Album Review : Massive Wagons – House Of Noise

Review by Peter Coates –

The newest release, their fifth studio album in just over 10 years, from the Lancaster rockers Massive Wagons will be released on 17th July 2020, via Earache Records.  This is another of the NWOCR powerhouse bands who have been laying waste to the UK over the past couple of years with their incendiary brand of ludicrously catchy power-pop rock, punk metal, and the latest offering is again full of crowd-pleasing shoutalong riff-driven songs.

There is humour (The Curry Song) as well as a focus on serious issues such as mental health (House of Noise), and such variety across the album from classic blues rock, through stadium rock anthems to old-school punk, all delivered with enormous energy by Barry “Baz” Mills, a real front-man in the true sense of word – engaging, loud, larger than life and with a huge voice that is reminiscent of the great Noddy Holder in his prime.

In late 2017 Massive Wagons signed to Earache Records and recording for the first album under the new label began immediately.  In a testament to their years of hard work on the road, Full Nelson, released August 10th 2018 hit the Top 20 Official UK Album Chart, peaking at No. 16. 

The Full Nelson tour lasted 18 months and had the guys hitting Europe for the first time, playing an arena tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd and selling out headline shows the length and breadth of the nation.  Support tours with Thunder, The Dead Daisies and The Wildhearts kept the band on the road through 2019 and writing the follow up was completed by the end of the decade.

House of Noise is chock full of monstrous riffs, solid beats, rousing sing-a-long choruses, and a bunch of honest from-the-heart lyrics about normal day to day real life stuff. The album opens up with a rip-roaring riff-driven rocker In It Together, and the first of the ridiculously catchy choruses, driven along by a stampeding Alex Thistlethwaite on the drums, and both guitarists standing and delivering all the way through, with a cracking solo from one or the other!

Adam Thistlethwaite and Stephen Holl trade riffs to open up the slightly discordant Bangin’ In Your Stereo which was released as a single a little while ago with a fun video of the band as Lego characters.  The song has really sharp edges and a series of powerful riffs that lead into a brilliant bit of radio-announcer commentary before the shouty middle-eight and another wicked solo.

Title track House of Noise is up next, and again there is a real retro feel to the track, like the Foo Fighters crossed with Slade, with complexity and subtlety underneath the more immediate sense of raucous enthusiasm that characterises the whole album and this will hopefully get some radio play as the latest single release.  Adam Thistlethwaite said of this one “It’s one of those songs that we just know will become a live favourite, and as we recorded the album with a setup tailored to capture the live vibe, the energy on the track is through the roof!  It’s three and half minutes of hook laden rock with not a second wasted, which as a songwriter with radio play in mind that’s what you strive for.”

Freak City brings a 1980s radio rock element into the mix without too much of the polish that sometimes softened some of those classic rock anthems into elevator music – Baz has that rougher edge to his voice that will never be Steve Perry, but it is so integral to the whole of the band’s sound.

The slow-burning opening riff to Hero is a sleazy blues rock dream, think Thunder playing AC/DC, and although the pace is slower, there is power to burn.  The opening verse is just Baz roaring over rock-solid bass from Adam ‘Bowz’ Bouskill, before the band cranks in with the pre-chorus/chorus.  This is six-minutes of absolute classic rock – with a Steve-Clark like solo over a Heaven and Hell beat which is just immense, and when the riff kicks back in under the solo, it goes up yet another notch.

A complete change of pace and sound as the band tears into Professional Creep with a real in-your-face attitude in the vitriolic delivery of the lyrics – fast and furious riffing over the powerhouse drums, and the backing shouts add real brute force to the verses. This is paired with the equally frenetic Pressure, the closest thing to a punk bootboy anthem, with the guitars delivering a really crisp layer at top speed, and bass and drums yet again deliver a super-tight backing while Baz delivers the lyrics over the top of the frenzy.  Slade meets the Buzzcocks on steroids!

There is not much to be said about The Curry Song – elements of Ian Dury and Madness crossed with Terrorvision, with louder guitars and completely insane lyrics, and a chorus that could be from the Sex Pistols, before a middle-eight that features crushing guitars a-la Tony Iommi and some crazy time-changes.  A return to much more straight-up melodic hard rock with Glorious, that has another great riff, and some sensational twin-lead guitar melodies, and a wonderfully catchy chorus.

Another brilliant opening riff kicks off the power-pop-punk lament of Sad Sad Song, which is a wonderful combination of the energy of Blink 182 or Hoobastank, with some fantastic harmony guitar breaks both up front in the solo and tucked away behind the wall of vocals that really add some polish.

There is something special about the epic Hallescrewya in which the verse chugs along over the ever-solid rhythm section before the song opens up to the pre and chorus parts with multiple layers of vocals, guitars and maybe even keyboards that provide a really powerful impact, and this is emphasised in the half-speed outro.

Last but not least, and coming in at 8 minutes, is the blues-rock ballad Matter of Time, which is right at the other end of the spectrum to the rest of the album.  I normally listen to albums on shuffle, but when reviewing I do try to follow the order the band chose for a release – and while it might have been tempting to slot this in as track 7 or 8, there is no chance of anyone cutting this short to return to the more obvious rockers.  There is an interesting contrast between Baz’s voice, which is not really your usual blues rock tone, and the simple picked guitar melodies, and this is so effective in the stripped back middle of the track that leads in to the simple but sublime guitar solo that makes up the majority of the last 2½ minutes of the track, before Baz brings on the goosebumps with the closing vocals – which is just an immense segment on which to close such a diverse and powerful record.

Massive Wagons are: Barry ‘Baz’ Mills – vocals, Adam Thistlethwaite – guitars, Stephen Holl – guitars, Alex Thistlethwaite – drums and Adam ‘Bowz’ Bouskill – bass.

VIDEO for Bangin’ in your Stereo –

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