Doom and stoner metal, the match made in heaven! It’s easy to see why, as both genres grew from out of the early vestiges of heavy metal. Nevertheless, there is more to this kinship than simple chronological or taxonomical proximity; there’s also much in common in the sounds themselves. Stoner metal takes the inherent fuzziness of the distortion used by heavy metal and turns it way up, forming chords and riffs that are the perfect accompaniment for smoke-filled rooms. Doom slows things down and, while it utilizes distortion and fuzziness as well, focuses mostly on the scale of the music and how epic things sound when slower. When you put the two together, you get a perfect marriage of filthy chunk and massive size, slowly rolling clouds of dankness and musk.
Messa, an Italian band that’s been very active in the recent few years, wield this powerful chimerical creature with great expertise. Their 2016, Belfry, is a masterclass in the powerful combination of doom and stoner (often dubbed “occult” metal) and we’ve been way, way too quiet about it. Check out “Babalon” for example; right off the bat, you’re treated to one of the best things about this album and band, namely the vocals. Sara (as the vocalist is known on stage) has a robust and powerful voice, utilized in a fashion that’s both classical to the genre and intriguingly refreshing. These are preluded by the sound of feedback, bouncing off the previous, drone influenced, opening track. Soon enough, the guitar chords wash over you to complement those vocals while, further down the line, a heart-wrenchingly moving solo ushers the track into its final stages.
The follow up to “Babalon”, “Faro”, solidifies the “occult” in the occult rock moniker assigned to the band. Its weird and sparse intonations, which blend into the next track and become its main guitar line, radiate a decidedly weird vibe. This vibe shouldn’t be too unfamiliar and surprising to those versed in the Italian music scene and its fascination with the occult and the bizarre (especially the Turin punk and electronic scene of the 80’s but also well beyond) and Messa are a direct continuation of those interests. Elsewhere on the album, like on the mighty “Blood”, these themes are further amplified by many tools, like a brass instrument solo or long, stretched out sections of silence and feedback.
Overall, Belfry is way too interesting and varied to accurately describe in just one post. Perhaps the last thing we should touch on here is how fun it can be as well, often giving way to romps made of riffs and groove, shedding all pretense of depth. Which, of course, only serves to make it all that much deeper, lending much needed to contrast to an album working in two genres which can often be stifling. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that Messa will be releasing an album this year. We’ve heard it and it’s just as amazing as Belfry. Watch this space for our official review; Messa is a band you want to keep your sights on.