Intro: D. Kastritis & D. Kaltsas
22 / 06 / 2016
Messenger have admittedly conquered a place among the really good bands that have emerged in recent years. Perhaps it is strange that they have achieved something like that just by their debut, the amazing Illusory Blues which we singled out as one of our favorite albums for 2014 (click). This fact alone indicates the quality and depth they already managed to show from their first appearance. Two years later, the Englishmen are back with their second release and obviously expectations are high. Things are very different for Messenger today as they released their second full-length album for InsideOut and after Illusory Blues they are treated by many as the next big thing in prog. In any case, a positive surprise from nowhere is completely different from trying to confirm this enthusiasm and passing over the bar that one set (perhaps too) high.
Denial of hope
The biggest issue when dealing with the second release of a band is that the comparison to the first album becomes almost inevitable. From the very first notes of Threnodies, I started mulling over the idea of finding and identifying elements that I’d found amazing in their masterly debut. And somewhere at that point the confusion begins. From the moment their music started to flow, I had the feeling that Messenger have changed something without being able to define it exactly. Maybe the opening track Calyx is to blame as it can be defined symbolically more of the ideal bridge between the old and the new, between to what I had in mind with what I was about to listen. Indeed, if Calyx throws a veil of mystery as to what you are about to hear when Oracles Of War kicks off, the omen seems to be verified. Clearly heavier tuning, limitation to what we schematically call orchestration relatively to their first work and a trend to shift away from the progressive element; this is how Threnodies can be described.
Strictly speaking, we should ask directly: is this a bad album? In no case. The confusion which was created by Threnodies can be explained by many factors, and let us not hide because most of them can be described as subjective. Maybe I expected a glorious sequel to their debut, the undisputed fact that compositions like Pareidolia or Oracles of War hardly find a place in my playlists, are some of the reasons why this album irked me. As we said, the gaze was turned to the past, expecting confirmation.
Because of this “shift”, the elements that really rocked in Illusory Blues, namely the lyricism and the amazing stratification of instruments and sounds, were decreased. Tracks like Nocturne and Crown of Ashes provide doses of the characteristic melody that won us over with the British and unfortunately was quite neglected in this year’s album. However, the general feeling indicates a change of course, which I personally do not find exciting.
6.5 / 10
The direction after a triumphant debut is always the key issue and right at this point Messenger seem to have been confused and in turns they confused us too eventually. As a consequence, many good moments are lost in favour of the flow of a multifaceted whole. Fortunately, it is not about another “prefabricated” release of InsideOut, although the expressive spontaneity has been obviously reduced. Within the “threnodies” of Messenger one can find many wonderful melodies, impressive blasts, hypnotic post-rock points and even remarkable heavy riffs. The compositional level of Illusory Blues cannot be equaled, and probably they might never succeed in doing so. The fabric of a great band is quite evident here. If only the vintage and metal typicalities were absent…
7 / 10