Messa are a young band from Italy, and Feast for Water is their second album. In Italian messa means mass, as in religious ceremony. The mass the band celebrates on their new album revolves around water, the element in which life began and without which life as we know it isn’t possible. The album is most likely named after “The Feast for Water”, one of the holidays observed by Aleister Crowley’s Thelemites. It is celebrated when a girl hits puberty. Boys celebrate a “Feast for Fire.” Now, isn’t that charming.
The album cover features a blurry, black and white photo of someone diving headfirst into water, and water, in all of its states, also plays a main part, along with some big snakes and the singer’s face, in the pre-released video to the track Leah.
Because of its importance, water is an essential component in the rituals of many religious traditions. Consequently, the album’s song titles establish connections to various religions or cults. The intro, for example, is named after Naunet, the Egyptian goddess of the sea. Snakeskin Drape, the title of the second track, can be linked to snake worship, present in several ancient cultures. Leah, the name of the third track, is one of the more prominent female figures in the Hebrew Bible. Tulsi points towards Hinduism, and the final track, Da tariki tariqat (“In the darkness, the Path.”), towards Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, which can well be heard in the music.
Now that we know the album’s context, let’s examine the music. Messa themselves call their music style scarlet doom. In plain language this means a mixture of drone and doom metal with female vocals, and with a lot of jazzy and bluesy parts. The tracks are often prolonged, with complex soundscapes, featuring genre mixes, ever changing tempos, disrupted melodies, sometimes more experimental and sometimes more conventional sounds. What’s lacking in all of this variation is an identifiable governing concept. Overall, I take this as an indicator that Messa are still searching for their sound. So far, I can’t make out a heading.
The fourth track, The Seer, for example, starts out with a beautiful oriental-sounding tune, but it is interrupted too soon, never to return again in that clarity. That’s a shame, because it’s really good. And while I know that the interruption is done on purpose, I don’t see a reason for it. Also, often, the music is one place, and the vocals in another. The goal of all that variation isn’t clear. What is the desired effect, what the aim? What is the purpose behind this, besides showing your musical repertoire and trying to sound new?
Nevertheless, while there is some confusion in the middle part of the album, it does features great pieces of music and you should definitely check it out. Messa are at their most effective in the first tracks of the album. The intro Naunet is an excellent start for an album themed around water. In the beginning, you can hear a monotonous sound, building up slowly in intensity. You can interpret it as the fear one might feel of a big wave approaching. Then you hear water bubbling alongside of it. After that the wave hits and washes over you in the form of a ringing noise that reaches its maximum and then ends abruptly.
My favourite song on the album, though, is the second track, Snakeskin Drape. It is an excellent piece of metal music. For greatest effect, make sure you listen to it on a good stereo. The vocals and the guitar set the atmosphere, dark, deep, and mysterious. Then the drums take over and carry you along. The vocals are aligned with the drums, and together with the guitar they take you to a higher plane. Everything fits. There’s just the right amount of variation, but not too much. Brilliant.
I also like the last track very much, the instrumental Da tariki tariqat. In contrast to the tracks in the middle part of the album it establishes one theme, works with it, intensifies it and consistently follows it until the end.
To summarize: While the album features great pieces of music, overall, it seems to me, Messa are still searching for their sound and their goal. I reckon that’s ok, because celebrating The Feast for Water means they’ve just hit puberty, and adulthood will hopefully bring maturity.