Messiah

Hymn to Abramelin

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Like precursors Venom and Hellhammer and successors Darkthrone and their ilk, Messiah fall into the "less-is-more" category of heavy metal. One listen to their 1986 debut Hymn to Abramelin reveals the production to be nearly non-existent, the songwriting at times underdone, the musicianship often sketchy (the drummer can't really keep time, but otherwise he's great!), but the end result to be ultimately brilliant! Yes, it's all very contradictory, but welcome to wacky world of mid-'80s European underground metal, where crude visionaries like Destruction, the aforementioned Hellhammer and, yes, Messiah, all merit thrones as prone to worship by the heavy metal faithful as those of far more commercially successful bands like Kreator, Celtic Frost, and Mercyful Fate. In effect, Hymn to Abramelin earned such distinction because of its simplicity -- by showing the kids that metal, like punk, could be performed with more heart than technical expertise. Propagating the white-knuckled aggression and anti-social, often Satanic lyrics typically attractive to heavy metal fans didn't hurt, either, and Messiah exploit that formula to the max on highlights including the instrumental title track and vicious thrashings like "Messiah," "Space Invaders," and "Total Maniac" -- many of which are introduced by perfectly apropos zombie-like, baritone recitations of demonic intent. Another favorite, "Thrashing Madness" is just that: two-and-a-half-minutes of frenetic instrumental flailing punctuated by horrid shrieks of despair; closing epic "The Dentist" finally breaks with the ultra-simple template to entertain some surprisingly inventive and complex riff orchestrations; and, among the various bonus tracks present on most CD re-issues, "Speed Fight" offers a furiously extended good time to go along with the remaining rough but entertaining demos. No surprise, then, that Hymn to Abramelin remains a favorite example of its kind to serious metal fans.

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