MESSIAH – Fatal Grotesque Symbols-Darken Universe (2020)REVIEW

Under strict definition of 80’s death metal, or the looser blanket of ‘extreme thrash metal’ circa 1984 one must consider Baar, Switzerland-based trio Messiah among the first forty or so death metal bands to crop up and leave a mark worth a shit, ever. Defiant, experimental, irreligious, and always arriving with some balance of brutality and finesse their first ten years saw rapid evolution that left behind a legacy best defined by their three album run on the infamous Noise Records imprint. If you have long worshiped the bloody altars of ’86 via ‘Morbid Visions’, ‘Into the Abyss’ and ‘Pleasure to Kill’ and somehow still manage to snub ‘Hymn to Abramelin’, you’ve committed a tragic sin! If you would live under the blade of ‘Beneath the Remains’, ‘Final Holocaust’, and ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ and somehow dodged the apex condition of ‘Choir of Horrors’, then all pearly gates’ve long snapped shut. There is chance for redemption yet, in their now well-archived back catalog and this EP ‘Fatal Grotesque Symbols-Darken Universe’, the first original material from the band in over 25 years.

Bear in mind it is only a teaser for the album ‘Fracmont‘ which comes out early September this year and features the line-up from the Noise Records-era, a three album run that would evolve from death/thrash metal, death metal, and finally a heavier form of groove metal by 1994. There is perhaps only one record I’ve listened to more than ‘Choir of Horrors‘ and I’m not sure you all need another testimonial from me but man, that album changed my life. I went from a cynical dude who collected thrash records to a raving fanatic, there was no bigger joy for me back in the day than giving someone that album and seeing their mind set afire by its death/thrash riff action. Anyhow, if you’re wondering why it took nearly three decades to get Messiah recording again, the explanation is pretty simple: They’d achieved what they needed to back in the day and the main reason for reforming in 2003 and 2017 with intermittent festival appearances dotted throughout was for the fans. Their music has an enduring underground legacy, a rabid fanbase, and new recordings were an unsure step to start.

So, in waiting for ‘Fracmont’ we are served this three song EP which pays tribute to their 80’s records while showcasing the production values and performance level upcoming. The first song
“Fatal Grotesque Symbols – Darken Universe” is essentially a leftover track from the ‘Fracmont’ sessions that was likely set here because its mix of ‘Rotten Parish’ style riffs and Slayerized stomps fits quite well alongside the two re-recorded tracks. You will understand why this track was not included on the new album when it releases, the mood of the new record is more grand and retro-futuristic. “Space Invaders” is a classic, a song that featured in the bands live sets forever and continues to be one of the more distinct pieces on the chaotic ‘Hymn to Abramelin’. The second re-recording comes from the oddball ‘Extreme Cold Weather’ LP, an album that was barely an album yet it remains one of their best known recordings for its wild sound back in 1987. For old fans these three tracks will feel like natural kin with an updated sound, the first piece does venture more into their 90’s era but it maintains the rhythmic simplicity of the other songs well enough that they all feel related.

Do you need this if you’re not much of a collector? Probably not but if you’re unsure if Messiah still have it or if you’re afraid they’re going to plop a deuce on their legacy with ‘Fracmont’ let this solid trio of songs put your mind at ease! If anything I’d say this is essential for the old school thrash die-hards who still feel that rush when putting on the old records, not just because they’ve re-recorded a couple classics but because the new piece will suggest they’re still wholly capable and self-aware enough to write songs that kick it ‘old school’ without sounding out of touch. A high recommendation, and I’d also strongly recommend previewing the ‘Fracmont’ singles on YouTube or whereabouts as well.

High recommendation.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Fatal Grotesque Symbols – Darken Universe
LABEL(S):High Roller Records
RELEASE DATE:August 7th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:High Roller Website / Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death/Thrash Metal,
Thrash Metal

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