It’s been a number of years since Blacktop Mojo planted their flag on the worldwide rock stage with their second album, Burn the Ships, and in the intervening time, they’ve not slowed down. So much so, they’ve put their nose to the grindstone and furnished 2021 with their self-titled fourth album. And much like other artists who’ve come before them and waited until further into their career to take the self-titled route rather than the debut, it’s a wait that’s worthwhile and indeed, the most Blacktop Mojo-y album you’ll hear.
Everything they’ve worked towards on this album is Blacktop Mojo at their best and purest. Loud, passionate modern hard rock bathed in influences both modern and classic are distilled into one cohesive package. There’s a newfound self-assuredness in themselves on this album, reinforcing their claim on the hard rock genre by creating a familiar sound yet one unmistakably all their own. Riffs are fast, furious and full-bodied, backed by the grit and rawness of the 70s trailblazers, the dirty grime of grunge and held together with a sharp, serrated metallic edge.
The album kicks into life with “Wicked Woman”, with enough force to rattle the nearest window and refuses to let go for the remainder of the album. There’s subtle nods throughout as the band pay homage to their influences but the overarching tone of the album reminds you this is Blacktop Mojo’s album and no-one else’s. Meanwhile, the chugging “Bed Tundy” has an undercurrent of darkness coursing throughout it to match its spoonerism-powered namesake.
Even on the slower numbers, Blacktop Mojo ensure they keep their rock chops in check, namely in the vein of “Hold Me Down” – the power ballad late 80s/early 90s Aerosmith wish they’d written. However, “Latex” and bluesy closer “Tail Lights” bring the tempo down to a slow but welcome crawl to get your breath back as they also hint at more southern influences. Meanwhile, “Stratus Melancholia” has the committed drone of early Alice in Chains towards the album’s finish line to ensure your kept on your toes. Yet, one of the most interesting listens comes at the halfway point with “Do it For the Money” as gospel backing vocals rub shoulders with an early Ozzy-era Black Sabbath evil stomp and an early Alter Bridge guitar solo for good measure. While It may sound like the band cherry-picked three great sounds which shouldn’t work together, there’s a deftness to it which allows each of those elements to breathe and never feels disjointed or an incomprehensible mess.
There’s a tightness and measured performance from everyone involved. As solid rhythms blend with rugged, crunching riffs for most of the album, it’s an album which was meant to be played loud and even on their softer moments, there’s a forcefulness to it. Indeed, what Blacktop Mojo have achieved with this is showing the patchwork which makes rock and can feature in the genre whilst reminding us that when it’s done well, there’s nothing better than no-nonsense hard rock.
Where past album from the Texans have worn the influences on the sleeve, the subtlety they favour on their latest album works to their advantage to truly show what they have to offer. There’s more influences added to the pot here and they do far more with them whilst adding in older ones yet it never becomes overwhelming. Instead, it’s mature and measured, thinning it out across the album to make for a bolder and more interesting listen, rather than falling into old tropes and genericism.
Blacktop Mojo is out now