|Musical Style: Hard Rock/Metal||Produced By: Frank Clifton Herring|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website: Messenger|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 45:00|
Ever had a musical experience that brought back memories of an era gone by? The kind which you cannot help but say not only have you heard this before but that it is good to hear again? That would be the best way to describe my listening experience with Messenger and its independently released 2008 full length debut I’m Talking To You. Haling from the Nation’s Capitol, Messenger brings a throwback sound that hearkens back to the eighties. Now, by “throwback” I am not necessarily referring to the fluffy hair metal that was prevalent at the time but rather a heavier and more muscular side to the decade. And by that I mean the joining of guitar driven hard rock (similar to Rez Band) and old school heavy metal (not unlike Saint) that characterizes the bands sound.
To understand my point check out the all out metal of “Roar”, driving hard rocker “Hell Is No Party”, palatial “King Of Kings”, groove flavored “Chained”, and no-nonsense “Walking In The Mire”, five energetic pieces in which Messenger puts its accomplished songwriting skills on full display. A more mid-paced (but equally notable) direction is taken on the heavy duty “Don’t Shoot The Messenger” and ominous “Rapture” while “Bright And Morning Star” and “Forbidden Love” head in quality ballad territory. Rounding things out is the instrumental “Special Delivery”.
One of the standout qualities to Messenger is its triple guitar team of Frank Clifton Herring, Vladimir Gurin and Joe Fulford. To say that the three lay some tight as they get riffs and melodies would be an understatement. Specifically, Herring handles rhythm guitar duties and Gurin and Fulford lead guitar. Gurin best exhibits his abilities on “Roar” and “Chained” while “Hell Is No Party” and “Bright And Morning Star” allow Fulford to shine. “King Of Kings” and “Don’t Shoot The Messenger” find the two trading off.
Bassist Elliott Powell also deserves mention for the manner in which he helps anchor the low end. I enjoy how his bass stands out in the mix on “Rapture” and “Chained”, a particular testament to the albums clean production values.
Frank Clifton Herring also handles lead vocal duties. The best way to describe his vocal approach would be mid-ranged (almost low-key) but with rich and warm flavorings. While I would hesitate to make a direct comparison, his delivery hints at Paul Aviles (Chariot) and Thomas Wilson (Unforsaken & Incarnate).
Keeping in mind there is no such thing as a perfect album, I would like to offer some constructive commentary:
First, there are a couple of filler tracks, “America, Why?” and “So Good”, at the albums end. At this point it must be reinforced that I’m Talking To You brings near perfect continuity over its first ten tracks. That continuity, however, is interrupted by the two. The best advice I might offer any band would be to give your audience your ten best songs; it is not necessary to record your entire back catalog.
Second, packaging is lacking somewhat. While the cover artwork is well done and complements the music here, no lyrics are included. Keeping in mind space limitations and costs involved, if it is not possible to include lyrics then the least an artist can do is post them at their website or MySpace profile.
Speaking of lyrics, Messenger proves an aptly named band in that the prose here is straightforward and forthright as it gets. The band pulls no punches in presenting its faith and bold and upfront “message”. A lot of people are going to be reached by the project.
“Hell Is No Party”, despite the clichéd title, represents a choice slab of driving hard rock. The most notable aspect to the song are the Rez Band style guitar riffs carrying its distance- slicing, massive and heavy as they get. Put this on Colours and Innocent Blood and it would sound right at home. A rumbling low end adds to the weighty scene. “Hells Is No Party” warns against overlooking eternal matters:
One time you shake your fist in the air
One time you shout to the sky,
One time you destroy what good could be there
One time you just got too high
God says its sin and you say ‘Oh well’
‘I’ll laugh with my friends when I get to hell’
Hell is no party. Hell is no fun.
You face the Maker (and eternity) in a crowd of one.
Hell is no party
“King Of Kings” ranks with the albums best. The song starts to a grandiose opening in which a drum solo gives way to melodic guitar harmony. The galloping riff that takes over propels “King Of Kings” to its first verse, the enlivened backdrop maintained on the way to a chorus that comes across regal – almost worshipful – in capacity. The only break in tempo is an instrumental section featuring an immaculate joining of lead guitar and keyboards. “King Of Kings” touches upon the second coming:
The Lord will return full of life, with the sword of His mouth
He rides the skies on a horse of white, smiting nations north and south
They will see Him that pierced His side, and rejected His love.
