CMX (short for Cloaca Maxima) is a Finnish rock group consisting of A.W. Yrjänä (vocals, bass), Janne Halmkrona (guitar) and Timo Rasio (guitar). Starting as an English language hardcore punk band, CMX eventually moved to a bit more conventional style of rock, even though their music could be described as somewhat experimental (at least when compared to the other Finnish mainstream rock groups). Known for Yrjänä's folklore-esque lyrics, riped with references to religion, mythology, cultural anthropology, philosophy and arts; themes of CMX's songs are ranging from neoliberalism (concept they vigorously oppose), love, leap of faith, life and death to, as of late, futuristic imagery. Indeed, with music heavily influenced by such progressive rock collectives as King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Yes and lyrics inspired by such luminaries as Andrei Tarkovsky, T. S. Eliot, Carl Jung and Søren Kierkegaard; the band's commercial success within Finland might seem quite surprising, an emotion that the band itself has frequently expressed.
History (from Wikipedia):
CMX was founded on Good Friday 1985 in Tornio, Finland by A. W. Yrjänä (18 at the time) and Pekka Kanniainen. The band's original name, Cloaca Maxima, Latin for the "Greatest Sewer," was taken from a footnote of H. P. Blavatsky's book Isis Unveiled. Over the next six months Kanniainen became the drummer, Yrjänä the bassist and singer. Kimmo Suomalainen played guitar. The band played mainly fast hardcore punk with the vocals sung in English; the language, however, soon changed into Finnish. The band shortened its name to CMX in 1986.
The first EP Johannes Kastaja was recorded 1987 in Kemi and released in 1988. The same year CMX performed for the first time outside of Tornio and its neighbouring areas, at Lieto punk rock festival. In 1989 the EP Raivo was released on a small label Bad Vugum. The band's first appearance at the Tavastia Club in Helsinki followed.
1992's Aurinko, released by the international EMI record label, won CMX both the Album of the Year and Band of the Year awards in a poll by Rumba magazine. The album saw CMX largely abandon the hardcore style in favor of more accessible mainstream rock songs.
In 1994, Aura was released. The album continued the trend towards mainstream audiences, which was criticized by the band's early hardcore fan base. Aura contained some of the band's best known songs to date, including the etheric ballad "Ruoste" and the radio-friendly (though lyrically hardly traditional) love song "Kultanaamio".
The trend continued with Rautakantele, released in 1995 and produced by Yrjänä. Essi Wuorela appeared as a guest artist. "Pelasta maailma", the only single from the album, received some radio airplay and would later be covered by both Antti Tuisku and Vesa-Matti Loiri.
For their next album, the band changed radically their approach to recording. Discopolis was engineered with Pro Tools in the studio and made heavy use of sampling to edit the songs together from a set of short guitar riffs. The album received mixed reviews: Allmusic wrote that "friends of the modern music will find Discopolis very attractive", while Tero Valkonen, on his analysis of "Kultanaamio", expressed his dislike for the album, and called the song "Paha" a "rotten bad joke". Discopolis was the first CMX album to enter the Finnish album charts, peaking at 3. In 1997, Kanniainen left CMX saying that the band had become too professional for him. Tuomas Peippo was hired to replace him. The band's lineup has remained the same since. The same year CMX released a three-CD compilation album, Cloaca Maxima.
The first album with Peippo, Vainajala, was recorded in a cabin in Lapland and produced by Faith No More bassist Billy Gould. The band has said that the deliberately minimalistic sound of the album is largely thanks to Gould. Vainajala was the first CMX album to top the Finnish album charts. In the Provinssirock festival 1999, CMX announced that they intended to stop playing live and concentrate on their studio work.
Dinosaurus Stereophonicus (2000) was CMX's nod toward 1970s progressive rock bands, such as King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Yes. A two-hour double album, it contains progressive elements not before associated with CMX: three instrumental pieces, an emphasis on keyboards, long solos, and song lengths exceeding 10 minutes. CMX's first number 1 single, the peaceful and melodic "Myrskyn ratsut" was released before the album and featured strings and steel guitar.
At the time Isohaara (2002) was released, CMX had already abandoned the idea of becoming a full-time studio band and started touring again. The album was considered slightly heavier than its predecessor, and the guitar riffs of "Minne paha haudattiin" were compared to the music of Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus and Kotiteollisuus. The album's lyrics concentrated less on mythology and religion and were closer to traditional rock lyrics, albeit keeping a dark, melancholical tone. Although less present than on Dinosaurus Stereophonicus, prog influences hadn't been totally abandoned: the band uses a child choir on the title track and the uptempo rocker "Pohjoista leveyttä" contains a harmonica solo.
Bad Vugum re-released the first two CMX albums in 2002 as "Gold" versions that also included their early EPs. Kolmikärki Gold included Johannes Kastaja and Raivo, and Veljeskunta Gold contained Tanssitauti and the original Musiikin ystävälliset kasvot EP.
A year after Isohaara, Aion followed. The album was put together around a common theme of the essence and symbolism of evil. It was both a critical and commercial success and was described as a highly experimental album for such an established band. Guitarist Halmkrona plays trumpet on the first track of the album, and violins and synthesizers are heard on several songs. Both "Melankolia" and, four months later, "Palvelemaan konetta" peaked the singles chart.
The band's second compilation, released in 2004, followed the format of the 1997 Cloaca Maxima closely. Both consisted of 44 songs divided on three CDs, the first one for faster rock songs, second for ballads and third for B-sides of singles. The similarity was even evident from the name: Cloaca Maxima II. This time the cover image was a naked woman on a blue background, whereas the first compilation had showed a naked man on red background. The compilation covered four albums from Vainajala to Aion and also featured three previously unreleased songs. The band had originally intended the compilation to only include the B-sides, and indeed the third disc was the one that received some praise from the press.
Pedot (2005) had some influences from contemporary rock bands such as Tool, A Perfect Circle and System of a Down, and combined straight rock songs with heavier and lighter elements, such as the minimalistic ballad "Eteläisen tähtitaivaan kartoitus" and the aggressive double bass drum sound of the title track. "Uusi ihmiskunta" was a number one hit, the sixth one for CMX in just over five years.
On the Tuuliajolla 2006 tour on Saimaa, CMX recorded a song in collaboration with fellow rock bands Kotiteollisuus and 51Koodia. "Vapaus johtaa kansaa" ("Liberty Leading the People") was written by Yrjänä and released in 2006. It reached first position on the Finnish singles chart.
CMX's most recent album, Talvikuningas (2007), is a space-themed rock opera and contains only one song, divided onto 12 tracks without pauses. Originally, the story about the power and fall of the Winter King (Talvikuningas in Finnish) was going to be the story of a novel by Yrjänä. The first edition of the album was soon sold out despite being much more expensive than a regular album. The press reviews were largely positive. Helsingin Sanomat called the album CMX's "third bullseye" after Aura and Aion, while Soundi magazine argued that the album will probably be a mere curiosity in the CMX saga.