Blacktop Mojo – Burn The Ships

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.

Burn The Ships is out now through Cuhmon Records @ https://blacktopmojo.bandcamp.com/releases or http://www.blacktopmojo.com/store

http://www.blacktopmojo.com/   https://www.facebook.com/BlacktopMojo   https://twitter.com/blacktopmojo

Pete RingMaster 15/03/2017

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Boundless lifescapes; exploring the realm of Lucid AfterLife Interview

lucid-afterlife-pic_RingMasterReview

With a sound as eclectic as the themes within its imagination driven walls, Vancouver hailing Lucid AfterLife has earned loyal attention and support at home and across a global landscape. Renowned as one of Canada’s more impressive and memorable live propositions, the progressive groove rockers are luring bigger spotlights their way with their new EP, the successor to their well-received debut album I Am, expected to spring a new wave of invention hungry fans the way of the quartet. We recently had the pleasure to find out more about the band, that upcoming EP, and the creative heart of Lucid AfterLife with guitarist Thom Turner

Hello and thanks for sharing your time to talk with us.

Hello, Thom from Lucid AfterLife here.  Thank you so much for having us!

Can you first introduce the band and give us some background to how it all started?

In the beginning our vocalist Nat Jack was floating through the aether contemplating the purpose and form of existence.  He then came upon our drummer Matt.  The two of them forged a great alliance. From this union a great universe was born. It was one of never ending inspiration and possibilities. To round out this vision myself, Thom, and our bassist Miles were sought. Together we are take these rough shapes and turn them into the most honest and kick ass songs that we can.

Have you been or are any of you involved in other bands? If so have they had any impact on what you are doing now, inspiring a change of style or direction maybe?

I am a current member of the band Freya as well as being a professional musician for the last 15 years.  I have played in numerous groups.  The work ethic and attention to artistry that I got from that band is immense.  Sonically they are very different.  Miles is a member of Riftwalker and Hallux. Matt has played with many groups as well.  As for Nat Jack…He simply is.  All of us take our experience and add it to everything we do. That is one of the best things about LAL. Genre does not factor in. Whatever mood serves the lyric or vibe is what it needs to be.

What inspired the band name?

As a group we feel that reality is in an illusion…More than that it is malleable. Life, death they are merely shades on a continuum.  So through our music we transcend.  To be able to visualize and experience multiple levels of existence is.  We can experience multiple worlds through our songs and live shows.  That is what Lucid Afterlife means to me.

Was there any specific idea behind the forming of the band and also in what you wanted it and your sound to offer?

There are always stories that come to us…things that may be inspired by every day.  Some come from deeper more existential places.  All of them are important to us.  As we have toured we have been lucky to see that these topics hit home with so many people.  So we continue to write them.  As for the sound it is meant to be inclusive.  To be the heaviest thing ever when the emotion is deep and powerful then, turn around and be very clean and melodic to represent another story or character is as honest as we can be.

Do the same things still drive the band when it was fresh-faced or have they evolved over time?

Constant evolution…we are all about that.  That said though most of the same principles are the corner stones of what LAL is.  Relatable honest music that is served with all the energy we have live.

Since your early days, how would you say your sound has evolved?

Since I was brought on I would say that the sound has evo-loved.  We still love Sabbath and Monster Magnet.  On top of that we explore our mutual love of progressive music.  Things like Kansas and Yes and Porcupine Tree and Kings X.  It adds a broader pallet to the stories we can tell. Really though it all comes down to the live show for us.  Nat Jack is a wild man on stage and we push out the sound track for the listener’s experience.

Has it been more of an organic movement of sound or more the band deliberately wanting to try new things?

Extremely organic I believe.  We work to service the songs that come out.  Our sound is extremely diverse.  Yet, when you hear it you know it is LAL.  It all comes from that point of honesty in the lyric and music.

You mentioned some already but presumably across the band there is a wide range of inspirations; are there any others in particular which have impacted not only on the band’s music but your personal approach to creating and playing music? As I said before Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Monster Magnet, Yes, Kansas, Porcupine Tree.  Also Ministry, Cream, Dream Theater, Kings X, Hendrix, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu Tang Clan, Body Count, MF Doom.  Soooo much music goes into what we do.  From rock to jazz to metal to Hip-Hop, it all moves us.

Does the band have a particular method to its songwriting?

We work in very brotherly way.  I will write some things, pass them to Nat and a lyrical idea will usually pop out.  From there Matt and I go to work on fleshing out an arrangement and Miles lays down the bass.  So far it has been all hands on deck movement.

Where do lyrical inspirations more often than not come from?

Everyday life through the lens of existential global truths…A lot of our songs have to do with relationships.  Not really with people per se, more archetypes.  If we do a song that is very obviously about sex then you can bet it isn’t at all about sex.  We like to lead people, through the parlance of our time to deeper truths.

lucid-afterlife_RingMasterReviewCan you give us some background to your latest release?

Our new EP Occult Mafia Mistress is an opening salvo into what is coming next for LAL.  With this line-up we have 4 great singers so we wanted to put that to use.  Most songs really take advantage of all of us.

How about an insight to the themes and premise behind it and its songs?

This record focuses on themes of transcendence.   Be it through love, sex, meditation or sheer elation.  They are explained in somewhat adversarial roles.  Some characters and ideas want to hold you down from your potential.  Others are the inner explorers rupturing out into being against that oppressive force.  We are able to do this through the use of many styles and genres, from hip hop on a song like Time Killaz (feat. Merkulese) to the pure rock and roll of Retarded Owl, the voice of the song blends seamlessly with the lyric.

Are you a band entering the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to develop them as you record?

The frame of a song is all done by the time we get in there.  Because we play the crap out of the songs live and see what goodness comes out. So when we get into the studio what happens is we add all the touches; layering and vocals.  A record should be a piece of art unto itself.  Music is ephemeral.  It changes depending on your mood; where you listen to it, even through the course of the song.  Then it is over.  That time has passed.  So when we are in there recording and mixing everything is fluid.  What comes out is even more magical then what went in.

Tell us about the live side to the band, presumably the favourite aspect of the band?

Live we are a completely different band depending on Nat Jack.  His mood and character shape our live performance…never the same thing twice.  We reach out to the audience and invite them in…literally.  They play with us.  We feel that the live stage is a conversation so we go all out.  We breakdown our bodies and minds while we are up there and show the people they can too.  We do a lot of improv along with our normal songs as well.  We ask the audience for suggestions on style and lyrical content.  And we go at it…all within the confines of a normal set.

It is not easy for any new band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and further afield. How have you found it your neck of the woods? Are there the opportunities to make a mark if the drive is there for new bands?

With the internet EVERYTHING IS REGIONAL; we have many devoted fans and neighbors in BC.  They are amazing and we love them.  But, we also have some amazing fans all over the world just looking for the same stuff we are.  The impact is right there.  The days of $500,000 an album contracts are gone.  We are out there just to make these connections…One person at a time.  Art drives life; even if only one person listens to us and passes it onto one friend.  That is growth and the conversation continues.  As long as you are creating you are growing.

Do you see the internet and social media impact you mentioned destined to become a negative from a positive as the band grows and hopefully gets increasing success or when or if it happens it is more that those bands have struggled to use it in the right way?

The internet is reality for many people.  So ignorance on how to use it to your advantage doesn’t seem to make very much sense.  Every tool is right there for you.  It can be no different from handing a demo to a person on the street.  As long as that person passes it on you are good.  I really think it is a matter of perspective size.  Many musicians hold themselves in light of Metallica and Sabbath and Kanye and Adele or whoever Enormous star.  These standards can be so daunting that you quit creating.  This is an atrocity.  Look, did you know that Platinum albums are now 500,000 albums instead of 1,000,000?  That proves that the old system is dying.  That level of “success” is meaningless without a real connection with people.  That is what the internet affords you…The ability to connect with THE WORLD.  We all want to be able to make a living off what we love to do.  But, that can’t be the end goal.  We all have a world of art inside us and we owe it to ourselves and humanity to get it out there.  So go into it with the goal of making great honest art, whatever that is and, people will take notice.

Once again Thom, a big thanks for sharing time with us; anything you would like to add or reveal for the readers?

Myself (Thom) and all of LAL want to tell you and your readers that we are so thankful for you to be participating in all this with us.  We are looking forward to meeting all of you.  Remember to keep your head up and your mind open.

Occult Mafia Mistress is released digitally and on CD December 9th @ http://lucidafterlife1.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/lucidafterlife/   http://lucidafterlife.ca/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 15/11/2106

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Interview with Greg Cargopoulos of Absolace

From the unlikely place of the United Arab Emirates has come one of the most impressive and impassioned albums so far this year in the refreshing and stirring might of Fractals from Dubai quartet Absolace. Like a breath of fresh air within rock music the album is full of boisterous riffs, melancholic atmospheres, cultured songwriting, and emotive melodies. With the feeling that things could be on an even greater rise for the band, we had the pleasure of asking drummer Greg Cargopoulos about Absolace, their new album and more.

