Release Date: 31st July 2020
Record Label: Holy Roar
For Fans Of: Birds In Row, Envy, Russian Circles
The mix of screamo and post-rock seems so commonplace nowadays that one expects to hear lengthy, atmospheric passages thrown in the mix when listening to a new skramz album. Bands such as Pianos Become The Teeth and Touché Amoré make extensive use of clean guitars, and recently Rolo Tomassi have dialled back the chaotic side of their music to encompass a more textured approach. Yet despite this, Fall Of Messiah manage to present a unique take on the modern hybrid. Sounding like none of the above mentioned bands, they have done more than mix the two seemingly disparate styles to create a beautiful concoction that will no doubt yield many copycat bands.
Described as ‘screamo sans voix’ (thank you, GCSE French), the French five-piece started out firmly rooted in screamo, with a heavy dose of mathy riffs thrown in for good measure. But as the band’s career progressed, their sound became more refined, eschewing extensive use of vocals and focusing more on instrumentation, resulting in the post-rock side dominating their collective personality. This development reached fruition with 2016’s near perfect Empty Colors, a 30 minute EP of massive crescendos, unexpected dynamic shifts, but with only a sprinkling of vocals throughout.
Due to the constant development of their sound, Senicarne can be viewed as a companion piece to Empty Colors, being the two releases that share the most similarities. While less epic than its predecessor, Senicarne is by no means inferior. Crescendos are used sparingly (an approach many post-rock bands should try…), meaning their impact is all the more effective. The drums are frenetic, and serve their own purpose rather than simply supporting the guitars (of which there are three). Songwriting is focused more on actual riffs and passages, with clear cut movements throughout the songs, instead of simple layerings upon a motif. With the tracks being reasonably short by post-rock standards, there is no room for needless noodling. Not a minute is wasted, with the dynamic shifts being so immediate and shocking that they demand your attention. This is one post-rock album that will not settle for relaxing background listening.
As the album draws to a close, Fall Of Messiah unleash their heavier side. Penultimate track ‘Sequoia’ opens with blast beats and tremolo picking, reminding the listener that the band know how to do screamo. But even this does not last long, as the black metal-esque onslaught gives way to glossy clean guitars. Closing track ‘The Loneliest Whale In The World’ ends the record with a powerhouse array of riffing, fully putting the three-guitar assault to good use, perfectly blending heaviness with shimmering textures.
Despite being barely featured, one must address the significance of vocals utilised by Fall Of Messiah. With only four tracks out of nine not being completely instrumental, it would be an understatement to say the band use vocals sparingly. Yet this is what makes it all the more powerful. The band do not use vocals out of obligation, but out of necessity. As the tracks build and the emotion conveyed reaches boiling point, it feels that letting out a cathartic scream is the only way Fall Of Messiah can fully express themselves. The vocals are often buried in the mix, resulting in the voice being an added texture rather than the focal point of the track. It creates the sense that the vocals were unplanned and not into a microphone, but were a natural reaction to the emotive nature of the band’s music. As such, it is hard to decipher the lyrics, but as with the case of many great unintelligible vocals (Converge springs to mind), they serve more as an extra instrument than as the literal voice of the band. Furthermore, during the extensive instrumental passages, one doesn’t feel the song is incomplete due to a lack of vocals; it sounds so natural as an instrumental that there is simply no need.
Fall Of Messiah deserve more attention and acclaim than they are getting. Their trajectory has been phenomenal, and the songwriting on Senicarne is far superior to the many self-indulgent, noodling post-rock bands who seem to dominate the field. With each album being an improvement on the last, Fall Of Messiah have finally found their niche, and boy is it a good one.
Recommended Tracks: ‘Young Pines’, ‘Atlantique’, ‘The Loneliest Whale In The World’
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