What happens when you combine dark ambient, occult rock, doom metal, and symphonic metal together? You get something that will likely only come around once. You get “Scarlet Doom” or at least that’s what Messa calls it, and dammit since they made it they can call it whatever they damn well please. This is definitely something I’ve never encountered before and I don’t think it can be replicated elsewhere. It was sort of surreal listening to “Belfry” the first time, the second and third time it felt more familiar, but none less intriguing.
The idea of a female singer has become somewhat gimmicky and that’s a shame because there are bands like Messa that feature a female lead vocalist that get buried with all the others or ignored before they even get a chance to play their music. More’s the pity that Messa not only features a female lead vocalist but she’s actually very, very good. In her vocals is shades of Fields of Nephilim, one of my favorite non metal bands of all time. She hits the notes pretty effortlessly and manages to carry the listener out of the dark ambient tracks that we can get lost in and, with her occult rocker vocals, helps us traverse the pit so to speak. In my opinion it’s her vocal talents that really carry the music forward. Without such strong vocals the music is really a mishmash of very different styles with nothing to tie it all together. Her vocals are nothing short of hypnotic and trance inducing. I hate to use the same comparison twice within the same paragraph but she really does have the power of Carl McCoy. The vocals are subtle and lyrical (and yes the lyrics are nice and imaginative as well, lots of strong occult references) yet they hold a tremendous weight, they’re like a tree with each root in a different pool, bringing the elements of occult rock, dark ambient, and doom metal and using them to create something sonically unique. It was an exceptional experience. On occasion I’ve taken meds that make me loopy but still cognizant of the spiritual and emotional depths of my surroundings. Listening to Messa’s debut album was a lot like that, without the need to be ill.
The doom metal portion of the band reminds me both of My Dying Bride with their gloomy gothic overtures and Candlemass with their epic, yet grounded sound. The dark ambient portion is as good and powerfully disturbing as anything I’ve listened to from Phonothek or Yen Pox. These elements alone, though, would not have mixed if not for the vocals. It’s not fault of anyone’s, really there is no fault to be had. These elements were strong on their own, if Messa had decided to solely be a doom metal band or a dark ambient project I would have loved them, the fact that they were able to combine the two with occult rock acting as the glue is a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the musicians involved. Each style is distinct throughout Belfry yet not one of the elements overpowers the other.
This was easily one of the more fascinating bands I’ve listened to while working with Resounding Footsteps, a trippy experience that I hope they can repeat with a sophomore effort down the road. For now though, this album will be in the rotation for a long time.
Listen and support!