This version of Messenger is the London-based progressive rock band. I’ve heard of them but I confess that this is the first time I’d listened to any of their work.
What struck me at first was the clean and dreamy feel about “Calyx”, which opens the album. I was reminded of Haken and Pineapple Thief in its earlier stages but then it breaks out into an energetic burst, ending with the squealing brakes of an imaginary train. “Oracles of War” starts with a more sinister edge but expands into a colourful melodic melody. The vocalist cries distinctively as if singing through a megaphone. The instrumentals are sharp and add to this fresh and bouncy rock track. There’s a change of mood mid-way through. The drum beats quietly and irregularly. The guitar has a soft post-rock reflective touch. From this an epic passage emerges – this is classic prog, hitting the emotions where it can be felt most. I wasn’t so keen on the vocalist’s tone but “Oracles of War” is a phenomenal track.
There is a great lightness of touch about these tracks. “Balearic Blue” drifts away dreamily. The magical spell of the guitar and keyboard touches provides an aura which the vocalist matches with a clean and optimistic delivery. It spreads out into a lofty, endless wave of fluffy clouds. There’s a definite similarity to Porcupine Tree but it’s a wonderful track. “Pareidolia” and “Celestial Spheres” also have Porcupine Tree proportions with apparent simplicity steeped in sophisticated progressive patterns. “Celestial Spheres” as a title captures the essence of this work as a whole, as we are taken away from banality but in a delightful and often other-worldly way. By contrast “Nocturne” is a mysterious track of jazz-like avant-garde proportions. But then “Pareidolia” too has a passage of devastating melancholy and reflection. “Crown of Ashes”, which closes the album, has a toned-down melancholy but still has the light and pleasant acoustic guitar rhythm flowing through it. What counts ultimately is that the changes occur organically and naturally, and Messenger are especially good at doing this, making the sequences believable and engaging without distraction as they present to us the musical story of their world.
A threnody apparently is a lament, but I didn’t get the sense of that while listening to this album. I fact I felt warmth. “Threnodies” is an intriguing album, full of delights and twists and turns. What I really like is its lack of pretension. The songs are delivered simply but they are layered and full of interest, mood and atmosphere. This is prog at its most inventive, but it’s also accessible and at times magical.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)