The creativity of UK musician John Bassett is a feverish kaleidoscope of colour, invention, and innovative exploration. He has proven it time and time again for over a decade, releasing eight increasingly impressive and attention grabbing albums either as KingBathmat or his own name. The last couple of years or so has seen a richer recognition of his craft and expansive musical imagination, the last two critically acclaimed KingBathmat albums Truth Button and Overcoming The Monster, the latter in 2013, pushing he and the band to the fore of progressive metal/rock whilst his debut acoustic album Unearth earlier this year, reinforced his reputation and ability to explore varied and deeply immersive structures and landscapes. Now the Hastings based multi-instrumentalist, singer songwriter, and producer returns with new solo project Arcade Messiah, a vehicle for his instrumental emprises which as shown by its self-titled debut album, are set to also inflame for ears and imagination.
Merging the boldest essences of styles such as metal, stoner, doom, prog, and math rock within constantly revealing canvases of post rock, Bassett and album provide gripping soundscapes for thoughts to cast their own explorations within and for emotions to colour with their own adventures. The musician talking about the project and album commented that “after writing and producing numerous KingBathmat albums and more recently the acoustic solo album Unearth, I decided I wanted to create my first instrumental album, and I wanted it to be set, audibly and visually in a dark, bleak apocalyptic aura of despair and anger. I wanted to focus on enormous riffs and sorrowful yet powerful musical refrains and place them within a terrain of unusual time signatures interspersed by moments of psychedelic calm.” It is an aim successfully achieved but even more an endeavour sculpting one of the essential moments of the year.
Instrumental albums do not always sink in easily with us, a demand for something maybe indefinable but persistent in igniting body and imagination a persistent requirement which the showing off of supreme technical skill cannot satisfy. In Arcane Messiah there is nothing but that aural and inventive stimulation, from opening track Sun Exile the album a mouth-watering and rigorously compelling provocation for senses and unravelling gests in the imagination. From the first stirring and virulent call of guitar, album and opener becomes a potent weave of sound and aural suggestion, especially as a hypnotic canter of rhythms and fiery melodies join the emerging sonic picture soon after. Twists in time and invention are as fascinating as the heated creative climate of the track, its increasingly steamy breath and dark expression seductive and intimidating sparking a portentous Icarus like warning in thoughts.
The following Your Best Line Of Defence Is Obscurity slips in on a gentle breeze of sonic air and melodic caressing, though again it is a coaxing lined with dark bass shadows and prowling beats. The imagination is lured into the depths of the heavy smoulder of the piece with ease, thoughts of a lonely existence within the turmoil of predatory but deceptively welcoming emotive scenery emerging. Bassett’s guitar work is riveting, every groove and scorched melody inescapable incitement, but to be fair that applies to drums and bass through to simply the immersing imposing atmospheres conjured. Thoughts are instantly embraced and sparked by the primal and elegant nature of the music, a common factor across the album and in evidence with Traumascope straight after. Its initial post rock ambience is lined with a funk kissed bassline and lively beats from the drums, a union which hangs around before parting its mist for the voracious tide of riffs, which in turn lead to and compliment a stoner-esque flaming to the emerging tempest of emotional reflection and sonic rapacity. The track is a mesmeric blaze which never gets out of hand but leaves its dramatic imprint on senses and imagination with burning contagion.
Aftermath is a sobering haunting after the previous furnaces of sound and inventive intensity, a delicious feast of invasive melodies and bracing elegance which comes with sinister shadowing and anguished reflections. It also has an ethereal touch to its climate but in many ways is just the calm before or within the storm, its peace the bridge to the inventive alchemy of Everybody Eating Everyone Else. The track is scintillating; its initial also haunted passage the gateway into an antagonistic yet infectiously magnetic terrain of abrasing riffs and sonic temptation. There is a feeling of safety within turbulent and aggressive times or landscapes to the song, the guitars providing guidance through fiercely provocative exploits sculpted by rhythms and Bassett’s riff led raw sonic energy. Though musically it is different, there is a feel of early Killing Joke to the structure and tension of this and many tracks, an unrelenting persuasion which is wonderfully nagging at the heart of the ferociously inventive mergers of light and dark.
Steamy stoner spirals of sound open up The Most Popular Form Of Escape next, their acidic tones and spicing bringing rich hues to the climatic broadening of the song’s thick web of flavour and enterprise. Folkish elements are as prevalent in the piece as progressive endeavour and a sterner metallic tenacity, it all creating another unpredictable fascination for ears to bask in, the imagination to sculpt with, and appetite to devour greedily. Its enthralling waltz makes way for the closing Roman Resolution, itself an aural teleidoscope with wide reflective views and internal emotive majesty. An epic cruise through ever evolving sonic experimentation and poetic melodies, it brings a sensational release to a breath-taking close.
After the combined brilliance of Overcoming The Monster and Unearth, there was a small wonder where Bassett went from there. Where he ventured was into a creative maelstrom of sublime ingenuity with a technical and instinctive invention which has no need to indulge in over the top flourishes and pretension as it steals thoughts and passions. Arcade Messiah presents instrumental music which is organic and bracing whilst Bassett might just have put a stranglehold on best of year charts come the end of next month.
Arcade Messiah is available as a name your price digital version and on CD now via Stereohead Records @ https://arcademessiah.bandcamp.com
Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright
Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from