Who woulMessad not want “dark ambient drones with vintage heavy occult doom and mesmerizing female vocals that will drive you through a scarlet velvet trip”? That’s what’s offer from this Italian band whose influences range from Pentagram to Bathory.

Messa get down to business with “Alba”, a solid piece of industrial drone. “Babalon” is more crusty and sludge-like before dark minimalism kicks in. The lady’s voice appears in the background. The music turns to doom. Whilst there’s an element of post metal about this, it’s predominantly moody and trippy. What follows is gloomy, depressing and equally moody. The lady sounds as if she should be wearing long flowing robes. “Hour of the Wolf” breaks into a fuzzy trip, but I confess I was finding this hard going. It’s spaced out, heavy and deep but short of spirit. “Blood” is almost off the scale for gloom and darkness. An echoey and fuzzy guitar soliloquy turns into a trudging, nightmarish noise. The lady superimposes her warble above the trudging guitar. An eccentric saxophone section on “Blood” revived my interest, and we seemed to be turning round and round in a nightmarish daze. The hazy chanting made it sound like a mantra. It goes off into an experimental fuzz-haze. It’s hypnotic. “Tomba” takes us through another gloomy terrain but this time it is expressed electronically. The deep “New Horns” is more traditional as a song and has an identifiable riff but as always it’s strikingly gloomy before it heads off into more inevitably dark psychedelia. I preferred the spooky drone of “Bell Tower”. It’s what it is, and not mixing up the ages with no obvious result. The follow-up is another funereal dirge, supported by the languid vocals. It’s like a slow and painful death. “Confess” brings the album to a close. It’s an acoustic track with the lady making her gloomy contribution. It just sounded tired to me but I guess some may find atmosphere and inspiration in it.

Deep, gloomy, and black, I can’t say that I found “Belfry” was pleasant at all. I’m not sure that the doom and the retro hippie prog really worked as a combination but I cannot fault Messa for their commitment to this unusual form of self-expression.

(5/10 Andrew Doherty)