Massive Wagons‘ fifth album House of Noise (Earache Records) delivers unabashedly old fashioned Rock n Roll with lashings of riffs, hooks, and humour that will put a smile on anyone’s face. It builds on their fourth album, and Earache debut, Full Nelson by doing more of the same, but bigger and better. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix.
I’ve been a fan of Massive Wagons for some time, in the north-west of England you’d literally have to be living under a rock to not have heard their name and their reputation for live shows. Playing old school rock with an infectious energy that keeps it fresh an up to date, they’ve always been somewhat convention-defying. Their Earache debut Full Nelson has been anticipated in many quarters with no shortage of anticipation. There’s a real buzz surrounding them at the minute, from fighting with local councils over pub murals, to hoping to be the first band from Lancaster to make it into the top 40 in the UK, make no bones about it this album has the potential to do just that. Continue reading
I have a musical comfort zone. And it’s all the way over there with the Jackson Flying V’s and double-bass drums. It may even include some spandex (not on me, though…) Yet here I am, sitting here, rocking on the porch (sofa), nodding along to the Southern vibes of Atlanta, Georgia’s Blackberry Smoke and their fourth album Holding All The Roses (Earache). And I’m more than fine with that.
Following the critical and commercial success of The Whippoorwill (Earache/Southern Ground) would have daunting to many bands, but not the Smoke, who shacked up with mega-producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen). Any fears that such a hit-maker would sterilize their sound are quickly dispersed by the laidback singalong to ‘Let Me Help You Find The Door’ and it’s rock n’ roll shamble. The title track shuffles in next, picking up the beat, with some clean guitar fingerpicking and a more uptempo come-and-join-us chorus. Whereas the temptation could have been to seek the big bucks and accidentally fall into the trap of producing sanitized radio rock, instead Blackberry Smoke have infused their music with even more of a traditional Southern flavour, and, boy, does it suit.
Blackberry Smoke are no gimmick band, just a class one with their hearts in yesteryear and a love of venerable records, releasing an album full of simple pleasures; of pure, excellent songs. There are many highlights, the pick of which are the two melancholy numbers, the deeper, bluesier ‘Woman In The Moon’, where Charlie Starr’s lazy delivery comes into its own, and ‘No Way Back To Eden’ (a track I’d have been tempted to close the album on), both of which prove the quintet have that added depth all the best have. In amongst the swathes of Creedence Clearwater Revival (and several other subtle references I’m too unschooled to know) ‘Too High’ is wistful country and ‘Rock and Roll Again’ is the sound of the Deep South ripping on Status Quo and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Call Me The Breeze’, while ‘Payback’s A Bitch’ has a work-shy hook that will infect you like sidewinder venom, as Holding All The Roses unfurls it’s kick-ass blues rock beauty with a smile.
I’ll level. If Blackberry Smoke weren’t on Earache, the chances are high I wouldn’t have been interested in checking them out. Chances are also as good as getting a 7+ on a 15 hand in pontoon we wouldn’t be included them in the hallowed digi-pages of the good ship Ghost Cult without the same, or similar, connection. And we’d have missed out on a warm, chilled out doozy, so hats off to Dig and all concerned for branching out and expanding their traditional net. I’m delighted they did. I’m not going to go off and dive into a whole other musical genre, but I’m glad the Smoke have entered my life and my music collection. They won’t be for everyone who frequents a metal site, but they should be for people who value unassuming good rock songs.
If there is justice out there, the winds will spread the Blackberry pollen far and wide.
With summer right around the corner, it’s time to get psyched for festival season. In the UK, there is no event bigger or more venerable than Download. As the feisty offspring of the legendary Monsters of Rock concerts at Castle Donnington in Donnington Park that lived in the imagination of rock and metal fans the world over for two decades, Download is as value packed as ever with bands. This years lineup shows a willingness not to be intimidated or outshine by the competition of other big festivals, the UK or elsewhere in Europe.
Held over three days, 13-15 of June at Donnington Park on five stages daily, the 2014 lineup is a bold one that promises something for everyone to enjoy. Bands of note for Friday include the much talked about headliners Avenged Sevenfold, Opeth, Anathema, Rob Zombie, Within Temptation, Black Label Society, Quicksand, Skindred, Miss May I, Huntress, Bloody Hammers as well as Bad Religion and Offspring.
Saturday blends the catchy, more mainstream fair with the best of modern underground metal. Linkin Park is playing all of their Hybrid Theory album and for fans of a certain age, that will sure bring back a few things. Among the main bands that our readers would most be interested in Killswitch Engage, Fozzy and Dying Fetus play along with Bring Me the Horizon and others. I kind of feel bad for everyone that has to follow Dying Fetus actually, so #WhyNotDyingFetus indeed. The other big band of import this day is Behemoth, who is coming of a sizzling run of shows in the UK and the USA recently. Other big bands include the reactivated American Headcharge, The Black Dahlia Murder, Orange Goblin, Monster Magnet, Battlecross, Anathema doing a special second unplugged set, Skid Row, Chevelle, and Sikth. Also for the more rock motivated Twister Sister, Status Quo and Ginger Wildhearts solo sets are are worth seeing.
On the final day Download has brought out the big guns, quite literally in Aerosmith. While their recent music is nothing to write home about, they always step up big live and play all of their hits brilliantly. Other worthy bands on Sunday include Alter Bridge, The Dillinger Escape Plan and their insane stage antics, Trivium, Volbeat, Philip Anselmo and the Illegals, Sabaton, Sepultura, Suicide Silence, Red Dragon Cartel, Avatar, Thy Art Is Murder, Kill Devil Hill, Monuments, Polar and Nick Oliveri (Kyuss, QOTSA, Dwarves) solo acoustic.