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Formative - 83%

UncleMeat, May 4th, 2009

Messiah were an excellent Swiss band that started out playing sloppy, yet awesome, thrash with Hellhammer-like early black metal elements. Then later, around 1986, they had developed an amazing, brutal, death/thrash sound, which eventually evolved into straight-up death metal. The fact that this is an early recording is very apparent, but in all of its raw, rotten glory, it is still a great recording. Considering this was a low-budget demo recorded in 1985, the production is surprisingly excellent. The vocals are front and center with a heavy slap-back delay effect, making them sound all the more possessed. The guitar is double-tracked and has a great fuzz tone, backed up by the cleanly played bass. The drums also have a clear sound, and are appropriately pushed up in the mix.

The main element that indicates the fact that this is one of the band’s first demos and had been recorded within a year of the band’s inception is the underdeveloped nature of it all. But much like Hellhammer, its primitive naivety and inexperienced aggression is partly what makes it so great. The riffing, the songwriting, the musicianship – all of it is at the level you would expect from a young band, but the way they make it all work is what makes the early Messiah material so special. It shows lots of potential, and hints towards what would become the mightiness that is ‘Hymn to Abramelin’.

And although I, along with some others, compare the early Messiah material to Hellhammer, there are enough distinct differences to avoid calling it blatant Hellhammer worship. One of these differing factors is in the riffing. Like Hellhammer, it is simplistic, but it makes more use of palm mutes and altogether contains much more variation, giving this stuff a strong proto-thrash feel rather then early black metal. But that is not to say it is completely absent of early 80’s black metal elements, as there are quite a few. The vocals are another blatant differing factor, making use of higher pitched, but still guttural, snarls, which is something they carried with them up until the ‘Psychomorphia’ EP. The drums are probably the easiest comparison to their aforementioned country-mates, as they are equally as simplistic, but capable of much higher speeds and aren’t nearly as sloppy.

So this is definitely at least an interesting listen for those already familiar with the 80’s Messiah material, but for the newcomers, I suggest starting out with their 1986 LP, ‘Hymn to Abramelin’. Now THAT is an essential piece of death/thrash history that really must be heard by all who consider themselves an old school metal junkie.