The backlash against the nineties has been severe, as with every decade so eager to bury its predecessor. But once a decade is sealed in the archives for five to ten years, a fascination with passé trends re-emerges as popular culture eats its tail again and again. A pertinent example being early nineties Def American rockers Four Horsemen (which at one time featured DOA, Danzig, and Social Distortion drummer Chuck Biscuits), who remarkably revived the Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blue Oyster Cult feel of the Seventies on their legendary 1991 debut Nobody Said It Was Easy. Even greater irony exists for bands like Crowbar and Down, who also draw heavily from seventies riff rock, and have been enjoying acclaim as of late that simply was not there for them during the nineties. Ex-Godbelow trend hoppers Brand New Sin would be doing well if only they wrote songs of substance. By re-releasing albums one and two from Atlanta rap-metal innovators Stuck Mojo in their own respective packaging (unlike the more common 2-on-1 format), the label they helped grow, Century Media, are paying their respects to a band that was too genuine and political for their own good, and therefore too misunderstood to achieve more than the fairly small success they tasted at their peak. Throughout the nineties Stuck Mojo were press darlings, praised relentlessly by metal press gurus Borivoj Krgin from Blabbermouth, Paul Gargano from Metal Edge, Tim Henderson from Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, and official biographer Martin Popoff (Black Sabbath, Dio, Rainbow, UFO, Blue Oyster Cult). How could such well-informed critics all agree on the greatness of Stuck Mojo Because far from being the copycat rap-core band uninformed posers at the time wrote them off as, or the nu-metal tag that has inexplicably become synonymous with their name among newcomers to the modern metal scene, Stuck Mojo were as blues-influenced ("Who's The Devil," "Change My Ways," "Twisted") as they were Prong and Helmet-type, stop-start metal influenced ("F.O.D.," "Cake," "2 Minutes of Death," "Pigwalk," "[Here Comes] The Monster"). Unlike recyclable nu-metal that had always been big on self-loathing imagery and repetitive seven-stringing, Stuck Mojo's guitars were its driving force. When songs allowed for it, Ward would break into passages and solos redolent of famous blues rock legends Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Pantera's Dimebag Darrell often cited Stuck Mojo guitarist Rich Ward as his favorite living guitarist. If any one endorsement most accurately describes the soulful, blues-rock knack possessed by Ward, it's Dimebag's. And no wonder he had a sweet spot for Ward's riffs; they shared much in common. Both grew up in the south in the eighties, which influenced both their guitar playing and politics, for better or worse. Also, hair metal was a visible influence on both, with Pantera's early albums an emulation of the makeup-caked scene, and Ward's penchant for contagious arena rock riffs driving many of the choruses in Stuck Mojo's material on these two albums ("Not Promised Tomorrow," "F.O.D.," "2 Minutes of Death," "Who's The Devil," "Change My Ways," "Twisted," "[Here Comes] The Monster," "Only The Strong Survive"). Ward's other projects, the popular once-covers-only band Fozzy, and his one-time rock band Sick Speed, both draw heavily from epic bands like Journey and Boston as well. Two of the bonus tracks on Pigwalk, modernized covers of Iron Maiden's "Wrathchild" and Motley Crue's "Shout At The Devil," show Stuck Mojo honoring their roots; what makes them even more special are Devin Townsend's spirited guest vocals on each chorus. Pigwalk's futuristic production, a collaborative effort by then virtual nobodies Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad, Lamb of God, Darkest Hour) and Daniel Bergstrand (Behemoth, In Flames, Meshuggah, Soilwork), was a highly representative dose of the crushing sound countless metal bands would be asking for years later. Townsend's stamp on Pigwalk is plain to see, as he is also credited with having written and performed the choruses for "Animal" and "Violated," incorporating "samples and extraneous shit" throughout the album, as well as composing the atmospheric instrumental "Inside My Head." In reflecting the contrasting views of Bonz and Rich Ward, Stuck Mojo's prominent politics may very well have toggled between the left and the right, but they were always speaking up about something. This political activist-mindedness, diverse rock-metal approach, and authentic black frontman alienated them from college crowds, the most extremist minded band they were into being ultra-clean leftists Rage Against The Machine. The message sent by spoken-word "The Sermon," during which a faux-sermon sees a preacher passionately condemning alternative bands like Bush and Silverchair for being corporate rock clones rather than the rebels they posed as. Bonz's very pointed anti-mainstream stance of "Despise" takes it one step further, singling out Counting Crows, Oasis, Weezer, and other top-selling artists at the time: "I remember the motto corporate rock sucks, now I look at Green Day, it must be payday. [.] We're the alternative to the alternative, heavy is where it's at. You've become what you despised!" Alas, even during Stuck Mojo's later attempts to streamline their sound and incorporate melodic sung choruses on their Declaration of a Headhunter material and studio demos from the same era released on the HVY1 live album and Violate This compilation, the need to convey a message and shit-disturbing never left their sights, and ultimately was one of the factors that deterred them from signing a big contract, of which they were offered a few during their peak. Having reunited last year minus longtime drummer Bud Fonstere, Stuck Mojo recorded a new album Southern Born Killers and seemed eager to take another stab at it. But the strange very recent events surrounding Bonz being kicked out of the band and his entire vocal performance re-recorded by the 300-pound Lord Nelson (with a voice like Public Enemy's Chuck D) has put an twist on this supposed return to form, as Bonz was part of the nucleus. Still, the four studio albums they released during their heyday, especially Snappin' Necks and Pigwalk, still have a lasting impact despite the now-stigmatized union of rap and metal. Bottom Line: At their peak, represented on these well-done reissues with some essential bonus material (like the eighties covers with Devin Townsend guesting), Stuck Mojo were so much more than the rap-metal clone many hastily dismissed them as. The tag-team of Rich Ward's endless repertoire of rock, blues, thrash, and hardcore riffs, and Bonz's well-read lyrics and inner-city awareness, made them stand out no matter who they were touring with, be it Sepultura, Pantera, Sick Of It All, or Merauder (whose gear the entire band were decked out in for their 1996 promo photo in the Pigwalk liner notes). While many metal fans today prefer to cling to a specific sound repeated ad nauseam by countless bands, Stuck Mojo were true innovators at the time. Regardless of whether today's fault-finding metal fan chooses to respect Stuck Mojo for what they did or disregard these reissues altogether, it's admirable that Century Media, the label on which many of metal fans favorite new bands like Behemoth, The Haunted, and Despised Icon reside, still remembers where it came from.