Arcade Messiah is a very curious beast indeed. For all the online research available to the new listener, this is the brainchild and performance of a single person – John Bassett. The product sounds a lot more complicated than that though. Opening with the instrumental landscape “Sun Exile”, the listener is entwined in the myriad of influences this metal giant gushes forth. Touches of metal core and progressive rock tempt the ear into pigeon-holing the sound. but the journey and the sheer dynamism of the music defies categorisation.
“Sun Exile” is a shining moment for the album and a solid advertisement for what this project can offer the listener. The lack of vocals is extremely liberating and allows the interpretive mind to drift and create its own story. Seeping into the second track, the insightfully entitled “Your Best Line of Defence is Obscurity”, Arcade Messiah tightens its grip on the attentive ear. If this really is the work of one man, he is certainly a patient and virtuosic musician indeed. The unrelenting build and syncopated nature of this song is incredible – the whole song sounds like an outro, and yet it goes for nearly seven minutes and is absolutely mesmerising.
A lot of work has gone into the mixing and tone on this album; the drum, bass and guitar sounds are all very tastefully chosen. By way of analogy, the sound of the last two Alice in Chains albums and recent Opeth are not an unfair comparison. The album is sympathetically mastered really well, for those of you conditioned to high fidelity mastering with articulate and sensitive mixing this album will be a delight. Whilst many have grown to take these ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of music for granted, I can advise that this is very easy to get wrong. For a musical project to utilise the tools available to contemporary musicians in 2014 and not over-produce shows restraint and an excellent sense of project vision.
The album progresses like a three week road-trip. Elements of classic rock, prog, grunge and metal are all insinuated along the way but Arcade Messiah stoically remains its own entity throughout. There is nothing plagiarised about these songs, only loving nods to a musical lineage esteemed. The sweeping sound of this collection vanishing over the horizon comes around very quickly it seems. I am surprised to find that all but one track are over five minutes in length with some nearing nine minutes. I have been utterly entertained throughout and with the skill-set at his disposal, I get the feeling that when he’s sitting in the pocket, John Bassett is too. No corner of these songs is left un-perfected.
The presentation of this album and the Arcade Messiah online presence is extremely professional and high quality too. The website invites exploration and the more I look into this project, the more my curiosity is piqued by its constituents. How on earth John manages to play live I am not sure, but if it sounds anything like the recorded version it would be well worth any cover charge. The digital version of this album is available free from the bandcamp page, the physical version of which looks to be a very sexy three panel digi-pak format (my personal favourite).
I have given a couple of 10/10s this year and see no reason not to let another fly with Arcade Messiah. Thanks for the tunes, John Bassett. It’s summer in Australia and this album will be a stalwart in my playlist for the dry season; clear skies, blistering hot days and an instrumental, epic rock escape.
Written by Scott Andrews