Messa‘s Close is one of those albums that make me want to jump out of my seat, grab anyone who is not currently listening to it, or the band in general, and shake them while yelling “why for the love of everything that is good are you not listening to this?” You see, while Messa have always been a favorite of mine, especially the excellent Belfry, I could understand why people wouldn’t necessarily connect with their music. It was steeped in a very specific sort of doom and could be inaccessible to people not addicted to the crushing atmosphere that the genre could create. But on Close, Messa have melded their style of bottomless doom with lots of influences from post-punk and folk, drawing on some of the more interesting directions and names operating within and around the doom metal spaces in the last few years. This injects Close with dizzying number of different vibes and energies, all channeling the sort of aggressive and occulted music we’ve come to expect from the Italian group.
Let’s zoom in on “Dark Horse”, “Orphalese”, and “Rubedo”, the second, third, and fourth track on the album. Together, these three tracks showcase the incredibly interesting ways with which Messa have augmented their sound, sticking true to their doom foundations while exploring into other, powerful areas of expression for more tones and approaches. Immediately from the first note of “Dark Horse”, we can sense those punk influences I cited above. The track wouldn’t sound out of place on a Brutus record, motivated as it is by those incredibly muscular and energetic drums. Of course, the verse itself is pure Messa, with their psychedelic tones very well felt. But as the track goes on, the thumping and direct riff takes up more and more of the track’s space, joined by wild vocals that even burst out into a yip or two to further accentuate the feral and unbridled energies of the track.
Of course, this all holds true until the outro, where Messa’s doom and stoner roots come home to roost in the form of an incredible slowed down version of the riff, replete with fuzzy leads and a swagger that’s hard to resist. Finally dying, the silence at the end of the track which follows it gives way into “Orphalese” and its achingly beautiful and evocative wind instruments. The mood has shifted once again, calling back to some of Messa’s more atmospheric and ambient passages from their past. This leads into one of the more poignant vocal passages on the album, airy and ethereal intonations blending incredibly with the folk-drenched string and percussion instruments which make up the thick of the track. This carries “Orphalese” to its end as the track spends time fleshing out these new sounds and ideas and joining them with the doom metal foundation of Messa’s sound. The return is always to doom but on the way to it, plenty of new stops are added to the map.
Which brings us to “Rubedo” and, as you might have guessed, the marriage of all of the above elements. The track is filled with energy like “Dark Horse” but it also includes the dreamier vocals of “Orphalese”, as well as some of the folkier guitar compositions and techniques exhibited on that track. Here, everything that’s come before lives side by side, tied together by the doom/stoner underpinnings. It’s an exceptionally satisfying result, hitting all of the previous sweet spots but this time in accord, all together, sweeter for living side by side under Messa’s skillful attention. This make “Rubedo” one of the more evocatvie tracks on the album, and we’re not even half way through it nor have we discussed its wonderful solo or the fact that are blast-beats in there! The rest of the tracks expand on these ideas, further exploring all of the influences that were brought to bear over these few tracks and even adding more by the time the album is done.
Somehow, the band have managed to stay true to the Messa sound while gathering all of these supposedly disparate sounds and approaches around them, whipping them up into a frenzy of a release, dark and powerful on one hand but precious, fragile, and achingly beautiful on the other. Where Messa were before “just” an excellent doom band, Close lifts them up into the realms of experimental musicians, able to capture that most elusive of prizes: a challenging, intricate, and overflowing album that still manages to be accessible and impactful on the emotional level. We could go on, filling pages and pages of analysis and discussion of Close because there’s simply so much on it. But we can also let go and let the album flow through us, guided by its explosive emotional peaks and its subtle and beguiling atmospheric passages. In that sense, there is something for anyone on this release, more than on any previous Messa album released.
Messa’s Close releases on March 11th. You can, and should, pre-order it via the Bandcamp page above.