Matt Loveridge’s 63rds album proves a slow burn but a surefire riff monster for Nick Roseblade

It’s safe to say to say that at this stage in his career Matt Loveridge is a bit of a cult hero. He has released a staggering amount of music since the mid-2000s under the monikers MXLX, Fairhorns, Knife Liibrary, Gnar Hest, WON’T and Team Brick. On the surface his latest album SAINT, his 63rd, might seem like a step back, but under the surface lurks something as complex and mind-melting as anything else he’s released to date.

‘KITAB SIRIYUN‘ opens with an Arabian-tinged melody. The riffs get heavier, and danker, while the melodies are continuously catchy. Then there’s what appears to be a chorus, “A night with the boys won’t do us any harm”, and bridge. This is both jarring and welcoming. The contrast of bleak electronics and warming guitars is something we’ve not seen on a MXLX release for a while, but something that is repeated throughout to devastating effect. Around the halfway mark, everything drops away for a synth/techno breakdown, before the intensity is rekindled. Loveridge’s gruff and guttural harmonies dominate while a maelstrom of drums, bass, guitars and synths whip around him.

If ‘KITAB SIRIYUN‘ was an exercise in, fairly, upbeat conventional rock, ‘PRAYER SLIPS TO MAMMON’ strips that all down and delivers something minimal. The music is more doom based than the opener but those warming elements are still there. The lyric “Pinecones in the eye” seems to sum up the mood perfectly.

About his lyrics Loveridge has said: “Everyone needs to stop focusing on lyrics. Mine are meaningless. The riffs are the important bit.” He’s bloody right. They are the stars of SAINT. Throughout the riffs, and melodies, are unrelenting. We are pummelled and grappled for an hour. The album ends with the 15-minute ‘BUILDING ONE’S HOUSE ON SAND IN THE GREAT INVERSION -OR- "MAN"’. Again, Loveridge starts off slowly, graceful, touching and slightly atonal. As it progresses things take a post-rock turn and get heavier, before the crunching guitars, growly vocals are stripped away for a piercing synth outro.

MXLX releases have always leaned towards the more noisey, metal, industrial end of his musical spectrum and SAINT has more in common with the elongated crushing rock of 2021’s WON’T than 2020’s genre contorting ‘comeback’ SERPENT. Loveridge is still pushing himself, and us in unexpected ways. The conventional rock set-up creates some powerful dystopian, doom-laden soundscapes. The downside to the album might also be its blessing. Namely it’s not as immediate as his previous releases. At first listen I was a bit underwhelmed. After the fifth I was noticing things I hadn’t before. After the 12th I was a full convert at the altar and after the 20th I consider SAINT one of his finest albums to date. So, there is still time to canonise him yet.

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