29 August 2010

Messenger - On Delivery (Live)

Messenger returns with this live release for 2010, recorded during a benefit concert for Corinne's Kitchen at Arlington Assembly Auditorium. This release is available on CD as well as DVD and, believe it or not, Blu-ray. The band seems to be appearing everywhere, and in the short time since hitting the music scene, seem to be accomplishing quite a bit. I had the privilege of reviewing their first release I'm Talking to You in a past issue of the Heaven's Metal fanzine, so before going further with the review of this new live release, I'd like to go back and cover their initial 2008 release for those of you not familiar yet with this hard rock outfit.

This will be basically a greatly expanded copy of my Heaven's Metal review.

One word comes to mind when listening to this disc…old school. Everything about this release screams late 70’s to early 80’s Christian rock/metal…and I mean that in a good way. I have been listening to Christian rock since the early 80's, in a time when metal bands like Stryper, Barren Cross, Deliverance, Guardian and all of the amazing melodic metal bands had not quite ripped open the scene to the more metal styles that came along. While these bands are accredited with busting the doors open in Christian rock/metal, they were preceded by many, many great heavy rocking bands of the late 70's and early 80's.

I remember back in the day, almost any band appearing on Tunesmith records was probably going to be a great listen, and we saw the start of hard rocking bands like Banabas, Servant and the Hank Laake Band on that one label alone. Messenger reminds me a lot of those type of releases as well as the classic hard rock/metal sound reminiscent of the heavy guitar power of early Rez, Daniel Band, Darrell Mansfield and other such bands of that era, but with a little added dose of metal punch.Their lyrics are very up-front, in-your-face and unashamedly evangelical. Production is superb for a self-produced independent release, with just enough roughness to keep it feeling warm. Songs include:

Hell is No party
With it's gritty and heavy guitar opening riff, leading into a wailing onslaught, the album opens with great anthem rocker. "Hell is no party, hell is no fun, you face the maker in a crowd of one, hell is no party" is a sing along warning to all.

King of Kings
Kicking in with thundering drums, and screaming lead guitar shredding, you feel the power immediately, but then the song quickly shifts gears and plows forward in one of my favorite tracks here, lyrically and musically.

Bright and Morning Star
Following up the glorious praise worthy lyrics of the preceding song, this track starts acoustically, giving you a more emotional praise feel before the guitars crashing making this an even more powerful rock ballad singing the praise and giving glory to the name of Jesus.

Don't Shoot the Messenger
A mid-tempo crunchy attack that sums up the band's name and message with a distorted guitar foundation, sweet leads and a melodic feel throughout.

Special Delivery
Changing gears a bit, and kicking up the pace with a bit more metal power, this track is a all out instrumental track letting the band shine with powerful riff after riff, leads and an overall thunderous rock feel.

Forbidden Love
The piano intro sets you up for a sweet ballad showing the band's lighter side. The vocals pour forth the heart-felt lyrics, and the guitar does come in eventually to pump up the power part way through before ending on a high note with an increase of pace and blazing guitar leads closing it all out.

Wallowing in the Mire
Back to the grind, this heavy driving song bring the album back up to pace with a song dealing with a person who is content in their sin, hiding it from others and themselves.

The Rapture
Another mid-tempo rocker that chops in and out with guitar licks, before picking up the pace near the end.Heavy and distinctive bass tones appear throughout.

Probably the heaviest feeling song, due mainly to the faster tempo, this song reminds me some of the late 70's Judas Priest feel (minus the Halford screeching vocals of course).

I could see this being a single from the album, with its anthem sing-a-long chanting chorus. Tasty leads and mid-section adds even more to this driving track.

America, Why?
Slow the pace down to a touching acoustic rock driven song dealing with the plague of abortion in America. This tune is not so much a ballad as it is an emotionally-laced laid back rocker crying out for the children.

So Good
The one and only really heavy blues rocker on the album, this is for all fans of the laid back blues feel of Darrell Mansfield and the like. Guitars shine and shred as expected, and the song  has all of the typical elements you'd expect for this style.

Now, let's jump into the live album. For a live album, it has excellent sound quality. A lot of independent live releases sound like glorified bootleg recordings, but not On Deliver (Live), it almost at times sounds like a studio release. Each instrument is heard with clarity and great separation, which is rare on many live albums. As expected, in a live setting many of the songs appear in extended rocking formats from the studio release, so this is not like simply listening to the studio album with an audience track; plus there are tracks here that were not present on the studio release (Fear No Evil, Let My people Go, The Risen Christ, Rulemaker), making it that much of a better package.

So, grab it, sit back, and let it melt your face off with that classic rock/metal feel. The album opener is Chained, which makes sense - I thought it felt like a good single so why not a great show opener to get the people pumping and singing along. Let's focus on the songs not included on the studio album:

Fear No Evil is an upbeat, powerful metallic rocker speaking of living this life with no fear of evil, knowing that the Lord is with us and in control. Let My people Go starts off with the acoustic ballad feel, but eventually kicks it up a notch with a great sing-a-long feel. A real stand-out live track to get the crowd singing along - which they do. The Risen Christ starts with a opening keys sequence that feels like it may take a spacey mellow approach, but nope - it kicks right in with a mid-tempo crunch that tells the story of the crucifixion. A Bible story set to music, it is yet another great standout song of praise for the work of Christ, I can almost picture this as a scene in a rock opera, similar to the track Crucify by Bloodgood. Then there is Rulemaker which starts up high energy, then drops down into the pocket for a straight-forward hard rocker with a nice shredding guitar solo.

I am not sure if these four songs are older tracks that did not make it to the first album, or newer songs written since then, but I hope to hear some studio versions of these, they really compliment the band's style. The total track listing for On Delivery (Live) is as follows:

Fear No Evil
Wallowing in the Mire
Let's My People Go
Bright and Morning Star
The Risen Christ
The Rapture (Extended)
So Good (Extended)
Don't Shoot the Messenger
King of King's (Extended)

I am looking forward to eventually grabbing a copy of this on DVD to experience it visually. These guys rock, and they sound like they are enjoying every note; I just hope to one day see them in person (which shouldn't be too hard since they are located only a few hours from me). I encourage you, if you like hard and heavy classic rock, this band shines in the genre. 

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