The progressive rock and metal genres are composed of inventors who dwell in labs concocting new directions, and zealots who preserve their history with ironclad will. Messenger, fresh from the UK in 2012, tread the line between tradition and adventure in their second full-length album Threnodies. Borrowing across genres and time, while incorporating unique twists and dynamic layering, the album is an interesting and complex beast.
The construction and production of the album are its standout qualities. From percussion to strings to vocals, nothing drowns out the other and the delicious tidbits are highlighted at the appropriate times. Sturdy bass lines waltz along the stage chased by drum beats thumped with surgical precision. The throb and pulse is backed by floating keys and haunting vocals all of which work together to build a spellbinding performance. Some sections play out like a lamenting protagonist’s soliloquy while others explode with action and drama, whipping up a virtual whirlpool of tension.
Messenger do not seem interested in committing to any particular genre. There is more than enough 70’s prog to easily classify them as Pink Floyd followers, but the album is speckled with so many more elements that the label doesn’t feel right. Several songs start with slow and heavy builds that conjure distinct stoner and doom flavours. As well, sections of folk stylings flit past in the more careful and quiet sections, spawning colour in the world of Threnodies. While the off-kilter combinations make for tough labelling, they contribute to crafting a varied sound that tantalizes the sonic taste buds.
While Threnodies possesses a lot of merit in its production along with daring crossovers that pay in dividends, it is not without its flaws. The burden of fluff plagues several songs. While Messenger seem to focus on shaping a varied sound that leaves the listener guessing and unsuspecting of what is to come, there are parts that prattle on for too long. A prime example is “Baleric Blue” where the same concept is recycled three times over to bloat a song from what would be a solid three minutes to a six-minute stretch.
There are plenty of highlights in Threnodies. A crisp and clean production that stays on every beat and draws attention to what needs to be heard is the framework of the album. An expansive arsenal of genres provides the furnishings that give the work character and make for a unique performance. Unfortunately, there are sections tacked on that lack in value and seem to carry the sole purpose of questioning their own existence. Overall, the album has plenty of content and value to please most listeners, and it could certainly do the trick for those craving a relatively new prog act that works in some fresh twists and turns.