Messa : a Scarlett Sabbath


Playing CLOSE, live @ Roadburn 2022

Picture credit : Ben Foden

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I saw Tony Iommi today at Roadburn.

No, I’m not talking about an improbable, hype-ass secret show as they tend to happen here – although at the time of writing the festival is not over yet, so who knows.

To be more specific, I saw a 2022 version of who I imagine Tony Iommi was in 1969. Young guitarist, elegantly dressed in a 70’s style wide-lapels leather jacket, wavy long-ish hair. The guy plays a Gibson, delivering groovy, powerful razorblade riffs, but also has a prominent jazzy touch, pulling out solos and improv bits here and there.

The man is actually Alberto from Messa.

Picture credit : Niels Vinck

Don’t get me wrong : Messa are no people to clone or reboot the 70’s Black Sabbath. They are taking this living heritage to a new formula. If you have lived anywhere else than under a rock during these past few months, you’ve most probably heard of them and listened to their latest and widely praised album Close. (If not, why not ? You should do that. Do listen to Close.)

The fact that they were among the highly anticipated acts to star the main stage of Roadburn speaks miles about their ascension, and by delivering their ambitious set, playing Close with all additional orchestrations, they sure did live up to the hype. The set was flawless, beautiful, highly emotional.

But I would like to talk more specifically about the close-up secret show they played at the small skatepark scene the day after, for there we saw other reasons why they are such a great band.

There they were, just the four of them, mere dozens of centimeters away from all of us, ready to rock. They’d already had their “big moment”, they already proved they belong among the biggest names in contemporary Doom. Now was about having a blast with no pressure and Holy Jigglypuff, was that a blast. Mixing up songs from Close and their older albums, this setlist was all about rock’n’roll efficiency with Alberto’s lascivious riffing and 70’s-ish guitar tones, and with that natural crazy touch on Rocco’s drums and Marco’s bass that the Great Sab’ had all those years ago.

Sara at the skatepark. Picture credit : @liya.exe

But the Sabbath did not have Sara. They did not have her powerful voice, nor her incredibly clean and bewitching singing. They did not have her imperial stand and her bright presence. Singing majestically and rocking on, smiling, headbanging as Marco unleashed his inner Lemmy over bass riffs that hit the audience like a train. Messa are not only extending the tropes of Heavy and Doom Metal, they incorporate elements from all parts of the genre. The Crust / Grind moment Leffotrak sheds a very explicit light on this, but hearing them playing songs from their entire catalogue made it clear that double pedalling and incisive juggernaut riffs were there all along.

This synthesis of a musical grammar and spirit reaching all the way back to the very genesis of Metal along with many more recent developments, all flowing naturally through a highly sensual and powerful musical piece, is what makes Close one of the best albums of the decade to come. One that can be re-played indefinitely and get better every time.

On that skatepark, Messa gave flesh and blood to an ideal of Rock’n’Roll. They showed that at their core, they have all the elements that make their breed of Metal unique. Not groundbreaking, not avant-garde, but an amazingly well-matured, subtle evolution of that common musical subconscious. They showed that what they can display on a larger stage with extra musicians is not “making up” for a band that might be less than excellent on its own.

Picture credit : Niels Vinck

Jazzy and sensual, powerful, very communicative, hard-hitting and hard-rocking, casually spellbinding, as vivid and intense as blood ; Messa are among the new spearheads to the genre. They are the Scarlett Sabbath.

Special and heartfelt thanks to the photographers who kindly let me use their pictures in this article ! Thank you Ben thank you Liya.

Thank you Niels Vinck. Niels is one of Roadburn’s commissionned photographers, and you should absolutely go check out his masterful, dynamic and intense photos :