Have you ever listened to a band where you just know they have “It”? When you listen to those first notes and immediately connect with the music? And when you hear that one track and say “Wow”? That’s what happened when I got to listen to Burn the Ships by Blacktop Mojo.
The band from Palestine, TX was formed in 2012. They released their first album, I Am, in 2014 and have shared stages with artists Aaron Lewis, Candlebox, Drowning Pool, and Puddle of Mudd. And now they are releasing their sophomore album, Burn the Ships, produced by Philip Mosley and mixed and mastered by Austin Deptula. And it is amazing.
The band consisting of Matt James (vocals, founding member), Ryan Kiefer (lead guitar, backing vocals), Kenneth Irwin (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Nathan Gillis (drums, founding member), and Matt Curtis (bass) present a hardcore rock sound that will not disappoint. The first track, “Where the Wind Blows” starts out with that lovely acoustic twang and rips into electric guitar riffs moments later. I loved that they don’t abandon the acoustic sound in the song. There very few bands who could mix acoustic and electric together and make it sound natural. Blacktop Mojo not only makes it seem natural for them, they make it sound great.They reminded me of hardcore version of Days of the New with this track. Lyrically it’s one of those songs you can’t help but find yourself singing along.
“Burn the Ships” the title track is one of my favorites for many reasons. First off, I love that you can actually hear Matt’s bass playing in songs. I feel too many bands let their guitars overrule the bass sounds. Here, Blacktop Mojo allows the bass to stand on it’s own. As a Rush fan, I love hearing a bass player rip away, and you definitely hear it here. Second, Matt James’ vocals are beautiful. He has a clear sound with a lot of power and this song shows that off. But, it’s the way he presents it in the chorus that caught me.
“Prodigal” is a ballad that gives Matt another opportunity to show off not only his rang, but his passion for their music. You can tell when a vocalist is invested within a song and this one gave me chills hearing him singing it. The song has a touch of sadness to it, yet Blacktop Mojo finds a way to get you wrapped up it in and then rock you out to it at the same time. It’s the type of ballad writing you see from Shinedown and Blacktop Mojo stands right up there with them.
I found “Sweat” to be the blue collar man’s working song. I really like this one for the lyric writing. “If sweat were money I’d be a millionaire” is something many of us understand so listeners will easily connect with this song. Ryan and Kenneth’s guitar work is great in this song. They mix and mesh very well together on this song and definitely throughout the album. And Nathan’s drum work on this song is solid. I love how he snaps out some really hard beats and can stop them on a dime and then smash right back into it.
When I first caught wind of Blacktop Mojo it was a from a Facebook post a friend of mine shared. It a video of them performing Aerosmith’s “Dream On”. Really?? I thought this was very ambitious for any band to take on such a classic song, especially with vocals from Steven Tyler. Still, I figured to give it a listen. From the first guitar rifts they immediately had my attention. Blacktop Mojo makes this song in their own style while still keeping it to the original. And about those vocal high notes, yeah, Matt does a phenomenal job belting those out. Unreal. And you know what? That track is on this album and worth every second listening to it.
I must have listened to this album at least ten times by now and I haven’t tired of it yet. Burn the Ships is a solid rock album with stellar tracks from a band that will definitely step into the spotlight. Burn the Ships releases today, March 10th. So go out, buy it, and listen to one of the new faces of rock.