Okay, before I get to the latest album, I really do need to preface the review with my own previous experiences of Stuck Mojo. I have seem the band a whole bunch of times, and have always had a bloody good time, whether it was seeing them at packed out shows, or rather more sparsely attended venues, the band in its many incarnations always gave one hundred percent. One of my fondest memories of them playing was whilst reviewing for MetalteamUK, the site from the ashes of which Ave Noctum rose like a dark phoenix. Rich “The Duke” Ward, whilst dancing like a loon as he ripped out a guitar solo tore his shorts, and rather than take a break to change, kicked them off, and like a naughty child who forgot his gym kit did the rest of the show in his underwear. This was on their first tour after the departure of Bonz, and with the massive presence of Lord Nelson up front, a man who on stage projected pure intensity, but at the merch stand pure humility, it looked like they were on the up and up again. Fast forward quite a few years, the band having been on a seven year hiatus with Fozzy occupying the time of Messrs Ward and Fontsere, and Stuck Mojo have returned with a new front man, Robby J., bassist Len Sonnier, and album ‘Here Come The Infidels’, care of a successful Pledge Music campaign.
Album opener and title track ‘Here Come The Infidels’ starts strongly with a guitar that promises a far harder attack than the rock of Fozzy, and for a few seconds all seems well with the world. Sadly, the vocals then kick in. Oh dear. For all his personal demons, when Bonz was on form he spat forth his lyrics like a machine gun loaded with anger bullets, whilst his short lived replacement Lord Nelson threw down his words like a gauntlet that only a fool intent on an arse kicking would be willing to pick up. Unfortunately, Robby J’s rap delivery is more akin to Fred Durst than Chuck D, and it lessens the effect of the music and just distracts. ‘Rape Whistle’, for all its good intent at railing against the narrow mindedness of the online social justice warrior sounds rather whiny, and when in the follow up track there is a chant of “I am Charles Bronson”, presumably the late Hollywood tough guy actor and on screen vigilante rather than the often segregated violent category one English convict, I just thought “no you’re not, you’re that guy who rapped on the YouTube video that took the piss out of Linkin Park.”
The album starts to claw back interest and points on ‘The Business of Hate’, the opening lyrics delivered with a far more convincing punk shout that far better suits the composition than the unconvincing rap, the music lashing out with a sound that is a skilled combination of simple blast and complex riffing. Sadly, partway through the song the vocals dial is turned away from the “Henry Rollins” setting and back to “Mike Shinoda”, and the initial body punch fades into a slap in the chops with a wet lettuce leaf. Sadly the album continues in the same vein, and for each of the three times I listened through it to do this review, there was frankly a feeling of relief rather than enjoyment when it finished. There were a bunch of elements to enjoy in the album, The Duke’s guitar work still being excellent, and his clean singing crying out to be set to its own Southern Rock album, the rhythm section is solidly on the mark, and the work of knob twiddler extraordinary Andy Sneap lets every element be heard without sounding overly polished.
It may be any number of things that stop me really enjoying this album: it may be that the world has moved on and nu-metal has had its day, and this album sounds about 20 years too late; it may be my own personal tastes have changed; but whatever it is, and I think you can guess my opinion, despite repeated plays, the album just didn’t grab me, and I can’t imagine wanting to play it again. That said, it is still better than anything I’ve ever heard from the likes of the inexplicably successful Limp Bizkit or Kid Rock, and I’ve no doubt that I’ll check Stuck Mojo out live when they play the main stage at Bloodstock Festival in the hope that The Duke remains the vortex of energy and enthusiasm he has always been on stage.