Proto-metal is (or should that be “was”) often defined by its blues and acid-rock origins, but right from metal’s murky beginnings, the influence of jazz was there. Indeed, jazz influences can be found in the likes of Bill Ward, Robert Trujillo, John Bonham and Jack Bruce, and in the modern day, where metal bands are merging various subgenres with all manner of disparate musical styles, this influence has once again reared its head. One such example is Italian outfit Messa, whose doomy stylings borrow heavily from jazzy tones.
On the quartet’s new album, Feast For Water, they have doubled-down on the offbeat approach of their debut, 2016’s Belfry, adeptly wielding a proclivity for murky compositions of Windhand-esque occult doom informed by jazzy atmospheres and the odd smattering of ambient and drone influences. Marring these two may seem like a fresh blueprint for pushing metal into even more extreme realms, but Messa also embrace more sultry textures, managing a well-executed balance between the heaviness of their fuzzy guitar tone and the richness of their celestial atmospheres.
Find out more directly from the horse’s mouth below, as the band tell us about their distinct style and the aquatic themes of their new album.
Metal and jazz can be some of the most complicated genres out there. Is it hard to combine the two in a way that seems cohesive?
The composition of Feast For Water has been a complex journey that started when our guitar player bought a Rhodes piano for his own interest. We loved it right away and so we decided to incorporate it into the compositions. It allowed us to expand towards more creative structures and it also brought a “jazzy” element to the table.
All of us in Messa listen to jazz, so this new record is a spontaneous and natural evolution, even though it took quite a long amount of time and dedication. We’d like to point out that the jazz element in this record is more a question of pure tone and atmosphere. At the end of the day, we still stick to a “riffy” rock formula which has very little in common with the open solutions of most forms of jazz, not to mention free jazz.
You’ve mentioned that water is a big theme on this album (hence its name). What made you choose this concept, and how did it inspire the music and/or lyrics?
We chose the concept of this liquid element because it represents the idea of beginning, pureness, simplicity, fluid power. Water can give life but it can also steal it, and it has always been fundamental as a gateway to initiations and rituals. The musical, graphic, recording aspects of Feast For Water are all tied together, and we think they represent this content well.
You’ve also mentioned that you wanted this record to act as a sort of sequel to Belfry, which focused around a bell tower. Are the two themes related?
Yes. When we started composing Feast For Water we pictured it as the subsequent part of Belfry. The main subject of our first record is the bell tower and the way it gathers people together. The bell tower draws people into the lake, and our second record starts with a dive in its deep, dark waters. As you swim to its depths, you reach the portals of an imaginary underwater cathedral.
The bell tower on Belfry’s cover was surrounded by water, partly submerged. Was the follow-up’s theme of water planned when that photo was taken, or is it more of a happy accident?
No, actually nothing was planned during the production of Belfry. It’s definitely more like a “creative” accident. We started thinking about a follow-up during the creation of Feast For Water, and we just chased our imagination.
We like to conceive this Messa project as an entire journey, a ritual divided into multiple steps. And these steps for us mean a record, which means a sacrament, which means an element.
Opener ‘Naunet’ is presumably named after the Egyptian goddess of water and chaos. What other lyrical themes can be found on the album, is mythology a key theme?
The whole concept of this record is water, and the lyrical work represents this content, together with the music. Lyrics are extremely personal and heartfelt, they all have their peculiar root. Mythology is not a key theme, we’d like to say that it’s more about inner and outer visions…
Messa is the Italian term for a religious mass. What’s the significance of this name?
It means and sounds a lot to us. We were searching for a name with a feminine connotation that we could all relate to. There is a somewhat ceremonial aspect in our shows, and it’s strongly connected to this name.
How do you think your music has progressed since Belfry?
First of all, we progressed as single individuals, we dealt with our skills and limits. Personally and musically speaking, we are still improving our approach to respective collaboration. They say you live and learn!
For sure, we approached composition in a different and more experimental way.
Your sound has a distinct style. Do you think it’s important to try something new in the modern metal scene?
Yes, definitely. Music is in constant evolution and we love its prismatic nature. It is positive to create something unheard instead of being stuck in a genre without conceiving anything “new”. Choosing uneven solutions, following instinct and different inspirations can create innovative music which hasn’t been crafted the same way before.
What should we expect from Messa in the future?
Our second record has just been released so we won’t be writing new material for a while and we’ll dedicate ourselves to live activity. We’ll be touring Europe with our friends Discomfort in May, and another EU tour will take place in October. We’ll just keep on doing what we love, which is creating and playing music.
Feast For Water is out now via Aural Music. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr