Album Title: The Next Wave EP
Label: Candlelight Records
Date of Release: 14 April 2023
I don’t often review EPs these days, but on this occasion, I had to make an exception. And the reason is simple: the clientele. Intrigued? Read on…
MMXX is so named because it is an entity that was created during the pandemic lockdown period of 2020. Billed as an ‘international super group’ by the accompanying press PR, not me, MMXX is comprised of guitarist/keyboardist Andrea Chiodetti (ex-The Foreshadowing), alongside Daylight Dies duo Egan O’Rourke (bass) and drummer Jess Haff, who also features within Gökböri also. As a fan of Daylight Dies and The Foreshadowing, my interest was already piqued. But then add into the mix some gorgeous cover artwork at the hands of photographer Henri Prestes, and a couple of notable guest vocalists in the form of Swallow The Sun’s Mikko Kotamäki and Antimatter’s Mick Moss, and the whole thing suddenly turned into a no-brainer.
And yet, how come I was blissfully unaware of MMXX’s 2022 full-length album, ‘Sacred Cargo’? I need to do some exploring, and quickly, if ‘The Next Wave’ is anything to go by. It is an EP comprised of three songs, all very different in tone and delivery, but yet still very much in keeping with what seems to be the modus operandi of this core trio, namely heavy, doomy, and melancholy music created to depress, but also stir something deep within the listener’s soul.
The first track, ‘Isolation’, is what I would refer to as being the closest to what I was expecting to hear from the assembled core musicians, especially as it is the track that features the distinctive growls of Kotamäki. The solemn intro, abundance of minor chords, and melancholic melody bound up within the crushing guitar riffs is straight out of the death/doom playbook that Daylight Dies, Swallow The Sun, Insomnium, and others have perfected over the years. The gruff but deep, resonant growls of Kotamäki litter the mid-tempo composition that sees a few lead guitar lines that early Katatonia would be proud of. And I can’t help but fall head over heels for the quiet, minimalist passage, drenched in cloying, miserable atmosphere that gently builds and then gives way to an eruption of heaviness led by thunderous riffs, rumbling bass, and Kotamäki screaming to the heavens.
Had the entire EP been like this, it might not have been quite so interesting and alluring to these ears though. Maybe. We’ll never know, because ‘Alone’ takes up where ‘Isolation’ left off, and in so doing, adds new ingredients to the mix. Of course, the most notable of these is in the vocal department, as Mick Moss delivers a distinctive clean approach, that wavers on the brink of collapse at times, such is the emotion that he offers in his performance. The guitars are still suitably heavy and chunky, whilst the pace is again in the mid-tempo realm. But the vocals, coupled with more sparse verses, gives the song a more immediate feel. It’s helped by a gloriously strong chorus that emerges from the doom-drenched introspection to belt the listener around the head. I also get a vague Gothic metal vibe the song, which may interest other potential listeners, especially those who enjoy the mid-late section of the Paradise Lost discography.
MMXX aren’t finished there, though, as the final song of the trio, ‘Echoes’, brings again something new to the table. On thisc occasion, it’s a delicate, poignant, and incredibly moving composition, led by the soft, almost ethereal tones of Alicia Nurho. Layers of beautiful singing form the focal point of a track that’s all about creating moods and strong atmospheres, backed up by rich but subtle synths, and clean guitars. There’s not a drum or growl in sight, but it is every bit as powerful as the two preceding tracks, thanks to captivating melodies and the completely committed performance from Nurho.
There are probably a handful of you reading this, who have a smug look on your face, having been fully aware already of MMXX. All power to you and, as I mentioned earlier, it is something that I need to rectify as soon as humanly possible. Whether it’s archetypal death/doom metal, Gothic-tinged doom anthems, or elegant, poignant compositions, MMXX have it nailed, and nailed very well indeed. As an entry point, I would heartily recommend ‘The Next Wave’ EP. If you’re like me, it’ll swiftly lead to the discovery of their debut full-length ‘Sacred Cargo’ too. Very nice.
The Score of Much Metal: 80%