When zealots declared "The South will rise again!" the farthest thing from their minds was a black man leading the charge, fronting a band inspired by Twisted Sister and World Championship Wrestling. But obviously, the people that swooned over "Sic Semper Tyrannis" had never heard of heavy metal music, let alone Fender guitars, Pearl drums, and Marshall stacks that project a din loud enough to stifle any Civil War cannon blast.
Enter Stuck Mojo, Atlanta's metal godfathers, the South's reigning kings of musical fury and onstage chaos, and underdogs turned favorites to topple the loud rock hierarchy.
Selling a combined 75,000 copies of their first two releases on Century Media Records, Snappin' Necks (1995) and Pigwalk (1996), Stuck Mojo are indie-metal's marquee attraction, having chiseled a name for themselves through aggressive touring, explosive live shows, and an attitude that defines heavy metal as it was always meant to be.
With the release of Rising last month, Stuck Mojo made their intentions clear: It's time to muscle their way to where the big boys play. The first step? An album that locks a submission hold on the competition, a volatile mixture of power, adrenaline and unbridled energy channeled into one of the most potent heavy releases this side of the millennium.
To call Stuck Mojo's infectious swirl of genres a metal/hip-hop crossover doesn't do them justice. Without sacrificing melody and songwriting, you can't get any heavier than the jacked tandem of Rich Ward's guitars and the devastating bottom end of bassist Corey Lowery (brother of Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery) and drummer Bud Fontsere. Add frontman Bonz to the mix, who unleashes a vocal arsenal that couples a hip-hop delivery with punk-metal tendencies, and you've got the bastard child of Pantera (whoStuck Mojo will tour Europe with in June) and Rage Against the Machine, a groove-heavy explosion that makes Ice T's Body Count look like a garage outfit.
"Crooked Figurehead" opens Rising with a politically-charged slam, paving the way for the musical offensive and social awareness that follows. The title track toggles from a street smart spoken tirade to rap-driven lyrics, while Stuck Mojo flips vocal extremes with a menacing death metal growl on the raging "Enemy Territory." "Your mouth can't run with a broken jaw," Bonz pops off on "Dry," and then adds a two-fisted heart punch on the pro-capital punishment "Throw the Switch." Betrayal is the topic of choice on "Hang 'Em High (Loser's Theme)," where Bonz snaps "You used to be my friend but now you're just a backstabber" over a southern-fried metallic twang. And the whole band throws their fists in the air as they bully their way through "Pipebomb."
On Pigwalk's "Despise," Stuck Mojo declare themselves "the alternative to the alternative," but it's doubtful the quartet foresaw the reality of the statement. If mainstream metal acts like Pantera and Megadeth are the alternative to today's mainstream, Stuck Mojo live up to their claim by being the alternative to the corporate giants: A living, breathing, and moshing entity that fulfill the very essence of what it means to be a heavy band. They write with a political consciousness that eludes arena rock, forge a musical path that strays from the safety zone of power chords and pristine vocals, and have a grass roots mentality that channels their emotions into energy, not attitude.
"The financial limitations of being on an indie label don't keep us from touring 365 days a year, being in everyone's face, and making a stink and getting attention," says Ward of making do with the resources at hand. "We've been touring the country in a van for seven years, and every time through, there are more fans.
"We see what we're doing as scarring over all the old damage from not having any financial support. The politics of the business do get frustrating, and they make you want to go 'This sucks, what a drag,' but we're not going to let it get us down. Just let it get you mad, that's our motto. We use the anger and channel it back onstage. We've never had a silver spoon in our mouths, and that's helped us pull together as a unit - the band, our management, and our fans. If it doesn't kill us, it makes us stronger."
In essence, Stuck Mojo have focused everything that made them metal fans into the very product that is making them a metal force, from Twisted Sister's showmanship to Accept's "Balls to the Wall" mentality and Judas Priest's perseverance.
"Whether we're on the OzzFest or not, we just appreciate the opportunity to play. It's been all of our dreams for as long as we can remember," the guitarist adds. "Like a lot of the bands that we grew up listening to, we're not a star band, we're a fan band."
Their recent association with World Championship Wrestling has helped blossom that fan base, leading to sales in excess of 15,000 in the first month of Rising's release and landing the album on Billboard's rock chart, a first for any Century Media band.
The members of Stuck Mojo are avid weightlifters and friends of many of the WCW grapplers from the gym, so Ward had the brainstorm of uniting the two worlds while recording the latest release. "Every time I watch wrestling, I see Pantera and White Zombie t-shirts. Rock and wrestling are the same thing, it's about testosterone and taking bumps, and our fans take as many bumps as we do!"
Landing WCW superstars Diamond Dallas Page and Raven and his "flock" for their video, the clip debuted in front of more than five million television viewers on "WCW Monday Night Nitro." A few weeks later, the video aired during prime time on MTV, turning what many thought would be nothing more than a short-lived gimmick into a savvy business move that will pay dividends far into the band's future.
"We're selling a lot of records on a small, independent label that has trouble just getting the records in stores," Ward reflects. "That's the only real bummer. There's no telling, with major distribution, what this band would be capable of." Rest assured, those days can't be far behind.