When you take a look at the bands that influence Blacktop Mojo, you are basically looking at a big chunk of my CD collection, so it was no hardship to have a listen to their sophomore album Burn the Ships. By way of a little research I listened to their self-release debut, I Am. It’s a very strong set of songs. Lyrically engaging and musically diverse enough to not get bogged down in a style that is snuggled safely within the realms of its genre.
Moving onto Burn the Ships the overall sound is heavier and more intense, also more mature and accomplished. There is sometimes a risk that the second album won’t have that same potency that a band often create on their first album when they feel they have something new to offer. This is not the case here. Blacktop Mojo are clearly comfortable in their own skin – and it shows.
Hailing from Texas and formed in 2012, Blacktop Mojo have a heavy, grungy, gritty sound and if you’re a fan of Soundgarden, Tool, Black Stone Cherry or Rival Sons, then you’d be hard pushed to not find something to like about this talented quartet.
Opening track “Where the Wind Blows” is perfectly placed to introduce you to the joyous rapture that follows. It’s meaty, groovy and showcases all that is good and great about these Texan titans. The quality of the production is also evident, creating a fullness of sound but with definable layers.
Title track “Burn the Ships” is definitely a highlight with some speaker-shatteringly low bass from Matt Curtis, a brilliant chorus and steady underpinning yet zesty drumming from Nathan Gillis.
The album’s first ballad “Prodigal”, complete with strings and a steamy solo, rears up on track four but with Matt James’ magnificent gravelly vocals it doesn’t lose its heavy rock edge.
Working my way through the next three tracks I find myself looking for just a touch more energy to the songs – it wouldn’t go amiss to quicken the pace here and there. But then those dirty, chugging, grungy guitars pull me back in and I accept that you just don’t want to be drinking too much coffee while you listen. This is an album to sit back to, absorb and enjoy the ambience they create.
The next high point for me is “8000 Lines”. It has a superb bridge section that’s haunting, skilled, atmospheric and then the song dives back into that wall of stupendous guitars and emotional guttural vocals.
Further noteworthy tracks are “Make a Difference”, which has a catchy and noticeably Tool-esque chorus, while “Chains” nods in the direction of Alice in Chains. Neither track is any worse off for their similarities to other artists – these are great bands after all!
We then arrive at “Dream On” and it wasn’t until I heard that opening melody that I remembered what a brilliant song this is and how much I like it. Brought to fame of course by Aerosmith when they released it back in, wait for it…. 1973! Since covered by one or two pop artists, shall we say, but this cover does it true justice and brings it timelessly back into the rock arena where it belongs. Matt really flexes his vocal chords and gives Steven Tyler a run for his money.
This first-class album closes up with a heartfelt and melancholic acoustic number. But instead of feeling out of place compared to the immense sound of the album, it rounds things off in quiet contemplation, displaying the maturity the band have brought to the table.
Blacktop Mojo are a powerhouse of sound and atmosphere and the album delivers an overall message of fighting for what you believe in. So crack open the bourbon and give Burn the Ships a whirl.
Burn The Ships is released on 10th March. Single “Pyromaniac” is out now.