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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Review: Messenger - Starwolf Pt. II: Novastorm


I got to admit that Messenger was an unknown name to me. It's a shame 'cause these guys have been active since 1990 releasing 5 full length albums, 3 Eps and 1 demo. Surprisingly their press release doesn't make any mention of the 2 albums, 2 Eps and the demo and only mentions their work after 2006!!

In the beginning I was puzzled upon looking their pics accompanying the official press release since visually the looked like a band replicating Lost Horizon's visual imagery. Thankfully this isn't the case and Messenger is one band that takes itself and its music seriously enough(can't say the same for the image though)

Their latest offering is titled “Starwolf pt.II: Novastorm” and as you probably guessed it is based on a concept which is actually the continuation of a story that begun with their previous album “Starwolf pt.I: The Messengers”. This is a sci-fi story born from the collaboration of novelist Victor L. Pax and the band.

I have to confess that upon reading that I was hoping for an in depth lyric approach that unfortunately wasn't there. That was kind of a letdown since “Starwolf pt.II: Novastorm” brought to mind the lyric style of Rhapsody and Gamma Ray's work (from “Somewhere out in space” and later era).

So what music does Messenger play? Well the guys perform a style that can definitely be called power metal. Influences from Gamma Ray, Helloween (“Walls of Jericho” era), early Blind Guardian, Scanner and Running Wild with the latest ones actually defining the band's style. I must mention that singer Francis Blake really brought in mind the singing that could be found in the first 2 albums from Scanner, now add to this healthy doses of Rock 'n' Rolf (Running Wild) and Kai Hansen's (Gamma Ray, -ex Helloween) vocal approach and you can understand what we're talking about. People who don't like this style might find his delivery one dimensional but personally I think he's a perfect fit for Messenger's music.

Messenger's music skills are easily comparable to the bands mentioned earlier ensuring that this is an extremely well played albums from the 1st note to the last without feeling the need of showing off. Same thing can be said about Lasse Lammert's production & mixing giving the album a strong beaffy sound.

Tempos vary from mid to fast throughout the entire album. Songs like Fortress of freedom, Privateer's hymn, Captain's loot and Sword of the stars easily stand out from first listen. Catchy choruses, anthemic vocals and bombastic atmosphere are what this band truly excels at but this is also the Achilles' heel of “Starwolf pt.II” since other parts seem to get less attention from their creators and tend to sound “less” important, meaning that you'll hardly get memorable riffs, verses or leads. It's a shame since Messenger is one talented bunch.

A pleasant surprise to the above is the ballad “Frozen” with its beautiful atmosphere, in depth lyrics and diverse vocal performance that brought to mind the aura from slower parts of Angra's “Angels Cry” album.

Messenger have created a solid and honest album that despite some flaws will certainly appeal to any true fan having his/hers antennas up for exciting new releases.

Written by Manos Xanthakis

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