Reviewed: August 2020
Released: 2020, High Roller Records
Reviewer: Jack Merry
26 years after their last studio album, extreme metallers Messiah are about to unleash the successor to their “Underground” record from 1994, entitled “Fracmont” on High Roller Records later this year.
For now, however, the band are sweetening the wait with the three-track EP “Fatal Grotesque Symbols – Darken Universe” which contains one brand new song that won’t be on the new album, and two re-recorded Messiah classics; new versions of ‘Space Invaders’ from the band’s 1986 debut album “Hymn To Abramelin” as well as the title track of the 1987 second album “Extreme Cold Weather.”
When talking about the title track of the EP, main man and guitarist Brögi says:
“The new song won’t be on the album. It does fit in very well with the re-recordings of the two old tunes. ‘Fatal Grotesque Symbols – Darken Universe’ sounds pretty much like old school Messiah. Even my solo part goes back to the very early days of the band as it is quite chaotic. The lyrics for the song are really old, I did write them for a different project though. Our singer Andy Kaina re-arranged the text and now the whole song is a full-blown Messiah tune.”
Recorded, mixed, and mastered at Little Creek Studio Switzerland, across March and April 2020 by V.O. Pulver, the EP has a delicious extreme metal crunch that drags the thin 80’s production of the early material kicking and screaming into the 21st century for a welcome makeover. The brand new title track could’ve comfortably been on the early Messiah albums, yet at the same time updates the band’s sound for the modern era and is an exciting taster of what is to come on the new studio album. The 26-year gap since their last studio effort has been shaved off in an instant and it’s as if they never went away. It’s an excellent extreme metal song filled to the brim with filthy riffs, rumbling bass lines and Andy’s growled vocals, not totally unlike a chainsmoking Lemmy Kilmister. There’s a lot for Messiah fans to sink their teeth into just during this one song, and it will leave them salivating for the upcoming new album “Fracmont.”
Sadly, I don’t think ‘Space Invaders’ holds up very well, even with a fresh coat of paint. It plods along with no real urgency, and it’s not overly memorable. The performances are all great on the track, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. It’s not a song I’d actively search out, but the good news is that the next track ‘Extreme Cold Weather’ is excellent. Razor-sharp riffs cut across the entirety of the track as an explosive lead guitar solo erupts in the midsection; the rhythm section propels the song towards its end. A riff that can only have been forged in the fires of Mount Doom, with Tony Iommi’s blessing, appears and it’s not long before an Iron Maiden style galloping bassline kicks into gear. I’ll have this one on repeat for a while.
“Fatal Grotesque Symbols – Darken Universe” succeeds at what it set out to do: showcase what the band is capable of creatively in 2020, as well as update a couple of older songs to help bridge the 26-year gap. It’s a shame that one-third of the EP did absolutely nothing for me. I love the two remaining songs, and I’ve got my eyes and ears peeled for that new album. Fans of bands such as Hellhammer and Celtic Frost will find plenty to love within Messiah’s own grotesque world, and the upcoming album “Fracmont” is definitely an album to watch out for this year.