Massive Wagons' New Album, 'Fight The System'

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Massive Wagons perform live several times in the last two years; so when the Press release attached to the new album ‘Fight The System’ said things like ‘We set out to capture our live performance’ I was both excited and nervous at the prospect. Was it actually going to attempt to capture the amazing energy the ‘Wagons put into every show, or was it an excuse to pass off a cheap, badly recorded album?

Well, I’ve had this album for the last couple of days and, to be honest, I don’t know what I was worried about!

The album smacks you right in the lug holes from the start, with ‘Dirty Little Secrets’, two and a half minutes of licence-losing driving music, pure and simple.

‘SWT’ is one of those party rock songs. It’s got a swing to it, and a gang vocal catchy chorus. Think Geordie’s ‘All Because Of You’, or My Chemical Romance’s ‘Teenagers’, if you’re not old enough to get the first reference, and you’ll be in the right area.

When I saw the title, ‘One For Me’ I expected a drinking song. Nope. What we have here is a dirty, sleazy groove, like Guns ‘n’ Roses in their prime (‘Mr Brownstone’, or ‘Rocket Queen’), with the instantly memorable chorus hook of, ‘Honey, I’m so sorry, but your mother’s the one for me.’ Brilliant!

‘Fight The System’ was the standout track from the first album, and a live favourite. The original version on ‘Fire It Up’ sounded like The Who with an AC/DC solo. It started with a stripped back acoustic guitar with slide guitar fills. This re-recorded version has a fuller start. More American. Trucker rock, complete with gang chants of ‘Fight!’ For me, the difference between the two is, the original was one man against the ‘system’, whereas this re-imagining is more of a call to arms. Not better, not worse, just different.

The tempo and mood make a huge switch for ‘Look Around’. A ballad! A bloody good ballad! Starting with an acoustic first verse and an emotional, clean vocal from Baz Mills, leading to big, fuzzy chords accenting the chorus. The guitar solo deserves to be played in front of a stadium of swaying Zippos. It’s one of those songs.

Don’t go thinking the ‘Wagons have gone soft though! ‘Rising Tides’ reaffirms their rock credentials in fine style. This is a balls-out, double-denim rocker. The soundtrack to the ‘How to Grebo’ video!

‘Red Dress’ is the first single to be lifted from the album. Catchier than Velcro gloves, it’s like being transported back to the 80’s. I dare anyone to sing this without slipping into ‘Start Me Up’! It’s like whistling ‘Blue Peter’ without slipping into the ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’.

‘Black Witch’ is a real surprise. With its ‘Proggy’ intro and early Sabbath-y tinge to it, it turns back into a straight rocker for the solo, and has a chorus to die for! For me, this song epitomizes the depth and maturity their songwriting has accrued since their first outing. I just love it!

‘Truth’ starts with a big, power ballad intro, then 35 seconds in, it explodes into a head-down, foot-stomper, with some subtle little layers in the mix that gave me a wry smirk when I picked up on them.

Sometimes, very occasionally, you hear one of those songs that just gets you. The ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, the ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’, the ‘Second Chance’. Well, you can add another to that list now! ‘Roll With The Rhythm’ is Massive Wagons’ entry into the canon of ‘Songs You Put On Loop’! From a simple acoustic start, it swells into a full on, big, beautiful, melancholic power ballad. Sublime.

That could have been the end right there, but no. There’s one more ace to play!

‘Alive’ is the heaviest track on offer… and the longest. This track is huge in every way. Starting with pounding toms and an eastern-influenced guitar riff, it then bursts into ‘proper’ old-school Heavy Metal. The riffs are huge, the rhythm is huge, the solos are… huge. This is a monster of a track. One last fully wound-up swing at your knackers to send you on your way!

This is no ‘difficult second album’. This is a killer sophomore collection, that builds upon, and indeed surpasses what came before it. Matt Elliss has done a supreme job at the desk. ‘Fight The System’ sounds raw, yet polished. Adam Thistlethwaite and Carl Cochrane have never played better, Adam Bouskill and Alex Thistlethwaite are tight and mighty, and Baz Mills has found a more emotional connection.

The album isn’t perfect, though. I couldn’t hear any cowbell… anywhere! Okay, I’m nit-picking, I had to. I tried to find fault, I really did… but this is one fine collection of songs.

If you liked ‘Fire It Up’, you’re going to love this.

If you like Rock ‘N’ Roll, you’ll love this.

If you like Hard Rock, you need this.

‘Fight The System’ is available to download now via iTunes, and will be physically available on 4th August 2014.

Reviewer: Rob Nankivell

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