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07 Mar 2022 - Knut

Doom Metal/Scarlett Doom | Svart Records | Release date: 11 Mar 2022

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Expect the unexpected is the attitude with which you should approach this new release by Messa. Although their music is still based in Doom Metal they have widened their musical scope quite a lot. So be ready to be enthralled, captivated - and upon first listen maybe a bit perplexed. You are thrown between musical styles, unexpected influences, fast paced music suddenly changing to a slower tempo, melodies soaring, grooving bass, guitars swirling, supported by steady drumming and vocals so dazzling you might shed a tear.

The album starts with Rhodes Piano playing gently and slowly introducing heavy and slow guitar riffs putting the song ”Suspended”, and album, in motion. The clear, emotional and strong vocal rises up and sways over the slow and heavy music. There are a lot of blues elements in this song, both from the instruments and from the vocals as it slowly moves forward. Suddenly, at the 5:28 mark, you are thrown into a jazz club where a guitarist plays a clean jazz guitar just like Phil Upchurch sitting there improvising some tunes. The vocal returns crystal clear above the guitar, and the Doom Metal riffs are back to take us in slow pace towards the end of the song.

The next song, ”Dark Horse” starts out fast paced before it slows a bit to give room for the vocal, but soon picks up space. A bit into the song one begins to notice that in this music there are other influences than Doom Metal, dark jazz and Hard Rock. In between the fast-paced heavy riffs there are a kind of pattern forming with musical influences from the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean. The song has some fast sections, one that reminds of Rimskij-Korsakov´s ”The Flight of the Bumble Bee” and another fast section that reminds of Khachaturian´s ”Sabre Dance, a musical ballet piece built on an Armenian folk song. It is so well done, so well incorporated in the heavy music, it will leave you speechless.

That brings us to the next song, “Orphalese”, where these influences are strong, as the song´s title indicates. It is a place taken from the book The Prophet by the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran - it´s where the prophet Al Mustafa lived. When the Duduk starts the song and leads it through the calm and multilayered sonics using traditional instruments you are beamed right into the south and east Mediterranean soundscapes. There are some beautifully played guitar stanzas throughout accompanied by slow heavy bass drums and the always present crystal-clear voice.

The next song, “Rubedo” is a jubilant song, a celebration of heavy and fast paced music with jubilant vocals that once again reveals the powerful and emotional vocals that never breaks however hard she sings. This is hard rock, infused with heavy riffs and in the solo´s it is like Alvin Lee from Ten Years After has popped in to celebrate with them. This song might be a good example of what the band itself calls the music they perform, Scarlett Doom, as the song title is a hint too. The song is followed by a short acoustic track ”Hollow” which is played on the Arabic string instrument Oud that follow us into the next track “Pilgrim” which begins slowly with Oud and soaring vocals. It slowly turns into a powerful headbanging Doom Metal song. Just look at the video for this song below this review, where women are performing a ritual dance called Nakh that is a traditional dance from Algerian/Tunisian border, and in a strange way includes headbanging.

A synth builds the song ”0=2” slowly towards an acoustic guitar and the vocals. The building continues incorporating heavy riffs, hard drumming and when the synth is back it introduces a saxophone and it suddenly sounds like King Crimson in the Island-era. The sax fades away and heavy riffs lead to an abrupt halt and the next song´s longing guitars take over with a slight wah wah touch on clean strings. This diverse song with swirling guitar solos end in a very fast tempo lead buy the drums and throw the listener into the next 45 seconds absurdly fast punk track called ”Leffotrak”. They end the album with ”Serving Him” which includes heavy slow riffs, blistering guitar solos and a melodic theme that will linger with you long after the album is finished. The whole band comes together in a crescendo that gives way to some quiet emotive vocals over clean guitar to end the album. Absurdly, after 65 minutes you want more. Play it again. And again.

The first time I encountered Messa in 2016 I was astonished that Belfry was a debut album. It was, and still is, so good. I also thought they had hired Mlny Parsonz from Royal Thunder to do the vocals. But they had not, the band came kind of fully formed with different musical backgrounds and they had a vocalist that just blew me away. And equally astounding were their next album, Feast for Water. Could they top this? O yes, they have topped it with this release. A release made by visionary, fearless and imaginative musicians not scared of bursting borders, and at the same time have focus on where they came from.