You’re drowning. It’s a horrifying experience, but in the moments before you lose consciousness, you can’t help but feel a sense of serenity. The infinitely vast blue around you, the faint beams of light always in motion as they reach into the depths – it’s beautiful. You pass out of existence. Then you’re awake, floating in a center of an exceedingly dark subterranean chamber of some sorts. You can hear the sounds of running water coming from some far-off cistern, but otherwise it’s quiet. Swim as you might to the corners, there’s no ledge to rest upon to climb onto. So you wait. You tire and sink to the bottom, only to awaken on the surface of the same water in the same chamber. Even death offers no escape.
This is what the heavy, jazzy deluge of Feast For Water sounds like. This is what it’s like to drown over and over again.
Messa‘s Feast For Water is the sonic child of Windhand‘s Soma and Baroness‘ Green & Yellow, raised also by its proverbial aunt and uncle, David Gilmour‘s 2006 classic On An Island and Elder‘s Recollections Of A Floating World. Feast For Water is “centered on the introspective, symbolic and ritual features of the liquid element” and Messa does a wonderful job of conjuring up imagery of the fluid throughout the album’s runtime.
Right from the start of “Naunet,” named after the deity of the watery abyss in Ogdoad theology, one gets the sense of being lost at sea and slowly pulled under the ebb and flow of the tides. The following song “Snakeskin Drape” opens where “Naunet” left off, though this time you’re joined by vocalist Sara and strikingly sharp bass chords as you float. Where Feast For Water‘s opener allowed your peaceful buoyancy, “Snakeskin Drape” unleashes a spate of pounding drums and driving, crunchy guitars that aim only to send you under.
The two longest tracks on Feast For Water – “Leah” and “The Seer” – close out the first half of the album. “Leah” takes a fairly straightforward approach to its retro-rock-ness, directly contrasting heavy riffs with spacious and reverb’ed out duets of electric piano and soulful vocals. “The Seer” approaches listeners with big, raucous full-band blues riffs, but breaks down in the verses with clean variations on the themes. Gone are the keyboards this time in favor of Iron Maiden-style dual lead guitars, lending a certain gravitas to the song’s already uneasy sound. These two are followed by both “She Knows” and “Tulsi,” both of which play as one long 14-ish minute long epic. The duo employs dashes of black metal amongst its doom jazz sound, and Messa‘s skillful songwriting and ear for melody manages to make 14 minutes feel like four. Also, yes – there’s a killer a saxophone solo in “Tulsi.”
Then comes “White Stains,” which veers harder into drone territory à la Bohren & der Club of Gore and wraps up with a monstrous guitar solo section. The closer to Feast For Water is “Da tariki tariquat,” a middle eastern-inspired instrumental piece, which is also the only place Feast For Water falters as an album. Messa‘s contributions to the doom and occult rock genres on Feast For Water up to “Da tariki tariquat” are undeniable, but the final song lacks the proper power to close out the record.
Outside the riffs, melodies, and songwriting, the thing that gets me about Feast For Water is the production. Messa wants you to feel like you’re in the ritual chambers surrounded by pools of water in the darkness. You should feel a touch claustrophobic as the band performs their solemnly slow hymns, and the production on Feast For Water does exactly that. Sounds reverberate but seem to hit stone walls and bounce back at you. You can place each instrument around in the room in your mind, but you’re aware of where the limitations in this hypothetical chamber are. My only complaint about the production on Feast For Water is that the dynamic range isn’t great. “Snakeskin Drape” starts off with a massive soundstage, but when that huge snare drum crack come in around 1:10, Messa is all of a sudden compressed to a much more confined space. It’s nothing that’ll ruin your enjoyment of the album. It’s just annoying.
Feast For Water is dark. Feast For Water wants you to drown over and over again. There is no light in this underwater chamber. There is no escape. Like you and your infinite cycle of drowning, the music wavers between furious and calm, clawing at nothing to reach the surface and floating peacefully waiting for the end. The music even reaches epic climaxes here and there, a lungful of fresh air before the process begins all over again.
Now take a deep breath.
Buy Feast For Water here.