A new doom metal “supergroup” releasing a COVID-19 lockdown album in late 2022. That sentence, which describes MMXXSacred Cargo (Candlelight) in plain terms, will no doubt inspire a variety of different thoughts and feelings in people with an interest in such things. Some might dismiss the concept (album) out of hand. After all, the band’s name translates as “2020” and, well, not only is it not 2020 anymore, but the mere mention of that year is liable to inspire at least a wearied eye-roll if not a flashback to genuine out-and-out despair.

On learning, however, that Sacred Cargo features at its core an international lineup of Andrea Chiodetti (ex-The Foreshadowing), Jesse Haff (Daylight Dies, Gökböri) and Egan O’Rourke (Daylight Dies), many will feel a hint of intrigue rising. When they subsequently discover that the album also hosts guest spots from a star-studded and cross-continental bill of revered doom metal singers, excitement might start to spread.


Namely, the record has contributions from Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Nightingale) Yann Ligner (Klone), Mick Moss (Antimatter, Sleeping Pulse), Aaron Stainthorpe (My Dying Bride), Mikko Kotamaki (Swallow the Sun), Carmelo Orlando (Novembre), Marco Benevento (The Foreshadowing), Chris Cannella (Autumns End), and Egan O’Rourke (Daylight Dies). Wow, is what a hypothetical heavy riff addict might now be thinking


Questions might be burning. Is this the wrong time to release a COVID concept album (two years late or maybe 48 years early)? Perhaps more importantly, is the music any good?


I’ll start with the second question. Yes. Sacred Cargo swirls and swells with copious amounts of the nourishment that disciples of the doom metal gospel crave. The underlying musical arrangements are driving, dread-laden, melancholic and imbued with a graceful fragility that beautifully offsets the backbone of monolithic riffery. It’s at the tight and precise rather than sludgy and chaotic end of doom; riffs are machine-like, guitar solos are slick and technical, and drums are punchy, crisp and metronomic.

There is a significant prog rock element thanks to the prominent use of synths alongside the complex chords and technical riffs that sit in-between the more straightforwardly heavy segments. The recurring ambient atmospherics of jangling clean guitars betray an influence of gothic rock that subtly permeates the whole album like the scent of patchouli oil. Melody is also key — the songs are peppered with dramatic, evocative and memorable guitar and synth patterns that add intricacy and colour to the austere sonic foundations.


The vocals are, of course, varied in style. Mikko Kotamaki dispatches blood-curdling snarls. Mick Moss sounds genuinely perturbed as he emotes in an expertly multi-layered tenor. Yann Ligner flows effortlessly from disturbing whisper to soaring lament. Marco Benevento moans in his trembling baritone. Carmelo Orlando exudes a strangely sombre calm before shifting into a demonic growl. Aaron Stainthorpe recites poetry in commanding spoken tones processed to sound like an old horror movie soundtrack. Dan Swäno seems to rise every upwards with his ghostly voice, gradually transmuting sadness into resolve and acceptance.


All of these contributions are exemplary and work in their own distinctive ways to bolster an album that still feels unified and focused.


Putting aside the thematic concept then, Sacred Cargo is undoubtedly a success that will be greeted warmly by those who appreciate the melodic and darkly opulent side of doom.


But what about that first question from a few paragraphs back? Well, I must admit that it feels odd at the end of 2022 to hear these vocalists reciting their sincere emotional responses to an international crisis that, let’s face it, feels like yesterday’s news. We all know intellectually that it can take several years for an album to make it from conception to release, but hearing these lyrics and knowing their stimulus feels like looking back in time to something that is no longer directly or universally relevant in the way that it once was.


That said, given that one way or another 2020 was going to end and so were the lockdowns, it surely must have always been MMXX’s intention to capture for posterity a snapshot of otherwise ephemeral and deeply intense human feeling stemming from a period of international upheaval unparalleled in recent times. Taken on those terms, Sacred Cargo works. And it has the potential to age well, given that in a decade nobody will really notice that it came out two years after the event.


MMXX is a band born of a cataclysmic moment in history that we all experienced in our own ways and are now probably tired of talking about. If you can get past that sticking point and if you appreciate emotion-rich melodic doom metal, Sacred Cargo will provide exactly what you need.


Buy the album here:


7 / 10