Author: Gay For Gary Oldman
Album: Belfry (2016)
Genre: Doom Metal
Label: Aural Music
Right here, Italian doomsters Messa have a fantastic record which I hope to see snowball into a titan at the end of year finals. Part drone, part epic, part traditional, a hint of stoner and all fuzz, Messa master both atmosphere and melody on their debut Belfry.
Opening with the distorted and dissonant rumblings of a drone band, Alba builds atmosphere slowly, pushing its luck at 4 minutes, only to give way to the southern-tinged, bluesy riffs of lead track Babalon. This song is definitely going to sit amongst some stiff competition as a contender for my song of the year. Lead vocalist Sara might draw easy parallels with Avatarium’s Jennie Ann-Smith or Acid King’s Lori S on account of the gender in doom, but Sara doesn’t quite pack the punch of the former, nor have the irreverent husky drone of the latter. But what she has is soul.
This is what separates Babalon and the other tracks on Belfast from the stoner genre, despite ample fuzz and a tendency for southern riffage. Stoner doom tends to favor drawn out, repetitive sequences to emulate a failure to hold attention, but Messa’s riffs command a powerful, immediate respect more akin to the newer names in epic and traditional doom like Crypt Sermon or King Goat, albeit with their own distinct flavor rooted in crushing atmosphere more than outright guitar leads.
Sara wails like an air-raid siren in Blood and the guitars rumble and twang with fuzz and reverb until an entirely unexpected clarinet solo takes center stage, and manages to not sound out of place amongst the ambient waves which backdrop it. The opening notes of Hour of Wolf, up until and including the mournful “I believe them to be demons” simply drips with the soulful yearning of repressed vocal and emotional energy. When the rest of the band kick into full gear, it sounds like Blues Pills needs be taught a thing or two about bringing that 70s spirit into the 21st century.
The album is broken up by several interludes, some of them droning, like the aforementioned Alba, some ambient in Tomba, and some treating us to a whiff of country air with Faro. Some of these succeed in building or dispelling atmosphere, but some simply overstay their welcome, and the band’s music isn’t really so intense as to require such an extended breather.
The album, however, is not without its faults. Namely in the form of the last full track Outermost. Clocking in at 9 minutes, and led in by the ambient interlude of the 3 minute Bell Tower, which itself is only justified by bridging the fuller tracks. I can’t stand here and say that Outermost is a bad song, but it simply offers nothing special to the album, and is frankly without any real energy, and merely slugs along without any crescent for its runtime. This pairing adds up to 12 minutes of an hour-long album, and there is really no better way to circumcise my excitement for the record than to allow it to go out with a fizzle instead of a bang. 45 minutes is an ideal length for an album, and 50 minutes is easily justified in a good doom album, which this is. But by cutting the chaff and following up the powerful and galloping New Horns with the quaint and enjoyable country-acoustic closer Confess, we would have a much better paced record which doesn’t drag in the slightest.
Regardless, this was still an immensely good album and I hope the band will continue to turn heads as they turned mine.
- Gay for Gary Oldman
Check them out here: https://messa666.bandcamp.com/album/belfry