Texas based, hard rock band, Blacktop Mojo have released their second album, Burn The Ships. The album was recorded at Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville, as well as FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with Philip Mosley, who produced the band’s first album, I Am. To add a seasoned sonic quality to their brand of raw, grungy rock, they also enlisted the help of co-producer, Jimmy Johnson of the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studios as well as his long time engineer, Steve Melton (Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger).
While some bands seem to be going the route of the EP, Blacktop Mojo have given you thirteen songs to sink your teeth into. The album opens with Where The Wind Blows, a gritty, sludgy sounding song with a groove that seeps deep into your rock ‘n’ roll veins. Matt James’ lead vocals entice the listener into wanting to hear more and the guitar solo keeps you intrigued enough to continue to the next song. End Of Days, another fast, upbeat rocker, is once again accompanied by gritty sounding lyrics from James. If ever there was a perfect match of music to vocal, this is it. The two blend perfectly together and work hand in hand to give the listener an invigorating aural experience.
The title track and second single, Burn The Ships, has the potential to quickly become a fan favorite. Not only is there an underlying mid-tempo guitar chug running throughout the song, close to the three minute mark, the song takes a darker turn. With the lead coming from drummer Nathan Gillis followed by creaking sounding guitar licks, musically, this song paints the perfect picture of intensity and chaos. This works in tandem with what the band has previously explained about the song. After quitting their jobs to go “all in” to record and play shows, they had a “no going back moment” that reminded them of a story about a 1500s Spanish explorer’s plans to conquer a territory. They explained, “Once they landed on the beach, he burned all the ships so all his men knew one thing was clear, there’s no going back. That’s what that song is about, and that’s the story of our lives at the point of the record being created.” Listen to audio of the song here.
The calming musical intro of Prodigal leads into the song’s opening lyric, “Don’t call me the prodigal son ‘cause I ain’t coming back. I’ll make it on my own, let me walk my own path.” As the song continues, you immediately hear the passion with which the lyrics are being sung and quickly begin to understand the song’s powerful statement. This, combined with the paring of string instruments that appear towards the end of the song, really helps to take it to another level.
Shadows On The Wall is somewhat of a slower song, but there is a heaviness that creeps in and compliments rather than distracts from the overall vibe. On Sweat, it’s pretty evident how well lead guitarist Ryan Kiefer and rhythm guitarist Kenneth Irwin work together as their playing stays in the forefront throughout the entire song. The band’s first single, Pyromaniac, has a similar groove to the opening song, however, I can’t help but think that the low and deep tones in this one, coupled with the intense guitar work, would make this an extremely satisfying song in a live setting. Listen to Pyromaniac here.
8000 Lines starts off with a fat bass line that is complimented by eerie sounding guitar effects, however, this hard-driving song has an unexpected surprise. Just over halfway through, it changes direction, almost as if another song had been added on. However, the beauty in the acoustic portion is not lost on the listener as it reveals itself to be a gem hiding between the start and end of the song.
The back half of the album has a three song run of straight forward rock ‘n’ roll. Dog On A Leash refers to not being at someone’s beck and call and includes a clever line, “Well are you going to feed me before you eat me alive?” Make A Difference appears to ponder the question, how much of an impact does a person have in the world? “Does it make a difference in anything we do? When tomorrow gets here, will they remember you?” The sound on Chains, with its pummeling beat and powerhouse vocal is definitely one of the heaviest songs on the album and some may hear a slight similarity to You by Candlebox. This song will surely stand out to most listeners and should go over exceptionally well in a live setting.
Dream On, by Aerosmith, is an interesting cover song choice, however, from the music, right on down to those high notes at the very end, they do the song justice. Watch the video below. The album ends with Underneath, a ballad that allows Matt James to shine more than ever. With only an acoustic guitar to accompany his voice, you can clearly hear the honestly in his lyrics which makes for a very appealing sounding song. There aren’t a lot of albums where every single song has something positive to offer the listener, however, once you take a listen to Burn The Ships, you will quickly get a feeling for the amount of time, thought and passion that went into every note and lyric by all that were involved. I highly recommend taking the time to check it out.