Stream Messenger Illusory Blues (Stereogum Premiere)
UK trio Messenger will release their debut album, Illusory Blues, on the Finnish label Svart Records — a fact that helps to contextualize Messenger’s music. Svart is home to the likes of Oranssi Pazuzu, Hexvessel, and Beastmilk: bands with ties to the metal community, but whose music barely intersects with metal at all (or in the case of Oranssi Pazuzu: bands whose music takes metal to intensely hallucinatory new places). Indeed, Messenger have metal vets in their ranks — vocalist/guitarist Khaled Lowe was in a short-lived deathcore act called Raise The Dead; bassist Barnaby Maddick was a session musician in the psych-doom band Purson; and drummer Jaime Gomez Arellano is a producer/engineer and owner of Orgone Studios, which has been the delivery room for some of modern metal’s most notable and best-sounding albums, including Ghost’s Opus Eponymous, Grave Miasma’s Odori Sepulcrorum, and the aforementioned Oranssi Pazuzu’s Valonielu — but their own music is pastoral, delicate, ethereal.
Still, Messenger’s metal-adjacent past is relevant to this music, too. Forget Raise The Dead, though; it’s the resumes of Maddick and Gomez Arellano that are most instructive here. Like Purson, Messenger are a distinct throwback and extremely psychedelic and folky — both bands warrant comparisons to British folk-rock outfit Pentangle. And Gomez Arellano — who produced Illusory Blues at Orgone, along with serving as Messenger’s drummer — has achieved what may be the finest-sounding work of his illustrious career (his portfolio includes all the aforementioned albums recorded at Orgone, as well as releases from Ulver, Altar Of Plagues, Primordial, and lots of others). This isn’t to downplay Lowe’s outstanding contributions to Illusory Blues, just to say that his background as a metal musician seems to have no relationship to his gorgeous, understated, picturesque work here, which recalls the likes of Terry Reid or Tim Buckley. Illusory Blues is an inviting and beautiful album that feels as though it’s been transported here from another era, if not another dimension — Tolkien’s Middle-earth as envisioned by Led Zeppelin, maybe. We’ve got the album for you to stream in full today, and I sincerely, wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s a lovely and wondrous world in which to get lost. Listen.
Illusory Blues is out 3/28 via Svart.