Hi and welcome to The Ringmaster Review. Big thanks for taking time to talk with us here.

Firstly for those unaware of the Absolace could you introduce its members?

Hey guys. On bass, from Australia, we have Ben Harris. On vocals we have Nadim Jamal, from Lebanon.  Jack Skinner, from UK, is our guitarist. And my name is Greg Cargopoulos. I’m the drummer of the band, and come from Greece.

Could you begin by telling us about the beginning of the band?

It all started when Jack and I were just jamming out a few tunes that I had written. We were trying to form a full band. We were looking for a drummer first of all to jam with. I was actually supposed to be the bassist originally, but it was so hard to find a drummer, that I ended up playing drums just to jam. I really loved the drums from the very start so I stuck with it. We were also originally supposed to have a female vocalist. But that idea eventually faded away for some reason.

After a while of writing bits and pieces, we realized there was enough material for an album, so jack and I booked a studio to record drums, and put down the tracks. We then started to track guitars and bass at my place. Then approached Nadim to be our singer, and tracked the rest of the album. After the album was complete, we approached Ben to be our bass player. The rest is history 🙂

Is there a story behind the band name or a relevance to it for you?

Yeh big time. I’ve always been a fan of bands that switch from a heavy sound to a mellower atmospheric sound, so that’s what I really wanted to do.  Absolace is a mixture of the words Absolute and Solace. Both words referring to the two sounds we move between. The heavier sound and the ambient sound.

You are the first rock band we have come across from the United Arab Emirates, is there a thriving rock scene there and in the Middle East in general?

No unfortunately there isn’t really. There’s a bit of an underground scene, that’s about it. It is getting better though. More and more bands are pushing further and going overseas. The biggest problem here is the lack of venues to play at.

One imagines it is much harder to be noticed as a band from that region worldwide than if a UK or US based artist. Have you found that to be the case so far?

Yeah definitely much harder. Not so much to get your music out, because we all have the internet, which gives you unlimited access to the outside world for our music. The problem is we can’t tour as easily as bands from Europe, UK, or US, which means we can’t promote our music as well.

You have just released the brilliant album Fractals, a release we love here. How long has it been in the making?

Writing for fractals started about January 2011 I believe. It took, on and off, about 4 months to write. In June we started tracking the album, which finished in September or October, with 1 month off in the middle. Then mixing and mastering at the end of the year. So yeh, about 4 months writing, and then, on-and-off, about 6 or 7 months production.

The songs within Fractals are beautifully crafted and presented but with an edge that stirs up emotions, suggesting a care and attention to every detail of your music  is as deep a part of your  songwriting as any organic evolution, is that so?

Yeah we definitely paid a lot of attention to detail with this album. We literally completely dissected some songs to get them as good as we possibly could. You have no idea how much time was spent on this.

How does the songwriting process work within the band?

Some songs differ from others. Some songs are written by one person, on pro tools, using programmed drums. Other songs are written as a result of a jam. It all depends. We don’t really have a specific formula.

The new album follows up your acclaimed and again rather special debut Resolve[d].How has the band and music evolved between the two releases to you?

Yeah it has definitely changed in some way, as it is a group effort now, rather than a single person’s writing. But that’s a good thing. A band’s music needs to change, it needs to keep evolving.  We’ve all changed as well. Everyone’s keeping healthy and happy. We’re all at a good stage right now.

You have been compared musically to the likes of Porcupine Tree and Tool and we threw in the flavours of Karnivool and Sunna in our review of Fractals, but what are the influences that have firstly made the biggest impact on you as people and secondly on the music of Absolace?

As people, we have so many influences there are just too many to list. Also musically, we are all influenced by so many bands including the ones you mentioned (Karnivool, Tool, Porcupine Tree). These are just the ones people are picking up on the most.

Tell us about the apparent theme within the songs on Fractals, the link between chaos and every day details of life.

It is all about relating the chaos theory to everyday life. Our lives, essentially, are chaotic systems, that are affected largely by initial conditions.

That link can be looked at either positively or negatively, and you combine both in your songs from the calm inspiring sounds that at times challenge and raise the intensity and your lyrics. What is the underlining impression you are hoping comes over in the album?

