If you thought rock was dead, you obviously haven’t heard of Blacktop Mojo. Their second album Burn the Ships only recently released, but these guys are already making a huge impact.
When listening to the album, the first song you hear is “Where the Wind Blows.” The beginning starts out kind of soft and quiet, but when the full force of the song finally opens, it smacks you in the face in the best way possible. Once vocalist Matt James starts in, you’ll be sucked into the song and the rest of the album.
Burn the Ships has a lot of screaming guitar, hammering drums, thumping bass, and intense vocals. One of the best things about this album is that you really get to hear just how talented guitarists Ryan Kiefer and Kenneth Irwin, bassist Catt Murtis (Matt Curtis), and drummer Nathan Gillis are on their respective instruments. Lead guitarist Kiefer plays as savagely as Mark Tremonti and Irwin provides the perfect rhythm to Kiefer’s playing; without one, the other would not sound as good. Murtis gets his chance to really show off his chops in “8000 Lines,” one of the best songs on the album, but never disappoints in any other song. Gillis is energetic and enthusiastic without being overbearing; he knows exactly how to bring it down, but when it’s time to go hard, he goes for it and kills it. His work in “Burn the Ships” is simply outstanding and that’s only one example. Vocalist Matt James has so much control over his voice that it’s enviable. He can hit the low notes, he can hit the high notes, he can sing, he can scream, he can do pretty much whatever he wants with his voice.
Blacktop Mojo is best known for covering Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” Their YouTube video of it has passed 1,000,000 views, one of the most unprecedented things to happen to a band that hasn’t even gone on a headlining tour around the country yet. It’s no secret that “Dream On” is an extremely difficult song to cover; Steven Tyler reaches notes most singers can’t even dream of. There’s also the added fear of butchering a song that everyone knows and loves. Blacktop Mojo remained faithful to the original version in their cover. It still has all of the heart and soul, but they didn’t copy it; they put their own twist on it and gave it that uniquely Blacktop Mojo sound. As if that wasn’t good enough, James’s vocals are as perfect in this song as they are in every other and the high notes are hit impeccably.
So what is the Blacktop Mojo sound? There’s a lot of classic rock influence in Burn the Ships. Inspiration seems to be taken from Aerosmith, Shinedown, Alice in Chains, and more. There is also a southwest sound that the Texas-based band adds into their music.
With all of the high-energy music on the album, Blacktop Mojo has also included songs like “Prodigal” and “Underneath,” which slow the tempo down. The magic in these songs, besides the music and vocals of course, are the actual lyrics. Ballads can get sappy and over the top so quickly that it makes them not worth listening to. Neither of these songs have that problem; they are beautifully written and expertly delivered. In fact, they are the top two songs on the album.
Burn the Ships is a top-notch album that is rightfully earning Blacktop Mojo a lot of buzz. The days of the great rock bands may just be here again with this band firmly on the scene. If you had lost faith, then don’t worry: Blacktop Mojo will make you believe in rock ‘n roll again.
Post by Karen Shalev
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