MMXX – Sacred Cargo Review

MMXX is a very short name for a band, but it still says a lot about its story. During periods of isolation and lockdown in the titular year, Andrea Chiodetti (ex-The Foreshadowing), Jesse Haff (Daylight Dies), and Egan O’Rourke (Daylight Dies) formed something of a doom metal supergroup, based in the United States and Italy, and began writing music inspired by the events happening around them. From there, the project has grown ambitiously—now signed with Candlelight Records, the band brought on guest musician after guest musician to form something of a dark Avantasia-like project, with new singers on every track and more name drops than should be reasonably counted. The end result, debut full-length Sacred Cargo, is a big, lofty, and exciting proposition, one that might easily be crushed beneath the weight of its own ambition.

Or so you’d think! But the supergroup-nature of the MMXX trio means that, even discounting the guest singers, Sacred Cargo is built upon a super-solid foundation of awesome riffs, keys, and good ideas. Songs like “The New Forgotten Ones” craft veils of doom and gloom with driving guitars and weeping leads, interspersed with periods of quiet reflection. Perhaps most notable is the fact that very few of the songs are slow-paced, “traditional” doom—”Der Nukleus” is a great example where Haff shines behind the drumkit, lending the song vibrancy, even as Carmelo Orlando’s (Novembre) somber crooning and impassioned growls manage a more somber atmosphere. “Shadow Haven” is one of the slower songs of the bunch, an expertly-paced, lighter song imbued with a sense of urgency and fatalism by Chiodetti’s guitar work well before Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Witherscape, Nightingale) lends his voice to complete it.

These observations about the music are important, because, like the already-mentioned Avantasia, MMXX only occasionally repeats a guest musician, which means the vocal style is constantly changing throughout the album. Opener “This Breath Is Not My Breath” stars Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Sun), which means high, thin cleans and crushing growls; the very next song, the incredible “Perdition Mirror,” stars Mick Moss of Antimatter and Sleeping Pulse, whose low, baritone style contrasts strongly with Kotamäki’s. This continues throughout the album; other guest singers include Yann Ligner (Klone), Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride), Marco Benevento (The Foreshadowing), and Chris Cannella (Autumn’s End). O’Rourke, the band’s bassist, also contributes vocals for a song. The talent on this forty-seven minute album is staggering, and difficult to properly capture in a review so comparatively brief, but often it is the guest vocalists elevating and enshrining the music on Sacred Cargo. Benevento’s crooning transforms “Unavailing” into a spectacularly gloomy rocker. Similarly, Stainthorpe is able to take the already tense title track and take charge of it, offering commanding vocals ideally suited for the song. Throughout, the strength of Sacred Cargo is constantly passed back and forth between the seasoned musicians who wrote it and the expert singers they’ve worked with.

Still, the style does lend itself to a bit of inconsistency, ironically because the music itself tends to be so similar from song to song. MMXX is, at its heart, a strong doom metal act, with touches of dark rock, and even a bit of melodeath along the way. Sacred Cargo loves its riffs, and relies strongly on ringing leads and heavy doom/rock passages to carry momentum. Songs like “Faint Flickering Light” and “The New Forgotten Ones” feel very similar, right down to the lightly-picked passages that separate heavier moments. The key difference is that those songs are sung by different people, in different styles. Moments like these make the album feel both a little repetitive and a little inconsistent, where the base style feels played fairly safe, and the array of guest musicians feels like it’s too much. As a result, Sacred Cargo succeeds much better as a collection of songs, individually played, than it does as an album listened to from beginning to end.

With all that said, “too solid” isn’t meant as a striking condemnation by any stretch—MMXX have largely succeeded with what they set out to do in Sacred Cargo. Their debut is gloomy, hopeful, and in many ways relatable, an album born from a shared experience that shines with potential. The band’s ambitious concept means they have an unusually wide field of potential, and I for one can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: N/A | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Candlelight Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: November 11th, 2022

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