Label: Svart Records
Release Date: March 11th, 2022
For Fans Of: The Ocean, Ruins Of Beverast
The Italian group Messa play dirty, bluesy doom metal combined with unique instrumentation and a willingness to go wherever the music takes them. Their more genre-standard moments consist of low distorted guitar chugging underneath controlled female vocals, but they frequently wander into drone territory and exuviate their metal past entirely.
I tried to get into both Belfry and Feast For Water, the first two full-length records from Messa. They never clicked. Guess that third time’s the charm, because Close has pulled me in and stayed with me. Although Close took multiple listens to truly flourish, it ended up being a worthy record that showcased what doom metal can offer us.
Vocalist Sara Bianchin did marvelous work on Close, and her performance easily pulls away as the best part of the record and the most enrapturing vocals I’ve heard yet this year. Every time I listened to Messa, regardless of what I was doing, a spectacular high would swoop in and derail the rest of the world. I could listen to this forever. These vocals are dynamic, engaging, and near-flawless. The control exhibited on Close is a joy to experience.
The rest of the instruments don’t fall far behind the vocals. Every performance on Close is exact and exciting. Messa have, at times, a very grimy sound, but they don’t use that as an excuse to be sloppy. Instead, every stutter, every pause, and every slow and somber note has purpose. Close is not a virtuosic record. But it does contain some impressively emotional moments that require buckets of talent and confidence to pull off. Messa’s chimeric ability to switch at will between drone, folk-like sounds, and pseudo-stoner doom, all in a proggy shell only works because the band has the talent to pull it off.
Close’s atmosphere can drown you. The thick, layered, dynamic chugging of the band’s most rambunctious moments pair perfectly with the sparse instrumental sections. Close sends the listener on a journey, and every moment offers a world of sound to the listener. Messa don’t make music to compare to other groups, they make music that makes you forget other bands exist. The dynamics help, as the occasional calamities blent into quiet whispers in natural ways. Although the style is different, what Close reminds me the most of is The Ocean’s Pelagial and Phanerozoic records. Both create a full and rich world for their music.
At the bottom of all of these performances and atmospheric displays resides some fun riffs and catchy melodies. The end of “Orphalese” wouldn’t work as well as it did if beneath the instrumentation and great performances, the repeated melody didn’t also stand on its own. When the music dies down to a hush and only one instrument survives, you damn well want that instrument to be playing something good.
So, downsides. Close could be shorter. Although I didn’t grow tired of the record, turning it off early never made it feel incomplete. Any individual song would be a shame to lose, but it would create a better overall experience. Some tracks also last for a little longer than they needed to. It’s great that Messa felt they could stretch out and experiment, but I felt relief in some songs when they finally got to the point. Additionally, some of the drone elements inched towards too repetitive.
Since Close dragged me into the light, I went back and listened to Belfry and Feast For Water again. I understand them better now. Messa are a marvelous band, and Close is a worthy successor to their previous albums. I recommend this to anyone looking for nasty blues, anyone looking for intriguing instrumental dances, and anyone in between.
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