Italian Scarlet Doom: CVLT Nation Interviews MESSA
One of the most captivating doom bands to ever see the light in Italy. After the success of their debut album Belfry (released by Auralmusic in 2016), several gigs and one European tour, Italy’s Messa is ready to hit the United States for ten unmissable dates. With their sound that melts dark ambient weirdness and minimalist drone into old school doom, this band is truly a gem in the music scene. I talked to Sara (vocals) and Marco Messa (bass/guitar) about the significance of the name, the birth of Belfry, the impact of occult on writing, the upcoming tour and more.
The word “Messa” refers to a religious ritual. Does the choice of this name evoke this meaning?
Sara: When we started this project, we had no idea what could be channeled and materialized musically. After quite some time, we realized we aimed for a name with a feminine connotation. One night I proposed this word and from then onwards, it’s been the name of this project. I think there is a ceremonial aspect to our shows, for sure, and it’s deeply connected to this name.
Messa uses a lot of occult imagery. How does this kind of deep research of the unknown influence your sound?
Sara: We are four diverse and complex human beings, therefore each member has his or her own peculiarities and views. I think our sound is the manifestation of what these four people are. All becomes one. A visceral unravelling through sonic measure. Every one of us brings their own creative contribution to this work.
Belfry is your first full-length. What is the atmosphere that you want to create?
Marco: Since the first songs that we composed, our idea was to create something dark and quiet, but at the same time noisy and groovy. From the composition, to the sound, to the track list, all the songs are combined to contrast with each other, trying to create a sort of wave of emotions and feelings.
Your sound is dark and mystical but the concept of “dawn” is hidden in every song. Do you think that there is still some hope in all this darkness?
Sara: I think light and darkness are part of the same thing. Darkness can be so obscure to become light.
Talking about lyrics, Sara, in the song “The hour of the wolf”, one of my favorite songs btw, you talk about demons and nightmares. It reminds me of a quote taken from the epic horror movie by Ingmar Bergman with the same title: “The hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fears, when ghost and demons are most powerful.” How does this symbolism from books and movies directly influence your writing?
Sara: Influence is constant in life. Sometimes unconsciously. As human beings, we are affected by art in all its forms, places, life, death, personal experiences, spirituality. And I think some of the lyrics of this album reveal my view of this dying world we live in. I write continuously, because I feel the urge to express certain things I feel close to. And writing, paired with creating music, is a powerful expression. It can be like a mirror, and a window at the same time. As for this song, I can confirm Bergman’s work was an inspiration.
There are a lot of geographical links in Belfry. I’m thinking about the song “Tomba” – it refers to a mountain, right? What is the story behind it?
Marco: As I mentioned before, all the songs are composed, selected and adjusted on the track list with the idea to make each song unique and contrast them with each other. For instance, “Tomba” is an ambient/soundscape song (composed with the collaboration of Yakamoto Kozzuga) that goes in contrast with her twin “New horns,” which is a Bathory-inspired song. These two songs contrast with each other, but they have something in common which is the sensation of been inside a mountain forest. Anyway, Tomba is the name of a Mountain near our drummer’s hometown. It is a kind of magic place for all of us because we have done most of our best experiences up there with our metal community. This mountain has a tragic story because it was a battle field during WW1. At the peak of the mountain there are nine flags and a huge cross as a monument for the fallen soldiers. In the track all the beats come from the wind that is moving the flags wires against the bars.
The cover art of the album is also an actual place called Lake Reschen. I understand the connection with the title “Belfry,” but why this lake?
Marco: When we had the album done in terms of sound material I wanted to synthetize everything with an iconic and liturgical figure. I have always been in love, since I was young, with the figure of the bell towers. They are big and most of themes are impactful. They also have a connection with the harmonies and music and one on the important things is that they have a meaning: collecting believers/religious observers for a liturgy. A sort of beginning; for us as well, I can say. I did research and discovered this magnificent place. I went up there in Resia close to the Austrian border and I took that photo. I also realized the true story behind that lake and it shocked me a lot. I really recommend that you go there.
In the album there are a lot of references to the mountains. The woods are the main theme in the video of the song “Babalon” as well. What is your relationship with nature?
Sara: The area we live in is really close to the mountains. We feel tied to them. It’s part of our past, present and future. There is a primal thing in nature that reverbs into the soul of individuals. Wandering between the woods and rocks gives you the opportunity to experience and feel something that resonates inside you. No phone calls, no emails, no bullshit. And the clocks suddenly stop, the linear approach of time that nowadays rules many lives is destroyed, which for me is quite attractive. By going there, there is also the right setting for introspection, something people often set aside for too long.
Marco: As you can realize from our answer, nature is part of all. We are surrounded by mountains and we are simply devoted.
“Babalon” is also directed, I can definitely say masterfully, in a camera obscura. All the pictures in the video are the same as in the album. Is the art of photography an important part of Messa’s personal background?
Marco: For the three of us, photography has always been a huge passion. For me and Sara, it is also is our full time job. As I said before, one of the concepts of this album is contrast. We wanted to go in different common occult and esoteric ways to express and visualize our songs. Basically, in an occult and esoteric process all the meanings are contained in sign, sigils or inside a symbol. With Belfry we tried to do the opposite. No signs or symbols, but a strong use of images and, of course, photography. Images and figures are more related with an exoteric cult, like Catholicism for instance, than with an esoteric cult. Inside the album you can find ten still life photos that synthesize each song witha still life object. Alba (egg), Babalon (real red hair), Faro (mirror), The hour of the wolf (Left hands of a couple), Blood (cup),Tomba (nine rocks from the Tomba mountain representing 9 flags), New horns (one year old animal), Bel tower (the knocker of a church bell), Outermost (one huge ice cube divided in two), Confess (Grid from a confessional).
Talking about influences…The band melts sultry vocals, viscous riffs, and some damn sexy clarinet jamming with dark ambient weirdness and minimalist drone onto old school doom. Does that come from playing in bands before Messa or from the music you all listen to?
Sara: We come from different musical experiences, none of them being doom metal. We listen to a lot of diverse music. The result, altogether with all our personas, are the songs we create. Through long extended drives to go performing, for example, we can listen to Ornette Coleman, Bölzer and then Swans. I tend to listen to music that touches my interior chords, and vibrates inside myself. That being said, since some days ago I’ve been stuck on Yeti by Amon Duul II, some tunes by Blind Willie Johnson, and old Bathory records.
Marco: We have all had different bands that can be considered heavy but we have never played this kind of mix of music before. For me and Sara, the ones who started the project, it was a way to concretize all that musical tastes that we had in common and share it with two other musicians that come from different fields as well. Personally, I always played in a dark garage rock and roll band, Sara has been in a lot of hardcore metal punk bands, Rocco (drums) always black metal and Alberto is the jazzy/blues/prog dude. We simply wanted to experiment with something that we had never done before.
You are from a small area in the North East of Italy surrounded by sleepy little towns. Did that have any direct influence on how you evolved as a band?
Marco: None of us come from metropolis or even medium/big town. We always lived surrounded by small villages with a church, and a belfry of course, every two miles. I don’t wanna say that is good or bad, it’s like that. Of course, this kind of thing inspired all of the Messa project. I heard the word Messa a hundred times per day since I was born from all the people that surrounded me.
From Italy to the USA is a long trip. Will it be your first time in the United States? What do you expect from this tour?
Marco: It is going to be our first time and we are simply thrilled at the idea to go there. Since the beginning, we accepted this tour as an inspiring journey for the next album instead of simply a promotional tour. We can’t wait to play and visit an area with an intense heritage in terms of music, esoteric traditions and lifestyle. Anyway, what we expect the most is to find a place to crash after shows.
Are there some places that you don’t wanna miss during this trip across the Usa?
Marco: Marie Laveau’s Tomb in New Orleans for sure, cemeteries and trees all round.
What does someone expect when they attend one of your shows?
Marco: We hope to celebrate the land with our unique way of seeing music. Resin incense smell, waves of sound and ritualistic reverbs of blessing. Basically, we expect to be four Italians playing some music that can take you out of the world for at least 30 minutes.
How important is the connection with the audience?
Sara: The important thing, for me, is to shake and move the souls of people who are listening to us. To bring them somewhere irrational. To get them lost. To provoke some emotion inside of them. And it can be in small parts or bigger one, but it’s great either way.
Anything else to say?
Marco: We would like to thank Steve Colca (Destroyer of Light) for making this tour possible and all the dudes of Witchcryer that will support us during this tour. We are working on a new song and, thanks to Aural music, we are planning to be in the studio next September. For everyone that believed in our project..we really hope to see you around. “Love is the law, Love under will. 93.”
The first date of Messa’s tour will take place on May 12th in Houston (Texas). Come there if you want to be bewitched by obscure and evoking doom with deliciously haunting female vocals.
(pics: Ilaria Sperandio)