THE SENTON BOMBS – Mass Vendetta

senton bombs lpTen years of label changes, line up changes and a decade’s worth of sweat led to the making of The Senton Bombs’ ‘Mass Vendetta’. On this fourth album, the Blackpool rockers deliver eleven tunes that recycle lots of classic influences, leading to a collection of songs that might just excite listeners who still hanker after dirty hard rock with an occasionally sleazy edge.

It’s when going for the short and sharp the band sound at their best, as is the case on ’13 Days’, a fast romp full of dirty rhythm guitars that somehow ends up sounding a bit like Alice Cooper fronting Joe Leste’s Beautiful Creatures. The energy within the arrangement is truly blistering: the rhythm section hit the mark with a full compliment of aggressive drumming underscored by a great bass sound. With the full throttle approach and a strong shout-along chorus, the gravelly edge to Joey Class’s voice is a great fit and when pulling together, the love of trashy hard rock and glam within The Senton Bombs’ ranks really comes through. Likewise – although a touch slower – ‘Pretty Tricky’ starts with a raucous guitar solo before the rollocking riffs drop into something extremely punchy. Throw in a couple of loud gang vocals, an overtly loud hybrid of glam and rock ‘n’ roll for the bulk of the tune and a couple of wah-wahed guitar leads and – in trashy rock terms – it has a little of everything necessary to thrill. Driven by a sneering vocal that’s as sleazy as it is gruff, this track provides a musical trip back to 1989 that gets better with every play.

The title track blusters at high speed via a spiky riff and even spikier vocal, leading to a hard rock affair that conjures up memories of D-Generation and Jetboy. Throughout these three minutes, the rhythm section work incredibly hard to keep the pace and drummer Scott Mason, especially, shows himself to be a strong player. Elsewhere, ‘Trainwreck’ dishes out the kind of bar-room rock Watts have made their trademark and then mixed it up with the sneer of Alice Cooper and the retro cool of Izzy Stradlin’s JuJu Hounds. Again, despite some raucous guitar work that occasionally hints at the swagger Stradlin bought to the early Guns N’ Roses and some furious gang vocals beefing an old-school rawk’n affair, it’s Mason’s approach behind the kit which leaves the strongest impression, deliverering a great, hard snare shuffle throughout. In an unexpected move – especially coming from a bunch of lads from the North of England – ‘Out West’ (perhaps as suggested by its title) has a very American feel. Introducing cleaner guitar sounds and a touch of jangle, the end results are often closer The Die Youngs than The Bombs’ usual style. …And it really works, too: the combination of jangle, scratchy voice and big melody suggests in-car listening will get the best from the material. With an omnipresent bass line anchoring everything effortlessly and a very melodic guitar solo to top it all off, this is particularly pleasing.

Moving on, there are parts of the album which do not work quite as well, despite best intentions. ‘Trailblazer’ shows great promise with its use of a huge riff and twin guitars from the outset, a tune that, with the aid of a more than reasonable hook, should have been another standout. However, the combination of slightly lumpy verse and a surprisingly off key vocal midway really let the side down. Also, the extended mid section – sounding very much like a half finished idea for another song – really loses momentum. On the plus side, the guitar tone is great and it shows The Senton Bombs have a real attitude, but swagger, enthusiasm and bluster isn’t quite enough to see this one through. ‘Apex’, meanwhile, takes a huge leap into something so downtuned in places that, at first, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s the work of a different band. This heavy riff – taking over the whole intro and a couple of bridge sections – could have been pulled from the heaviest moments of Alice In Chains and is nothing short of filthy. It’s great – everything you’d want from such a style – while the verses move away from the overtly grungy and back towards the sleazy. Despite the uneasy marriage of the two styles, the sense of overriding heaviness never really fades. For these five minutes, whether slow and grindy, or mid paced and grubby, the music is always excellent – especially with the addition of Damien Kage’s attitude drenched guitar solo. So, given all of that potentially good stuff, why does it not work? Simply that the vocals are genuinely distracting. There’s not a lot wrong with Class’s performance, but rather like bits of Alice Cooper’s love it/hate it ‘Brutal Planet’ LP, the blending of a very mid 90s sound with a very mid 80s voice makes the singer seem misplaced. Fleshing out the remainder of this long-player are a few tracks which are tough and melodic, but never seem to make that all-important indelible impression. That’s about a quarter of the LP constructed by material that seems enjoyable while its on, but all too soon forgotten…thus lowering the batting average.

‘Mass Vendetta’ is the kind of record that rocks hard and tries harder. When the pieces click, there are some good old school thrills, but the results can sometimes be sketchy. With the volume cranked, things improve…but it’s one of those records that occasionally seems to suggest that this is a band with a lot of talent, but who only truly hit the spot when it comes to those all important live performances.

April 2016