PICK OF THE WEEK: Messa unleash alluring doom magic with added textures on captivating ‘Close’

We discuss heavy music here every day, almost entirely in the metal spectrum, and one of the things that makes doing this so worthwhile is the depth to which bands have pushed their sounds, no matter their chosen path. I sound like a broken record, but the artists who keep testing things, continue challenging expectations tend to be the ones that stick closest to us as time expires.

Italian doom force Messa fall into that category of bands who are flexing what it means to be heavy, and their last record “Feast for Water” was an explosive awakening for us as it comes to basking in their power. They’ve now responded with their third record “Close,” one that continues the smoky doom to which they’re devoted but also pushes into Middle Eastern and Mediterranean melodies and auras that add an intoxicating element into their music. The band—vocalist Sara, guitarist Alberto, guitarist/bassist Mark Sade, drummer Mistyr—increases its magic over 10 tracks and 65 minutes of power, with no song sounding remotely like any other. It’s a record you want to put on and let transform you as you work through each track, taking on an imaginative, smoldering experience that leaves you inebriated.

“Suspended” begins with Fender Rhodes keys quivering and Sara’s amazing, alluring voice stretching, infecting you. Elegant power unfurls, the pace pumps, and sounds echo, eventually melting into jazzy guitars. Sara’s voice calls out again, and the playing ends in a pit of grace. “Dark Horse” is faster and more propulsive as it begins, and then things settle into a groove, working into your blood. “I only see with my eyes closed,” Sara’s voice soars as the guitars bubble and pick up, and a simple gasp she gives off sends chills down your spine. Things gets sludgier and muddier, sounds hover, and chimes send one final chilling gust. “Orphalese” opens with wind woods and a hovering essence, the psychedelics increasing. The vocals are higher and haunting, the playing gives off Middle Eastern-style melodies that add great texture, and things move like a fog. Horns bellow as the playing gets even more hypnotic, and the melodies burst with life, ending the track in fire. “Rubedo” delivers punchy guitars and cooling melodies, and the vocals brush up against your side, feeling bluesy in a tasteful way. The vocals take off as the playing explodes, a charring solo absolutely takes charge, and the vocals tear back into flesh, leaving you flustered. “Hollow” is a quick instrumental with classic acoustic picking and a mystical essence, letting you fully exhale. At least momentarily.

“Pilgrim” runs 9:26 and starts with mystical strings and vocals floating on the wind. Things flow gently before the track breaks open, sending jolts of electricity. The singing is deep and soulful, and the guitars drip, pushing lightning into your veins, going burly and melodic. The calls get steamier, echoes float through time, and a few final fuzzy blasts leave you permanently affected. “0-2” is the longest cut, running 10:30 and starting like something out of a fever dream. Flutes scrape the air as softer vocals tangle with the trancey playing, and Sara sings about the ominous place named in the title. Guitars give off bluesy smoke, shuffling and numbing, a saxophone tearing in and lighting everything ablaze. Those flames lap and maul, guitars trample, and everything ends suddenly. “If You Want Her to Be Taken” slides in and moans, the psychedelic energy overflowing. The vocals turn seductive as the guitars cut into muscle, and the trudging multiplies. Sara’s vocals reach for the stratosphere again, and the crunch from the guitars leave you both bruised and soothed. “Leffotrak” is a total shocker, a mauling bruiser that lives for just 44 seconds and completely bludgeons you with speed, violence, and ugly vocals that shred your sanity. It kind of doesn’t fit. But it’s so weirdly out of place, it’s perfect. “Serving Him” is the closer, a blistering, sultry track that slowly unloads and delivers a plodding stomp, Sara’s vocals floating through the carnage. The tempo plays games, teasing and scorching, haunting all the way. “He really wants you, too,” Sara calls, something that returns throughout the final half of the song, and it feels like the sun is blazing, letting warm water trickle though a buildup of ice.

Messa already demonstrated some pretty special powers on their first two records, hinting at something great and overwhelming that we finally have on “Close,” easily their most impressive creation on an already impressive resume. Each of these 65 minutes gets inside of you and lives in your mind, acting as an intoxicating agent you’ll hungrily absorb. Messa is a special band that has fully arrived on this record, and when we’re thinking back to the most important musical moments of 2022, it will be criminal to do that without heavily praising “Close.”

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MESSAproject

To buy the album, go here: https://svartrecords.com/product/messa-close-album/

For more on the label, go here: https://svartrecords.com/