Jesus Christ whom they crucified, justifies men by His blood
And His vesture dipped in blood He is the Lamb who bore the cross
He is the mighty King of Kings. The war shall not be lost
The semi ballad “Bright And Morning Star” maintains the lofty sentiment. The song opens its first minute quietly as a gently played guitar leads the way. Impetus does not return, however, until a snarling rhythm guitar kicks in and drives things forward at the more assertive tempo. A decisive chorus finds Messenger making a statement of faith:
He’s my bright and Morningstar
He’s my light and my salvation
Everyone’s best dream by far
He’s the hope of all creation
He’s the Rock on which I stand
Jesus Christ knows who I am
Initiative picks up with “Don’t Shoot The Messenger”. Delivering a muscular band of mid-paced metal, the band signature song stands out with its aggressive riffing and focused drumming of timekeeper Tim Tieff. A too the point chorus is conveyed in unmistakable fashion. Again, this is the bands signature song (both musically and lyrically):
Just embrace the love of God, there’s nothing you can lose
When Christ was killed ----- Then raised again, The Holy Ghost came down
Disciples turned ----- Apostles then, - about to gain their crown
And when they shared what the Lord had done – they knew they could die
Those that killed ---- the martyrs heard, - the bold apostles’ cry
Don’t shoot the messenger; you know I bring good news
If you feel the fear of God, You know what you must choose
Don’t shoot the messenger, my message - don’t refuse
Instrumental “Special Delivery” allows Messenger to showcase its abundant musicianship. Five minutes of militant riffs and precision low end churning, the song breaks for occasional stretches of melodic guitar harmony (backed by piercing – but supportive – lead work). Momentum does not break until the halfway point for an ambient passage in which keyboards play a leading role.
Having got its instrumental propensities out of the way, the band delivers the heartfelt ballad “Forbidden Love”. Moving forward to a joining of piano and acoustic guitar, the song does not pick up in pace until a crisp rhythm guitar joins the striking scene. Closing out the final minute is a span of rousing lead guitar (some of the albums finest). Very fine melody and message as well (about not getting involved in a relationship with someone who does not share the same faith):
I saw her there, her eyes- her hair, and her smile, shining bright
And though she’s fun, or could be the one, I hoped she was in His light
She came to me, in hopes that we, could begin, to be a pair
But I knew, that we two, had beliefs we needed to share
When I know, that I know, that you’re His, I’ll be yours
When you see, that you see, He is real, He opens doors
“Wallowing In The Mire”, a Romans 7 inspired piece, heads in up-tempo hard rock territory. The song begins to a forward wall of rhythm guitar before letting up in pace upon reaching its first verse. Regaining the initiative, “Wallowing In The Mire” moves on to a terse chorus detailing the daily struggle against sin:
Wallowing in the mire
Rolling in the mud
Sinking deeper every day
Don’t tell me about a cleansing flood
The following best sums up the songs theme:
I found a way to hide my sins; from God, from people, even me
My friends away - it’s me who wins, and no one else will ever see
I love this sin, but hate the shame. This back and forth may drive me mad
I get my way; I keep my sins, tell me who wins, does Christ’s blood cleanse?!
“The Rapture” proves a swarthy track with its rumbling mid-paced impetus. Getting underway to a brief drum solo, the song plows through its first verse to a pronounced bass line and second a bristling rhythm guitar. The catchy chorus that ensues is low key but delivered with ominous tones. “Rapture” is aptly entitled:
When one is taken and the other is left,
One sees Jesus and the other fears death
Chaos on one side, joy on the other
One is with Him one could’ve been a brother
Hear Jesus call with a clear loud voice,
Calling them that made the Lord their choice
Leaving the lost & taking the atoned
Calling His bride and taking her home
“Roar” represents two and a half minutes of all out metal. I might describe this as the albums heaviest piece, serving up an amalgamation of choppy riffs (that bring to mind Incarnate) and powering drums. A harshly delivered chorus and complementary fiery guitar solo add the fitting touch. Messenger vents some frustration on this one:
Raised in church - he’s taught to lead
He preys on kids – his flesh to feed
Lives in shadow – he lives in light
He hides his sin and sleeps at night
Hides behind the Cross and Christ
Their innocence is sliced and diced
Word and Spirit – at his door
He spurns the truth. It makes me want to
ROAR!! ROAR!! ROAR!!
A hulking bass line fortifies “Chained” its distance. Heavy but groove based at the same time, “Chained” stands out as this reviewers choice track off the album. I find the song incurably infectious with its non-stop low end pulse and unyielding melody (I challenge you to keep “Chained” out of your head after repeated listen). Fans of Menchen, Die Happy and V-Rats will be certain to eat this one up. “Chained” talks about making a new start:
There in the quiet, in the dark, God’s Spirit helped me see
The evil things that I had done
I could blame nobody but me
I searched my heart, I searched my mind
Oh God please make me clean!
I got a new start I’m no longer blind
I understand now what He means
Closing things out are “America, Why?” and “So Good” the albums two least inspiring pieces (in my opinion). “America, Why?” is an acoustic laced track dealing with abortion and “So Good” a scratchy blues rocker in the vein of Stevie & The Saints. While far from bad, I find that the two do not quite hold up in comparison to the ten that precede them. That said, I can see others thinking differently though I tend to pass.
Track Listing: “Hell Is No Party” (3:34), “King Of Kings” (4:17), “Bright And Morning Star” (3:25), “Don’t Shoot The Messenger” (4:41), “Special Delivery” (5:01), “Forbidden Love” (4:31), “Wallowing In The Mire” (3:46), “The Rapture” (3:13), “Roar” (2:38), “Chained” (3:13), “America, Why?” (3:41), “So Good” (2:58)
Frank Clifton Herring – Lead Vocals, Keyboards & Guitars
Vladimir Gurin – Guitars
Joe Fulford – Guitars
Elliott Powell – Bass
Tim Tieff - Drums