Stuck Mojo - Southern Born Killers

Napalm Records
Produced by Rich Ward

The story of the new, fifth Stuck Mojo studio album is a long and complicated one involving money (more specifically a lack thereof), independent releases, major line-up changes and finally the signing of a new record deal and a release outside of North America.

Much of the background story need not be recited here and the details of all of the above can be read here, here and here. Suffice to say the band, and in particular founding guitarist Rich Ward, went through a great deal of turmoil to reach this stage.

Southern Born Killers marks the debut of new vocalist Lord Nelson, who replaced original member Bonz in late 2006. Opinion was expected to be divided but the most faithful Mojo fans quickly embraced Nelson's smoother tone, although many were careful not to say whether or not they preferred him to Bonz. The first glimpse of Nelson came with the video for Open Season, the first song to be heard by the public from the new album. The band's anti-jihad message was misconstrued as racist and the video became surrounded by controversy. The song itself laid the foundation for the album to come, with monumental riffs and biting lyrics co-penned by Ward and long-time associate Ed Aborn.

But as massive as the riffs to Open Season are, opening trio I'm American, Southern Born Killers and The Sky Is Falling and later the more aggressive That's When I Burn, featuring Renny Carroll from Forever Never, relegate it to the second division of songs on the album (with Metal Is Dead and That's When I Burn). All three of these songs contain some of Ward's best riffs, all are massively heavy, and I'm American and The Sky Is Falling in particular feature the best blend of Ward's melodic singing voice against Nelson's warmer (than Bonz) rap.

The second division of songs are still outstanding, but fall just short of the other four. Frantic Metal Is Dead and the expressive rap of Open Season don't quite come up to what is close to perfection on the aforementioned, but aren't far away and serve as excellent album tracks. Unfortunately, those six tracks on the ten-track original album accounted for all of the best songs. Two more, For The Cause of Allah and Prelude To Anger aren't really proper songs, more spoken-word tracks, and Yoko is a decidedly weak moment. Home is better, but doesn't feature enough big riffs or use Nelson enough to take it to the level of the other six.

While two weaker songs isn't the end of the World on any album (and they're by no means unlistenable), when two more tracks are taken out as spoken-word pieces, just six great tracks on a ten-track album isn't really enough. Even if they are amongst the best songs of the band's career. However, where the original album finished with Home, the previously weak ending it created with Yoko, which let the album down quite a bit, has been rectified with the addition of three excellent new songs Go, The Fear Is All Around Me and This Is How We Swing.

Where most Mojo fans feared to tread, I don't. Nelson is better than Bonz. His smoother, much less abrasive style fits perfectly with Ward's more polished riffing and melodic song writing, although it's hard to see how he would have fitted in with the rougher, more aggressive sound the band had on their first three albums (Bonz didn't figure much on the fourth one). So far Mojo haven't been seen live with Nelson in Europe, but the current tour with Ektomorf is settling that score, and reports from the few North American shows played last year are that Nelson does a fine job on the old material as well.

Bonz and Ward shaped the Mojo sound together and the old material wouldn't sound right recorded now with someone else. To some a Mojo without Bonz is unthinkable, but the band have moved on, modernised and improved their sound, and with Nelson they sound more unstoppable than ever before. Ward has been very careful not to over-shadow or belittle the legacy the band have with Bonz, and sees the new Mojo as a new beginning, rather than a replacement. The new closing trio seal the deal on this album and make Southern Born Killers Mojo's finest hour to date. Hopefully there will be more in time.

“ monumental riffs ”

Tracklist: I'm American / Southern Born Killers / The Sky Is Falling / Metal Is Dead / For The Cause of Allah / Open Season / Prelude To Anger / That's When I Burn / Yoko / Home / Go / The Fear Is All Around Me / This Is How We Swing

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2008, Albums, Rap Metal,

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