As you get older you tend not to think about the future too much and you definitely stop looking forward to the years passing and what they may bring but 2019 was different…for one reason alone, Under the Sun. I have not had this much anticipation of an album that some pee actually came out when it hit my inbox.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CR6xzjC-Ptc&w=560&h=315] Blacktop Mojo are a rare beast these days, the name may not have spread like wildfire as with Greta Van Fleet but I have never seen this much buzz in the industry and the grass roots for an unsigned band. The fact they have no backing and with a quick glance you can see that their cover of Aerosmith’s Dream On is sitting at over 12 million views and over 2 million for their cover of Phil Collins In the Air Tonight.
I am not going to hinge anything on a cover but those numbers stack up and I have to admit I discovered the band through that brilliant cover of Aerosmith and there was no looking back. I can still remember the night I discovered the band, I sat there for hours listening to everything that was on YouTube and after a good few drinks it ended in the purchase of both albums.
This band grabbed me by the ears, shook the shit out of me and left me utterly speechless, “Burn The Ships” is perfection, I cannot fault one song, the production, the packaging…nothing. Yes, Blacktop Mojo has turned into my new big thing.
With all this anticipation there is a huge opportunity to fall from that huge pedestal I have built for them, to be fair I was a little scared pressing play but after a whole two seconds of opening track “Lay it on Me” those unfounded fears were swept away with one motherfucking riff from hell.
It starts with distortion and Nathan Gillis knocking seven shades of crap out of his kit before the riff comes in to unsettle your very being until it slows with Matt James just effortlessly standing the hairs up on the back of your arms…and then a scream to put Bruce Dickinson to shame. It slithers, it glides and it soars and instantly I know this album was going straight to my favourite of 2019.
Next up for your delight is “Set it Free” and it sees your favourite Texans ripping it up, it is as heavy as hell, it has a riff to die for and the production is beautiful, three and a half minutes of heaven.
This is why I fell in love with Blacktop Mojo, you get a feeling of de javu, they have all the elements of your past music loves, it is loaded with that southern sound, the riffs of Tony Iommi, the best vocalists rock have produced and rolled it into a band that obviously love each other.
The dueling guitars on this was what Judas Priest and Iron Maiden were born on. On the song “Keep” you have a lazy, slow building beast of a song that sees Matt on ferocious form. I would not argue with this man(have you seen the size of him) but if he screamed at me like he does on this I reckon I would be crying for my mummy.
Smack bang in the middle of this Matt Curtis has a total bass breakdown and it is awesome along with those guitars again. This will have people the world over grabbing a guitar for the first time and a new breed will be born.
The boys slow it all down on “It Won’t Last”, this bluesy number is sublime, the addition of keys works so well with the slowed down tempo and Matt leaves his emotions scarred all over this track.
Mr Bonamassa…take a seat young man, the boys are taking over your area. Every track so far has bettered the last but this is something very special. Now lets wipe away that soft stuff in one sweep with ‘All Mine Now”, classic Mojo, there is a tinge of a certain Free song but it is so decimated by the songs heavy artillery you will hardly notice.
The rhythm section is once again in fine form and this is geared up for a real sing along live. “Can’t Sleep” comes at you like a Tremonti dream, is it Creed? Is it Alter bridge? Those guitar clicks, that bass and Matt doing his best Scott Stapp but this is a bit new for the band and I love it, I love that they are still willing to change, try something new but this song leaves the haunting opening for sheer power, Matt brings everything back so you know that this can only be one band’s song and what a song it is, you have no idea how frustrating it is to not be able to pick the best track on an album, every one is a winner.
We go for a bit more of the blues feel on “The Lashing(Ghost)” and that voice was made for blues, it is the reason those acoustic songs and covers are so damned good. This man has the most powerful voice I have heard in the last decade….how does that work with all that Whisky? No matter my musings Blacktop Mojo can write incredible songs, they can play their instruments like the pros they are and if rock is going to kick off the way I believe this band are going to be pushing their way straight to the top, they are your festival headliners of the(not too distant) future so you can be safe in the knowledge that rock is secure in these boys hands.
Time to dig out that acoustic, lets settle down for a little camp fire ditty, down that bourbon and just lose yourself in those sloppy guitar strings and that chocolate smooth voice…and then some drunk falls through the fire with a damned electric guitar and kicks off the party. This song again rips your expectations out of your head, I could not have expected song after song to move me so much. The guitar breakdown alone nearly brings you to tears. This might sound stupid but I actually cannot wait for this album to finish to be able to breathe, to take this all in and to press play again.
The title track is also the closing number and they have decided to make you work for the goodbye.It opens with a mid tempo swagger that gets as funky as hell and as catchy as a STD from a five dollar hooker but this song and album will leave you a lot happier.
No doubts, no question, “Under the Sun” is the best album of 2019 and as hard as it is to believe it leaves “Burn the Ships” in its dust.
It is head and shoulders above that amazing album and that should tell you just how good it is. When it comes to third albums there is only one I can think of off the top of my head that comes close to the marked difference to previous albums and that is “Number of the Beast”.
That was the album that propelled Iron Maiden to where they are now and I truly believe that this album has that success written all over it. This will break the band wide open and they deserve it.
They have done this the hard way, hard graft, a love of music and a real brotherhood between band members. The band’s success to date has been on word of mouth and those tongues need to get wagging like crazy about this, so people, it is down to us. We started the revolution so lets end it and see this band propelled to the heights they deserve.
I will now finish with the plea, the begging and the desperation that I harass the band with on social media…get your asses to the UK and tour the crap out of this. I am in Scotland but I will travel anywhere in the UK or mainland Europe to catch a live show. I suspect it may be too late in the year now to see that happen so I will have to look forward to 2020 before that happens and going by all the live footage I have seen I reckon that will be the top gig of whatever year they play.
Review Ritchie Birnie