Mr.X – Icarus: Album Review
Words: Anne Estella
Every so often a band from across the Channel will grab my attention and make me sit up and take note. Mr.X is one such band. Formed in 2011 and hailing from Arras, Northern France, the Stoner Blues trio consisting of Thomas Muzyk on vocals, guitar and keyboard, Christophe Pailliet on bass, and Chris ‘Dr. Rock’ Muzyk on drums, released their sophomore full-length record, Icarus, in February this year. The eleven-track album follows on from the band’s 2013 self-titled EP and 2015 debut album, Trouble In The Machine.
The band’s raw, guitar-driven sound takes its inspiration from the Classic Rock heavyweights of the 1970s, combining those influences with authentic Blues-tinged rhythms, infused with a dirty Stoner vibe. The stomping, gritty opener Borders (If You Dare) looks at the issue of migrants and comes in with a sharp, rhythmic drumbeat, followed by a crunchy guitar riff and a bluesy break. The song incorporates some effortless falsetto flourishes and well-executed tempo changes, introducing the listener to the band’s unique and balanced blend of styles.
Second song, Truth, beautifully showcases singer/songwriter Thomas Muzyk’s soulful vocals and impressive range. The catchy track has a ‘70s feel injected with a modern twist that includes an interesting African percussion/bass solo and a superb instrumental finale, whilst the dark, atmospheric Flying High has a steadier pace and is reminiscent of Muse in places. Clapping, a fuzzy guitar solo and expressive vocal harmonies add texture to its sludgy Stoner vibe.
Blue Tiger – one of the longest tracks on the album - has an altogether different sound to the previous songs. With an acoustic opening, the emphasis here is on old-school, folky Classic Rock and influences such as Led Zeppelin and The Doors spring to mind when listening to it. The track presents a more elaborate and psychedelic side of Mr.X that you could utterly lose yourself in.
Begging For Mercy delivers a groove-laden, bass-heavy slab of contemporary hard bluesy Rock, but a notable change in mood occurs when Cat Fight Blues kicks in. This is a doleful, sultry number that’s not quite what it seems... At first glance it’s a straightforward tale of lost love and heartbreak, until you realise that it’s written from the perspective of a Tomcat about his feline lover who tragically gets run over by a ten-wheel truck after they get into a fight in an alley. This tantalisingly slow and seductive tongue-in-cheek take on a typical Blues song is one of my favourite tracks on the album, which I recommend listening to strictly after dark!
Further evidence of the band’s eclectic influences can be found in the vintage R&B track, Runnin’, with its hooky “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” break, while You’d Better Stop Me Now is straight-up Rock peppered with a generous sprinkling of Roll. Make Them Tell You is one of the record’s solid slow burners, which climaxes with a smouldering guitar solo. Penultimate song Nothing’s True is a real standout track - Zeppelin meets The White Stripes – wailing guitars, a swaggering melody and heartfelt vocals combine to make this a bit of a show-stopper. Lovingly written by Thomas for his newborn son, the riffy tune will reverberate around your head long after the record’s ended.
The final cut is provided by the record’s title track, which sees the band indulge their Stoner Blues credentials once more, culminating in a sea of crashing guitars and some of the finest drumming the album has to offer. Cleverly conceived and arranged, Icarus is an album that really bares its soul, and the more I listen to it, the more I find to love about it. The band have matured since their previous release and each of the songs on Icarus has earned its right to be there. All the hard graft has come to fruition and Mr.X are gaining steady traction, deftly demonstrating that great music has no borders.
Thomas Muzyk – Vocals / Guitar / Keyboard
Christophe Pailliet - Bass
Chris ‘Dr.Rock’ Muzyk – Drums / Vocals
Borders (If You Dare)
Begging For Mercy
Cat Fight Blues
You’d Better Stop Me Now
Make Them Tell You