Messa - Belfry

by Matt Hensch

The image of a belfry summons mystery, power, elegance. I'm a big Dark Souls guy; don't even mention what gruesome twosome lurks up in the bell tower. Messa, not surprisingly, reflects the awe-inspiring and wondrous features of the edifice, the majesty of which this is named after. Messa lurks on a forlorn edge of haunting doom metal capped off by drone and ambient influences used as means to traverse the instrumental journeys of "Belfry." The record sounds like an ancient grimoire buried within the chambers of a long-forgotten tower, breathing its forbidden curses in spite of its captivity and neglect over the ages. Doom groups are everywhere these days, but seldom are their works as fascinating as "Belfry."

I honestly expected either a full-on ambient/drone listen or something shaded to fit black metal upon seeing the cover art and speed-reading a very brief synopsis of the album. Imagine my surprise as the boom of a bluesy, soulful riff kicking off "Babalon" veered far from my expectations and brought me somewhere far beyond. Doom is the name of the game, and there is no shortage of incredible licks that will have Sabbath and Pentagram addicts licking their chops; this arsenal of authentic doom metal has some of the best riffs the genre has to offer. The driving groove of "Hour of the Wolf" is superb, its energy augmented by the terrific raw mix of fuzz and distortion flowing like blood through the veins of "Belfry," whereas the haunting drones of "Blood" conjure an atmosphere cloaked in shadows.

Messa, however, is an adaptable entity. There is a notable degree of variance between the tracks that aren't solely ambient or drone cuts, and thus "Belfry" benefits from the shifting of shape. Each song invokes its own sense of purpose-"Blood" is creepy, "Hour of the Wolf" desperate, and so on-while compiling different instrumental ideas. "Blood," for instance, lurches into a soft guitar bridge led by a discordant clarinet solo before ending in a gloomy fugue of groovy bass work and unhinged drum fills. Although the music is incredible, the vocals are magnificent, filled with evocative poignancy and incredible passion. The vocalist sounds magical throughout both doom numbers and the acoustic serenades of the closing "Confess," the urgency never depleted.

The ambient and drone tracks, usually filler for most, work as excellent pacing methods to link together Messa's musical sacraments, as though a handful of columns helping to hold up a fortification. I'm not one to gush over ordinary doom, but "Belfry" is far from ordinary. Creativity is discovered within simplicity, the production brings soul and electricity to the music, and the album works to bring a collective enterprise to life rather than stitching together song after song of meandering crap. A record like "Belfry" is simple to create, but rarely is it done properly; this is an example of a possessing work summoning a remarkable force to this world and beyond.

Messa - Belfry

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