The past four years since forming has seen Texan rock band Blacktop Mojo court a potent reputation for their sound and live presence, all the time increasingly nudging global attention to turn their way. The release of second album Burn The Ships is the moment that awareness just might happen, the release a striking and thickly accomplished slab of highly flavoursome, sinew moulded rock ‘n’ roll.
Formed in September 2012 by vocalist Matt James and drummer Nathan Gillis, Blacktop Mojo swiftly leapt into the live scene with the intent of playing as many shows and tours as they could. It is a hunger which prevails to this day, the Palestine, TX quintet sharing stages with the likes of Bon Jovi, Candlebox, Drowning Pool, Aaron Lewis, Saving Abel, Puddle of Mudd, Whiskey Myers, Dirty River Boys, and The Bigsbys among a great many others over the years. Debut album I Am stirred things up at home with its release in 2014, similarly inviting broader notice of the band’s hearty hard/melodic rock sound. Burn The Ships though is a wake-up call to bigger spotlights upon the band, the Philip Mosley produced and Austin Deptula mixed and mastered encounter a fiery roar very hard to ignore or avoid finding a healthy appetite for.
The Blacktop Mojo sound is arguably not the most unique, the band drawing comparisons to the likes of Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry, and Soundgarden yet has an individual character and diversity which lifts it from the crowd with ease. All the evidence lies within Burn The Ships and its inventive and impassioned rock ‘n’ roll; a proposition hitting the ground running with its majorly rousing opener Where The Wind Blows. A lone melody with a country rock twang makes the first beckon, a sister lure swiftly by its side before muscle bound rhythms loom over ears amidst the continuing invitation of that initial welcome. Soon into its thick and potent stride with the growling tones of Matt Curtis’ bass rich bait alongside the meaty swipes of Gillis, the track has its infectious claws firmly around ears and appetite with James’ delivery leading the way and in turn the listener into one peach of a chorus impossible not to get fully involved in. With the riffs of rhythm guitarist Kenneth Irwin equally steering the temptation as lead guitarist Ryan Kiefer spins wiry grooves, it is a seriously compelling proposal,
The following End Of Days is just as formidable and satisfying, its robust rhythms and gnarly grooves alone gripping body and an instinctive passion for heart bred rock ‘n’ roll. As its predecessor, the song carries an irresistible chorus to back up the already successful lures at play and the album’s powerful start, success its title track continues. As provocative guitar temptation wraps its flame lit charms around ears, Burn The Ships quickly shows itself an equal to those before in enticement, gaining even greater strength in that trait as its groove takes on a nagging quality as it meanders around the vocal potency of James. With Seether-esque hues involved, the song croons and roars; flexing its muscle as it spins its inventively intoxicating sonic web with each passing second. The track is pure drama and the pinnacle of the album though challenged throughout.
The earnest strains of Prodigal follow, its Staind lit serenade a mellow emotive caress allowing for a breath whilst enjoying its melodic heat, suggestive flames building into a bigger blaze before Shadows On The Wall smoulders and erupts in a 3 Doors Down scented fire next, subsequently followed by the virile throes of Sweat. The trio do not quite teach the heights of the first three tremendous tracks but each with their individual natures and temptations leave plenty to embrace and firmly enjoy.
The snarling properties of Pyromaniac bring the album back to its loftiest heights, the song as heated as its title suggests with irritability in its riffs and a bass grumble so easy to grow lustful for. Melodically, there is a 3 Days Grace air contrasted and complimented perfectly by the grungier textures at work on the senses, both linked by an instinctive catchiness which again features in potent form within the predacious 8000 Lines, a song stalking ears with rapacious riffs and antagonistic beats as sonic enterprise and vocal drama ignite. The track is outstanding; its unpredictability enhanced by melodic beauty as an oasis of calm shares ears with its tempestuous heart.
Both Dog On A Leash with its red-blooded plaintive call and the reflective cries of Make A Difference leave satisfaction full, each revealing further twists in the album’s make-up and enterprise while Chains brings a web of athletic grooves and beefy rhythms in a burly persuasion raising the ante again. It is pure captivation preying on an already eager appetite for sound and encounter.
Concluded by the emotionally charged Dream On and the melancholic musing of Underneath, the impressive Burn The Ships has plenty to see the band make the next step towards global recognition. Its songs are shapely and sound rich if not always on the truly unique side. Its craft and imagination more than compensates though as ears embrace the open potential also lying within a triumph of a listen.
Pete RingMaster 15/03/2017
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