Review Summary: MMX shows a band that have matured in their songwriting ability (as well as the department of writing a good riff) and is an album that is as consistent as it listenable. If you liked their earlier work to any extent than this is well worth looking into.
War From A Harlots Mouth haven't actually released the most consistent records in the past. Their debut album, Transmetropolitan, showed signs of a band blessed with technicality and bursts of ingenuity. However, its predictability and host of somewhat mediocre songs did let it down in the end. Their sophomore effort, In Shoals, may have been a more mature and refined album but again, intensity and creativity was lacking.
So, is there anything to say for their third and latest album, MMX? In short, yes. A definite step-up in both songwriting and cohesiveness is evident. Opener Insomnia
launches headfirst into howling vocals and calculated blastbeats. The guitars remain restrained and tasteful in their choice of chord patterns - that is until the actual riffs come in. Enter the band's decision to incorporate 8-string guitars. Some riffs sound like what the band produced before, others sound like a bastardized Meshuggah. And in all honesty, I for one believe this addition to their sound has done nothing but benefit them. In general, the riff department, whilst being evidently breakdown infested, has greatly improved from In Shoals. To Age and Obsolete
, as well as featuring a trademark short jazz-influenced section, shows the band producing some meaty groove-type sections, akin to the polyrhythms experimented with by Meshuggah. The drums shift constantly throughout most songs, usually from tight blasts to well structured beats to compliment the off-kilter grooves laid down by the bass and guitar. In terms of vocals, Nico provides a worthy performance. His highs are decent and his lows definitely seem to have improved.
Another refreshing aspect to MMX are the melodic instrumental tracks. Sleep Is the Brother of Death
cleverly combines an especially refreshing clean section with a headcrushing riff towards the end. Sugarcoat
does much the same, albeit in a more jazzy fashion, minus the heaviosity. Sat neatly in between these two tracks are three tracks that are quite possibly the best MMX has to offer. A slew of crushing, shifting riffs and hectic drums make up the album's best track in The Polyglutamine Pact
, whilst a brief but brilliant guitar riff that will drill it's way into your brain features on Cancer Man
. C.G.B. Spender
almost harks back to some of the ethereal guitar work present on some tracks on In Shoals in it's introduction but from there on in, it is a much slower and more progressive affair. The guitars are still as heavy as ever and the bass provides a huge, thick low end. The vocal section here definitely sounds like The Ocean almost.
The final third of MMX proves that the band are capable of writing an album that is even and consistent whilst still being varied and interesting. Of course, the album has it's flaws - but nobody can deny that Spineless
holds host to some of the band's best instrumental work to date. Breakdowns are well judged and catchy, the clean section is aptly placed and those chunky guitar riffs just keep getting better and better. They simply carry Recluse MMX
into new territories of heaviness, again, making it a highlight of the album. One thing that can also be noted is whilst the extreme tunings would normally drown out bass, the mixing and mastering job has been done proficiently enough so that enough low end does cut through the mix.
Album closers by this band tend to show a couple of traits - there is always a good mix of ideas but they're usually dragged out for way too long. In MMX's case, the final track does seem like an attempt to write an epic (it is the longest track on the album) but without drawing it out into infinity. Aside from a rather uncreative, drab minute ending of feedback and the odd single chord, the album closer does hold up to the rest of the tracks, with the drumming being of particular interest.
MMX shows a band that have matured in their songwriting ability (as well as the department of writing a good riff) and is an album that is as consistent as it listenable. If you liked their earlier work to any extent than this is well worth looking into. If you're a Meshuggah fan, you should probably check this out for the guitars alone. Just don't expect a flawless album - the most you'll get is a solid one.