This album really speaks out the truth. Whether its happy moments of realisation, or harsh reality. It depends how you take things really. A lot of the lyrical content is sad-but-true topics in the world like modern-day slavery, tyrants, etc… It is supposed to have a bit of a shock effect.

There is a depth and expanse to the songs within the album that feels organic, like the songs dictated their own evolution is that so?

Yes that is definitely true. We try and write in a natural way. Not sticking to traditional structures. Also, we look at all of our instruments as a whole when writing, rather than individual parts. It is more of holistic way of writing.

 Do you feel a greater maturity to your songwriting and music has grown in the two years or so between your albums?

Yeah definitely. Songwriting, musicianship, showmanship. It has all grown in my opinion. It’s a natural course for musicians as long as the passion is still there. Also, more importantly, I think we’ve all become more familiar with each other musically.

Resolve[d] was mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia, Paradise Lost) and I was led to believe Fractals too but since I noticed production on the new album was down to you and U.S. producer Joshua F. Williams (Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Flo-Rida), could you clear that up for us please?

I actually produced both albums, using Jens as the mix and master engineer for Resolve[d], and Josh Williams as recording and mix engineer, and also to co-produce it. Both guys did a fantastic job. The obvious advantage of Josh is that he is in the same country. I think it is good to keep working with different people, keeps albums different from each other in terms of sound.

 Has the album turned out as you envisaged going in to the recording or did it bring some surprises to you along the way how it evolved?

Actually we pretty much had most of the songs nailed before going in, so no surprises there. However, Chroma Mera and Wade 2.0, we pretty much made it up as we went along. They turned out awesome considering.

How did the actual recording differ this time around, were there lessons learned the first time to make Fractals an easier experience?

Fractals was definitely put together easier than Resolve[d], but still a few frustration along the way. But it only get easier with every record…..I hope

 Is there any part of Fractals that gives you an especially deep satisfaction and glow inside?

Chroma Mera….FUCK YEAH!!! Also, the production turned out awesome. I’m so happy with it.

Going back to your homeland and Dubai where there are known social restrictions does that have an impact on music and what you are allowed to bring into a song lyrically?

Ummm, I dunno really….Our lyrics are never really a problem. They are not too provocative, and we don’t swear in our lyrics. Maybe if Rage against the machine were born today, and happened to live in Dubai, there might be a problem 🙂

You have played some high profile shows, like supporting Anathema in Beirut and playing in the Formula 1 celebrations in Abu Dhabi as examples as well as playing the Byblos Festival in Lebanon, so I have to ask how has the rest of the world not been fully aware of Absolace before now haha?

Probably cause we have yet to Tour. It is quite hard being from a place so isolated from the rest of the world. We’re working on it though, having PR campaigns to raise our awareness in EU, UK and US. We shall see 🙂

Do you ever see a time where you may have to relocate to find deserved recognition?

Some people have suggested that, but it is much easier said than done. We all have jobs, girlfriends, and commitments in our lives, and it is not always easy to drop it all to move country for the band.

So you have real lives to live alongside the band and if so do they make a generally seamless fit?

Yes we are all very busy people in our professional lives, and most of us have girlfriends. Ben is even expecting a child soon. It does get difficult sometimes to find the time, but as I see it, if the passion is there, you can always find enough time.

Tell us about your video for the brilliant I Am, So I Will (our fav song on the album).

We are super happy with the video. The shoot was really fun, really cool people to work with. It was a great experience overall. The director, Cyrile, he came up with the concept of visuals and screens. It looks pretty catchy, and I gotten us some good exposure. Youtube is a huge way bands are getting discovered these days, so our video presence is essential.

Once the wave of acclaim and attention we foresee coming over Fractals, have you any plans for the rest of 2012?

To start writing again 🙂 Not many gigging plans this year, but hopefully a new release by early/mid next year, so we’ll be busy writing for the rest of this year.

Thank you for joining us to tell us about Absolace. Good luck with the album. 

Would you like to leave us with any last thoughts?

Thanks for giving your time for reading this interview 🙂 Please check out the tunes, and the video, and leave some comments for us, join our mailing list, etc…Hopefully see some of you at a live show one day 🙂

Lastly tell us the one song or release that you would say truly inspired you to make music.

Hard to nail down to one album, so can I name 3? Pretty please? This will also give you a hint as to which years I started writing our stuff 🙂

–          Opeth – Ghost Reveries

–          Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet

–          Tool – 10,000 days

Thanks so much for the interview. Take care 🙂

Read the Fractals review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/absolace-fractals/

The RingMaster Review 04/05/2012

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