MMXX – Sacred Cargo

This will be my final review of 2022, well, unless something new grabs me unexpectedly.  And grab me the debut from MMXX did.  The album is called Sacred Cargo, and it released on November 11th.  This album seemingly transcends all the labels and musicians involved to become something truly special.

MMXX is a global ensemble of musicians and vocalists.  There are a ton of people on this record.  The main band consists of Andrea Chiodetti on guitar and keys, Egan O’Rourke on bass and vocals, and Jesse Haff on drums.  You will also hear Alicia Nurho on violin and Ilaria Calabrò on cello.  The vocalists include Marco Benevento, Chris Cannella, Mikko Kotamaki, Yann Ligner, Mick Moss, Carmelo Orlando, Aaron Stainthorpe, and Dan Swanö.  No doubt you recognize most of those names.

There’s something I love about this record.  The band plays doom metal with progressive trappings, which is further bolstered by the wide range of vocalists who bring their own styles and moods into play.  The music here is heavy and dark with excellent lyrics, but the music can range from death doom growls to atmospheric and emotional works. There is a huge amount of diversity here.

The vocalists really bring something special to this work.  They come from bands ranging from Swallow the Sun to Klone to Antimatter to Novembre.  Some are used to working in a prog rock environment, while others are used to working in a deeper, darker tide of doom.  It is interesting to see them all come together into a unified sound, yet each song with its own character.

The musicians here should not be discounted.  I absolutely love Andrea’s guitar work on this album.  I love the shadowy, chugging riffs that form the base of his style, but he also creates rhythms and licks that peal with gloomy melody and emotion, and in other moments his work can be bright and enlightening.  Egan and Jesse offer a rhythm section that is full of deft cymbal work, wonderful fills, nuanced kick drums, and muscular grooves.  The more I listen to the album, the more my focus shifts from the novelty of the vocalists and onto the core lineup and their brilliance.

Ten tracks give us 45 minutes of Sacred Cargo.  Each and every track is a carefully crafted affair, that much is certain.  The singles are “This Breath is Not My Breath” with Mikko on vocals, “The New Forgotten Ones” with Yann, “Perdition Mirror” with Mick, and “Shadow Haven” with Dan.  All four of these tracks are brilliant.  Mikko really brings the growls on the opener, but I love how he slices through them with his clean vox so perfectly.  Yann from Klone offers one of my favorites on the album, a grungy and emotional piece.  Mick’s voice works so well with doom, for some reason, and he sounds larger than life somehow.  Mick is also on “The Tower”, which I like even more for its swelling, urgent sound.  Dan is a legendary musician, and so his closer is a classic and gruff work that simply does not miss; I love how smooth his voice sounds when he hits his upper range.

But I want to shine a light on some of the lesser-known vocalists because their offerings are just as good.  Egan, the bassist, sings on “Faint Flickering Light”, a softer and more ethereal track with emotional guitar work and a steady rhythm.  It’s great.  “Unavailing” features Marco and Chris, and it is seriously good in its driving, double bass heavy glory.  I love the contrast between the two vocalists.  Carmelo offers us “Der Nukleus”, a hazy track with pale white harsh vocals right up against a shimmering, effervescent wall of clean vocals.  It is an interesting song, for sure.  Finally, I need to mention the title track, which features Aaron of My Dying Bride.  He is obviously quite well known, though maybe not in prog circles.  Anyways, this track is doomy and beautiful to the core with classic vocals and stringed accompaniment.  It is a beautiful tune that sounds assertive and confident.

I don’t know if MMXX is planning another album, but it will be difficult to top this one.  Sacred Cargo is immersed in emotion, artistry, and veteran wisdom.  It is a dark album, yes, but offers plenty of light and soaring beauty, too.  I find that this album really grows with each listen, and I feel like I’m going to be listening to it regularly for some time.


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