MGT is the new moniker of seasoned session guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite. For the last 20 years Marks guitar has been contributing to the sound of many acts you will be familiar with, especially in the gothic rock world; The Mission, Peter Murphy (of Bauhaus fame), Gary Numan and Ricky Warwick to name just a few. This is the first time that MGT has recorded an album under his own name. His very first band was with Steve Danger of Wolfsbane and his list of performances since have ranged from playing with Tool to recording the guitars on a Wu Tang Clan single. To aid him in this task Mark has called upon a whole list of collaborators he has worked with over the years and it is a pretty impressive list.
What instantly hits you about this record are two things – a) MGT is pretty damn fine songwriter in his own right. A lot of the tracks on this album could easily have been the lead single. B) And for me this is the most important fact and makes the difference between an OK record with a talented line up and a Great record is that MGT has not just written 13 songs and got some mates to guest on them. He has written 13 songs with those guest in mind. It may only seem like a subtle difference but such an important one. So often you hear records by a bunch of very talented musicians but with no vocalists amongst them so they get a guest vocalist in but it never really sits right with the song. This is not the case here.
The album opener and indeed lead single is perhaps an interesting choice and in this case not one I am keen on. The album contains 14 tracks, 13 are original compositions and one cover, MGT has chosen to open the album with this cover. It could be that this is the song with close friend Ville Valo of HIM. Unfortunately for me, it is a cover of ABBA’s “Knowing Me, Knowing You” which I can’t stand. Sadly, it has meant that I have skipped track 1 on every listen to the album. The video for this song is at the bottom of the review, go ahead and give it a try you may well enjoy it. [We actually featured it as a Classic Cover at the end of April! – Mosh]
The 2nd song on the album is a cracker though and would have made a brilliant opening song. “You Can’t Go Back” guests Mile Hunt of The Wonderstuff and is a great track. What I like about it, you can tell this is Miles Hunt but it puts him to arena of rock more, less Indie than the Wonderstuff and he excels in this arena. It’s very atmospheric and reminds me somewhat of Placebo. MGT’s guitar is very clean and this works well and doesn’t dominate the song but certainly carries it. From there we are introduced to a style of song MGT is going to be very familiar with, on the very old school Goth sounding “The Reaping”, very Missionary and again another contender for a single. The matching up of Ashton Nyte of The Awakening works very well. He has that deep voice this type of track needs. Very 80’s Leeds scene in style. Ashton Nyte appears on two tracks on the album and later track “Jesamine” follows that 80’s old school goth theme but more Sisters of Mercy this time than the Mission.
So it interesting then that when Wayne Hussey of The Mission guests on “Another Snake in the Grass” that he hasn’t tried one of the more gothy songs out with him but instead it’s a harder edged Nine Inch Nails style. It has that minimalist approach to both the electronic drums and the industrial guitar. At times the guitar reminds me a little of late period Depeche Mode the way it fades into the background and then is pulled to the front of the track and back again throughout the song. Yet another catchy chorus to this song too. On “Star Struck Eyes” we are introduced to another icon of the 80’s with Julianne Regan of All About Eve. Knowing the strength in writing for Julianne is her voice, MGT has been a lot subtler with his approach to this song, even including the use of a saxophone in the later stages. I’m not really familiar with German band Dead guitars but lead vocalist Carlo Van Putten joins MGT for a great slow burning song, very strangely intoxicating and addictive, “Sweet Valentine” . I love the way this whole song is constructed, the guitar in the background suits perfectly the melancholy lyrics and emotive voice all combining together in an epic ending.
The song of the album for me though is “Drive and Forget” with Ricky Warwick taking up vocal duties. This is straight off The Almighty’s Soul Destruction album in its style. It’s an acoustic ballad and is executed superbly. A great heart felt song.
This is a great debut by MGT with so many songs that could be lead singles. As I stated earlier the key to this album lies not just in MGT’s very obvious musical and song writing skills but the fact he has been so thoughtful and matched the vocalists and the songs so well. Great overall vibe and an album you can enjoy again and again and if what I have mentioned isn’t enough for you add into this mix that also included on the album are songs lead by Saffron of Republica, Raymond Watts of KMFDM, Erica Nockalls of the Wonderstuff and Andi of Sex Gang Children.