Essex Hardcore crew MTXS have to be one of the most hard working on the UK Underground Metal circuit. Playing everywhere and anywhere, we had the joy of witnessing their love show a few times last year, including at the very first incarnation of Upsurge Festival at The Newcross Inn in London. Known for their blistering live show, they’ve employed Loathe Guitarist Eric Bickerstaffe to produce “Ache“, the follow up to their 2017 self titled debut and to try and capture some of that live magic in this sophomore album.
The dark industrial strains of the opening of “Mould” set a menacing tone before the riffage kicks in and MTXS have obviously evolved and grown. While the bands previous album saw the quintet cross Metal sub-genres with ease, from the very start of this one the band have taken that to the next level. A Deathcore scream followed by a Hardcore “Arf. Arf.” coupled with some brilliant tempo changes sees the opening tune blend Hardcore, Deathcore, and Downtempo all in one. Not letting the devil have his day with an undercurrent of mental health elements in the lyrics, it’s a great place to start. Continuing the juggernaut of a start “Traits” is a 41 second burst of furious energy with a breakdown playing out underneath a single unclean verse. The dark and brooding Metallic Hardcore plunge of “Strain” continues a bludgeoning rhythm of darkness and the mixing and master job shines with a driven bassline and pounding kit work sounding crisp and clean.
Bringing a thunderous groove and a surprise spoken word esq rap “Bad Blood” punches well above its weight, like a ten year old poking a professional boxer in the eye. The instant two step riffage is broken by an incredible sounding pick slide and a huge breakdown that brings the stomp. The ting-ting of the cymbal hit brings that boxing ring round #1 bell sound while the fierce vocals cut through the guitars like a hot knife through butter. Oh and those guitar squeals. Incredible. Keeping that sense of urgency “Burn the Barron” has a driven energetic pacing with every big cymbal hit being heard loud. Leaning on the Metallic Hardcore influences, there are hints at Knocked Loose, Sharptooth and even Most PreciousBlood in the sound of the album as a whole. There is an interesting melodic moment as a building lead part comes from the two step riffs, giving an off kilter stomp sound that is swiftly broken by a circle pit fodder riff that gives it the kick of a California Reaper. That segways nicely into the slower stomp of the first verse of “Choked” that then takes off second verse, moving through the gears and returning to that high energy groove. The bass and kit shine in the mix with a fine balance struck throughout. Again flowing straight into the next tune “Silver Skin” sees that Deathcore squeal of the opening track reappear alongside some Loathe esq darkness with eerie atmospheric programming in the background of a battering ram of a tune. It’s a spin kicker that will get you moving in the back end with breakdowns piled upon breakdowns to close.
Melloncholic and eerie “Ache” had a dark atmospheric with a spine tingling chilling opening half while lyrically questions of sanity open over bare unclean vocals over a drum fill before the guitars kick in and bring with them a darker and slower mood. It’s obviously the biggest step away from what the and have previously offered and a thought provoking affair. It’s choice as the title track is perhaps a surprise as it’s not the sound of the album as a whole. Second single “Liberation” shatters the illusion of the albums title track with a Slipknot esq bite and barked savage unclean vocal over some seriously chunky and satisfying riffage. The call of the bands name into a a breakdown and the reach for some Deathcore riffage in the final flurry brings the sense that their could be heavier things to come from a Hardcore rooted quintet. The intensity of the menacing grooves continues with closer “Plague” meaning “Ache” is an all killer, no filler album with no fat left on the bone. Crushing riffs with a melodic lead part buried in the mix keep things rolling like a bowling ball while lyrically taking about seeking scraps of hope. It’s a brutal tune that brings to a thunderous close. A stunningly good album that should take MTXS to the next level [8.5/10]
Burn the Barron
“Ache” by MTXS is out now and available via bandcamp