Doctor, is a good distillation of all of it. He first found fame as singer for Persian Risk back in the NWOBHM era and he reformed them in 2012. Originally, that was Phil Campbell's band, and it strikes me that, with very different vocals, Overload could easily be a Motörhead song. While he's still singing for Persian Risk, he also took the lead vocal slot in Nazareth in 2015, though, and a lot of these songs, including the openers, are really hard rockers wrapped in the clothes of metal.
If the most obvious Nazareth style song is arguably Nervous Breakdown, which softens things up a bit and adds a little psychedelic shimmy, the openers really aren't heavy as they initially seem, an effective deception that's built off sharp guitars and downtuned bass. Sentance stood in on a tour for Tokyo Blade and, sped up a little, I could see Judas being one of theirs. Alright is even catchier but it stubbornly refuses to speed up and never loses any power because of that decision. The title track sounds to me like a stripped down version of Fastway, circa their Trick or Treat era.
If the sound is hard rock but played heavy and with a metal attitude, the band that Sentance built to play it is well qualified indeed. If I'm reading things right, he provides the guitarwork himself, a role I don't remember him for but which he does well with here. On bass is Wayne Banks, who's in Sentance's current Persian Risk line-up; he's also played for Blaze Bayley, Finnish rock band Brazen Abbot and, well, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. On drums is Bob Richards, who's played for both Asia and AC/DC (filling in for Phil Rudd on a couple of videos during his trial). And that leaves Don Airey on keyboards, an old boss of Carl's, who's played with everyone.
That's a capable line-up and they do well here, the downsides being with songwriting rather than performance. Young Beggars feels like a watered down Queensrÿche, hitting all the moments but without any of the oomph. That's especially odd given that that oomph was there from the very beginning of this album, so toning it down had to have been a deliberate choice and, as an obvious enough failure, I'm surprised they didn't drop it from the album.
Fortunately, there are few downsides, even where descriptions might suggest one. Whatever I say about If This is Heaven sounds like a negative, for instance, as it feels like an unusually perky song put out as a single by a much heavier band just to try and break the mainstream. However, this band do it very well indeed and, while such songs are usually the worst on their respective albums, this one could be considered a highlight by some. It's not one of mine but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
The final tracks all feel like other genres rocked up, but with varied results. California Queen is, of all things, a pop punk song that feels rather out of place. I think it's supposed to show a lighter side to the band, and it's not a bad song, but it seems at odds with the earlier, more vicious approach because this is a song for a party band and they've been all about the music up until this point. In between those two is Battlecry, which works better, even though it has an early U2 vibe, probably because it's heavied up instead of watered down and that helps the song immensely.
So this is a mixed bag. Kudos to Carl Sentance for putting such a solid line-up together and for not confining it to a single style. Some of the ideas work better than the others, but it's decent stuff and it often becomes much more than that. For me, it's the early songs because my favourite four are the first four, when they're playing hard rock with a metal edge. It's tight and it's vicious and it rocks. And, entirely separate to new Persian Risk and Nazareth material, let's see another solo album sooner than another dozen years.