To paraphrase Doctor Steven Strange – a great philosopher of our age – “We’re in the hardcore age now”, and this call to arms has most recently been answered by Essex quintet, MTXS, and their new album Ache. In a world post-Code Orange’s Forever, we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of bands returning to hardcore/metal crossover with a focus on industrial elements and anvil heavy breakdowns. The most notable outside of Code Orange is Vein, whose debut album errorzone sent a shock wave through the heavy metal world and proved that it would be variations on Forever’s themes rather than pallid imitation. Instead we got the ferocity of debut album Slipknot mixed with mathy elements, see Virus://Vibrance for further details. So what are MTXS bringing to the table?
The album opens with squalling industrial noises before the first cracking riff bursts onto the scene with all the swagger and menace of a crowd killing show patron. It’s an ugly, dirty introduction that lays out the band’s milieu; grit-under-the-fingernails savagery, with bouncing flamboyance and flair. Mould starts the album as it means to go on, with influence taken from slam more so than any mathcore derivatives, keeping itself distinct from bands in the vein of… well, Vein. Vocally the album is in keeping with this slamming aesthetic; muscular barks that wouldn’t go amiss on an Infant Annihilator record delivered with a scathing fury. It’s an energetic start, one that bounces off the walls and into the listener with the force of a wrecking ball.
Before you’ve had time to breathe, you’re instantaneously on track five, Burn The Baron, a mid tempo smash that basks in its gravelly demeanour. It’s the first moment of reprieve from the aural assault in the album and comes as a welcome if not speedy break. The songs are all so concise that they rarely reach the three minute mark, and don’t languish in ancillary exploration or repetition. But with this concision comes the album’s detriment; there is a severe lack of ideas on display with many songs feeling interchangeable with one another and a lack of sonic variation, save for the minimalism of the title track. Where Code Orange pulled from industrial and Vein from mathcore, MTXS’ slam influence seems to be a limiting factor rather than an elevation beyond simple hardcore/metal crossover.
That said, the moments that are here are certainly adrenaline pumping. Rabid mosh calls that are reminiscent of Knocked Loose’s Counting Worms provide a rush of blood to the head and activate the primal urge to decimate nearby scenery, and the instrumentation that goes alongside is more than serviceable. The real gem in here, partly by virtue of standing out as something musically more dextrous, is the title track; a lithe, creeping, quasi ballad that switches out the knuckle headed brutality for something altogether more sinister and unsettling. This is a decent album if you are looking to bang your head and flail your body in a vicious mosh pit, it may even be a great album, but for those looking for the next step in hardcore’s evolution, look elsewhere. This album is definitely worth taking the time to listen to if you do already love hardcore, but it isn’t reinventing the wheel.
MTXS’ Ache is released on the 7th of June.