Messenger cover

Artist: Messenger

Album Title: Threnodies

Label: InsideOut Music

Date Of Release: 22 April 2016

It’s no exaggeration to say that the UK progressive music scene enjoying a period of rude health at the current time. To the already impressively-swelling ranks, you can now add the name of Messenger, a London-based quintet who bring accomplished musicianship and a plethora of personal influences to the table to create their own distinctive brand of progressive rock.

It is hard to believe but ‘Threnodies’ is just the second album from this young band who only sprang into existence in 2012. Throughout the seven tracks, you can hear the blend of youthful exuberance and a seasoned professionalism that belies their age.

And yet, despite this, ‘Threnodies’ has been a hard review to write. On the one hand, I know that the music is high in quality and with enough originality to intrigue listeners. However, from a personal point of view, I cannot seem to fully warm to the final product. I have tried an awful lot to like this record more than I do, but something stops me every time. I quite like the music and I respect the band. But I just fall short of having an emotional connection with it and I don’t get that overwhelming urge to press repeat like I feel I should. It’s intensely frustrating.

The melodies are present and correct, there is plenty in the way of variety and the record demonstrates a fondness for days gone by whilst remaining fresh and up-to-date. And yet…yet…aaargh.

messenger band

‘Calyx’ opens up the album in a calm and considered way but develops into something quite dark and brooding . I’m reminded ever so slightly of the likes of Gazpacho at this point. However, as the song ploughs on, it builds almost imperceptibly, led by the impressive rhythm section of drummer Jaime Gomez Arellano and bassist James Leach. It is almost as if the composition has two halves because, after dropping away to almost nothing, a heavier riff enters the fray alongside a prominent piano before the whole thing speeds up towards an epic and energetic crescendo.

‘Oracles of War’ is an entirely different beast. It does not hide its 70’s influences and is dominated by big doomy riffs courtesy of guitarists Khaled Lowe and Barnaby Maddick. It begins with a cheeky swagger and strong Sabbath-esque overtones. The keys of An Knight are very prominent, creating rich, nostalgic textures. The track offers much in the way of light and shade too, with tempo changes as well as fluctuating levels of intensity. In the latter stages, a really lovely guitar solo kicks in to echo Pink Floyd. The bass also catches the ear and the track drifts off on the crest of a folky, Floyd-inspired wave.

‘Balearic Blue’ opens in bright and breezy fashion with delicate vocals and soft guitar melody. The vocals remain quite relaxed and ethereal throughout whilst injecting passion into the performance. The track floats along really nicely, allowing that most beloved prog instrument – the mellotron – to shine.

‘Celestial Spheres’ features some very impressive guitar work within a framework that feels looser and more organic than that which has gone before it, creating a sense of carefree fun in the process. Again the 70s influences loom large but never overpower proceedings. Contrast that with the altogether more sombre vibe of ‘Nocturne’ which also dials up the heaviness quota in and around its altogether more introspective meanderings.

‘Pareidolia’ offers a folkier vibbe before ‘Threnodies’ closes with ‘Crown Of Ashes’. In keeping with the rest of the record it is a composition that offers much but in a subtle way. On one hand, it is a light and easy song on the ear but at the same time has a rather intense and mournful undercurrent.

After all that, have I managed to convince myself to like this record any more than before? Unfortunately, the answer is ‘no’, although what I will say is that I will return to it again in an effort to find that elusive epiphany that I’m certain has got to be lurking somewhere in close proximity.

If you’re a fan of really well constructed rich and sophisticated progressive rock, then please don’t let my review put you off too much. Indeed, I hope this review actually acts as a catalyst for people to give it a try for themselves. It is most definitely worthy of your full undivided attention and I have every confidence that my general malaise is very much the exception rather than the rule.

The Score Of Much Metal: 7.0


If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – DreamlessIn Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – TripsOctober Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld