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Black Mountain Studios

July 1

Words by Greg Walker

Having been a Superheist fan since 8 Miles High I found it equally as easy as it was difficult to write an unbiased review for their upcoming album MMXX.

Main man dw Norton is acutely aware just how close Superheist is to my heart. Like many of us I’ve faced personal challenges over the years, and his band and music have soothed and supported my recovery as well as being an outlet for compounded energies, both negative and positive.

MMXX is no different.

This album sounds like a release of those same energies, a band not held back by constraints of any sort; an entity answering only to themselves. Every track is an anthem and a potential single, the album as a whole showcasing the diverse songwriting these guys are known for and the results of the group harmony speak for themselves.

Taking nothing away from past line-ups and releases this is their most cohesive effort to date, the shape of the chords, delivery of the riffs, the quintessential melodic overtones and harmonic balance converging to make the songs resonate long after the album has finished.

MMXX’s opening track begins with a brief intense build-up enhanced by a flurry of John Sankey double kicks and then launches straight into the chorus, announcing their intent from the get-go, almost warning you with the refrain of This is your Last Chance To Leave…. The pent up energy released in the opening moments is palpable.

dw Norton has an unmistakable signature sound in his playing and production, no matter which of his projects you’re indulging. This is never more evident than with MMXX. Of course, there are going to be moments that are reminiscent of The Prize Recruit and Identical Remote Controlled Reactions, but gone are the loudmouth rebellious youths of yesteryear, this is a modern sounding, mature Superheist. And the sound is HUGE. Played beside previous modern slabs like Sidewinder or Ghosts Of The Social Dead or Raise Hell, MMXX is noticeably louder than anything before, without losing any intensity or attention to detail. Every instrument including vocals feels to be at the forefront of the mix, creating a powerful yet not overpowering sensation of awareness of every detail.

It’s exceptional production.

Other than the stellar production, the other striking aspect immediately evident is dw’s vocal presence. If you’re familiar with the heartfelt Seize The Day tribute to Seanheist, this is what to expect and more. There is a noticeable difference between dw’s Rifleman solo project and Superheist in many obvious ways, but especially in his vocal delivery. More forward and confronting than the laid back Rifleman’s more personal reflective acoustic / softer rock stylings, but no less emotive, dw maintains the traditional style Heist fans have come to know and love whilst dragging us into a fresh new era. Si Durrant is vocal partner-in-crime this time around, sharing much more vocal duties than ever and adding some great harsh backing and lead vocals from beginning to end.

Si and second guitarist Keir Gotcher also contributed to more of the tracks than ever before, the tyranny of distance proving no match in the internet age, and likely driving their desire to be more involved in a more collaborative effort this time around.

The long-established hip-hop elements are still filtered throughout without being intrusive, delivered with authenticity and care for what fans have come to expect but mixed with the more flowing styles of IRCR. But make no mistake, this is modern Superheist, the massive studio sound coupled with the band’s bounce and groove is an epiphany for what the band will sound like from here on out.

Medicated is heavy. It’s the perfect lead single to demonstrate what the other 11 tracks have to offer. It is the Superheist of old but way bigger, with a quiet breakdown and change of mood in the middle, perfectly illustrating the lyrical message’s intent. Without getting preachy about why there’s currently so much unrest in society in general, “medicated” is intended as a metaphor for being numb and willingly sidetracked by the real issues. Offering two contrasts to our human situation, the track builds from the mid-section and finally comes back around to the big finish leaving you wanting more, perfectly demonstrating the group’s writing strengths. As heavy as it is, Medicated is not even the heaviest song on the album.

A History Of Violence has possibly the heaviest slower tempo riff of the twelve tracks, a driving dirty groove that’s instantly memorable. Never deviating far from THAT riff, this is a brutal highlight of the heaviest Superheist.

John Sankey shines on this record, his work paralleled with programmed percussion that only enhances his contributions. He’s able to unleash quite a bit throughout, especially on Destination Unknown where the double kick work is pummeling.

But that’s not to say there aren’t melodic reprieves. Every Waking Moment is an oasis of beauty amid the measured chaos of the rest of the material. Evoking the closest comparison to dw’s Rifleman project, yet maintaining its own identity, Every Waking Moment is a most subtle and tender centre point.

Mayhem was the first song written for MMXX, and is another showpiece of the balance between the heavy and melodic. The faster sections of Mayhem and the bounce of the big head-nodding chorus are broken by a touching moment mid-song. Following another fit of double kicks and brutality, a central piano piece is sublime, hitting on a higher emotional plane that brings forth memories of the older material from bygone years while still presenting as new and exciting.

There are clear bridges between eras, a big throwback to some old Superheist on tracks like Destination Unknown, The Great Divide and Live For This, which all feel right at home alongside the different but no less genuine feel of Surrender, Disintegration, and The Crow. The Crow has a Ministry / RevCo vibe and coincidentally would fit well on The Crow Movie Soundtrack.

Closing out the album is Oblivion, a slow burn contrast of the chunk and melodic, a poignant finish to MMXX leaving you wanting more. Which is great because the lads are well into the process of MMXX Part 2, which continues the modern sound and is even heavier in places (read: blast beats!)

To finish, MMXX is an uncompromising and measured effort, a rollercoaster of styles, emotional atmospheric flourishes, and musical landscapes, a bridging of eras yet clearly defining its own identity. If I had to sum it up in one word, I’d say above all it’s honest.

I can’t wait to see this material live, to see the boys fire away and deliver the Mayhem 🤘

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