Messenger
Illusory Blues


4.5
superb

Review

by Finbar USER (25 Reviews)
May 25th, 2014 | 33 replies


Release Date: 03/31/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Stare into the light...

The press release of Messenger's debut album describes it as "a cosmic ode to the forces of nature and the inevitable cycle of life" and dwelling "equally in the earthly realm of folk music and in the celestial void of progressive psychedelia." As pretentious as this may seem, it's a damn good description of the atmosphere Illusory Blues conveys.
Managing to combine the gentle folk melodies of plucked acoustic guitar and Khaled Lowe's vocals with progressive song structures and epic crescendos, plus a light injection of psychedelic ambience, Messenger have instantly created a refreshingly individual sound in today's washes of Genesis and Pink Floyd tribute acts overcrowding the prog scene and with it one of the best albums of 2014.

Of its seven tracks, none drop shorter than 5 minutes, giving each time to develop and offer something different but equally mesmerising and always ending in some kind of powerful climax. The ironically named opener The Return starts slowly and morphs through several passages dripping with touches of flute, womanly hums and occasional keys, eventually exploding with drum rolls and the closest such a subtle album comes to aggressive vocals, finally coming full circle again with the intro's acoustic chord progression. From the offset it is obvious they're a masterful group of musicians, effortlessly creating atmosphere and flawlessly arranged songs.
Despite the band being at its core a three-piece, their utilisation of instruments is vast and varied, the next song Piscean Tide beginning with an Americana-style violin, Perpetual Glow of A Setting Sun using piano and electric guitars and closer Let The Light In rounding things off with the distinctly Eastern sound of a droning sitar.

What stands out most however is Jaime Gomez Arellano's drumwork. He is literally on FIRE throughout the whole album, never using a conventional, boring drum pattern and giving every song a special kind of intensity. The album's stand out moment comes hands-down from the first section of centrepiece Midnight, when his driving drum pattern becomes ever more powerful until it suddenly takes off and echoes around your head with a swirling delay effect, instantly legitimising any claims of this album being psychedelic... or illusory.
This song is the band at their peak, delivering at least three climaxes (not just from your eargasms), making use of haunting acoustic guitar reminiscent of Anathema's Judgement and the kind of faux-heaviness Gazpacho deliver on Missa Atropos at the song's pinnacle. Not only this, but Arellano burnishes the final seconds of the song with a last echoing drum hit that will send shivers down your spine, left with a perfect 9-minute epic.

What makes this song even more of a culmination is how well structured the album is, previous songs made to feel like a build up to Midnight such as how Dear Departure's haunting distant screeches of violin and crunchy bass escalate to an intense anti-climax once the drums come in, only leaving the listener desperate for more and anticipating the heights the album will eventually reach.

After Midnight, the album brings itself to a close with the two final tracks, firstly the mellow, poppier and all together lighter Somniloquist, featuring the album's only guitar solo. This just goes to show how brilliant Messenger can make their music without resorting to old tricks, not that the solo is bad; in fact, because of its uniqueness in the album, it feels all the more special and fresh.
The gentle and mostly drum-less Let The Light In is the warm daybreak to Midnight's darkness, ending the album with a tribal-like percussion rhythm that intersperses high-pitched violins and then cuts off suddenly, leaving you on a final breathless note, wondering about the only true negative of Illusory Blues: where can Messenger go from here?



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user ratings (25)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Mad.
May 25th 2014


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

The drumwork on this is so damn good. Definitely one of 2014's best.

Streaming here: http://www.stereogum.com/1671448/stream-messenger-illusory-blues-stereogum-premiere/mp3s/album-stream/

Mort.
May 25th 2014


4061 Comments


damn i love that artwork

Digging: Crash of Rhinos - Distal

Mad.
May 25th 2014


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I know man, it matches the music so well

Mort.
May 25th 2014


4061 Comments


also good review, have a pos

Mad.
May 25th 2014


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks br0

Ffs people need to listen to this

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
May 25th 2014


11789 Comments


Good review man, sounds pretty epic.

Digging: Rishloo - Living as Ghosts with Buildings as Teeth

Mad.
May 25th 2014


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks man, it's totally worth a listen

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
May 25th 2014


16131 Comments


looks good, ill check it out tomorrow, pos

Jethro42
May 25th 2014


12624 Comments


I really like what I've heard so far.

Mad.
May 26th 2014


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks y'all, this is a really damn good album but it took a couple of listens to grow into a 4.5. Pretty sure Midnight is instantly amazing though

JS19
May 26th 2014


4411 Comments


Gonna check this dude thanks!!

Digging: Circa Survive - Descensus

Mad.
May 26th 2014


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

No problem man, I'm sure you'll like it though I've noticed you're into a lot of metal recently

JS19
May 26th 2014


4411 Comments


My friend I've always been into a lot of everything - my tastes haven't changed!

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
May 26th 2014


21584 Comments


Great review, pos'd.

This certainly sounds interesting.

Digging: Foxes in Fiction - Ontario Gothic

Mad.
May 26th 2014


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

@JS oh yeah I remember you saying you listened to Opeth when you were 11 actually, pretty impressive

@Jamie Thanks man, don't miss this, it's one of 2014's best prog releases. A bit more streamlined and ethereal than Wolf People though if you get what I mean

JJKeys
May 27th 2014


248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review Mad! I'll definitely have to check this out - although whether Illusory Blues will be better than HTB or not is going to be interesting to find out



Mad.
May 27th 2014


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks man, make sure you do.

I've been looking at buying Anubis CDs, can get all 3 in gatefold for £33, doesn't seem like a bad idea. Just hoping that HTB can keep up the first 2's standards!

Thibs
May 28th 2014


1745 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

thanks for the rec dude. solid stuff for sure

Digging: Spectral Lore - III

Mad.
May 29th 2014


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

No problem man, hopefully it'll grow on you even more like Demon did!

N2B3J
May 31st 2014


39 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album has been in constant rotation for me. It's definitely worth a 4.5.



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