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Messier 16 – Iota

Messier 16
by Mark Machlay at 10 August 2021, 5:55 AM

After four years of work, the Oslo-based extreme metal band MESSIER 16 released their debut “Iota” just this past May, 2021. While extreme metal is an apropos catch-all term for the general vibe the band embodies, it actually incorporates elements of orchestral work using a legitimate orchestra rather than relying on samples and contains a full track featuring just said orchestra, in all its acoustic, radiant glory. Though the piece may not be written by the band – instead opting for a bit of fair use with an etude from romantic era composer Alexander Scriabin – the orchestra is still given little corners of the album in which to shine. The band represents the raw talent that comes with unfettered freedom to create whatever an artist wants without a label trying to pigeon-hole them into a particular style. Their style is one inspired by such eclectic metal bands as COLDWORD, OPETH, and EMPEROR but also from esoteric composers such as Steve Reich, Stravinsky, and Jon Hopkins.

If any of that sounds intriguing, you may or may not find what you’re looking for with MESSIER 16’s debut. It’s a difficult album to categorize but if you have an open mind and a willingness to appreciate a wandering attention, “Iota” is “musical heat blanket” of extreme metal, contemporary classical and touching choral arrangements. With the exception of the opening track, all the music is written by the band’s enigmatic founder Jonas Ulrik Eide. Jonas says the album, “represents the very start of my deep dive into metal. I used to play metal as a teenager, and left it in the dust for more than 10 years, while studying composition in Oslo. In an attempt to both explore songwriting in metal, as well as presenting heartfelt poetry in the lyrics, I’ve worked for years to make an album that tries its best to convey both the lyrical and the extreme musical output without blur. The record is largely a self-disclosure, and writing has been a large load off my shoulders. I’m looking forward to sharing my stories and artistic ideology with the world.”

It’s rare that I find a black metal leaning band that incorporates not just elements of classical music and acoustic instrument to play them, but do so with such an insistence that they belong together. MESSIER 16 haven’t really accomplished the meshing of the two genres but it was nevertheless a valiant effort. As mentioned, the opening “piece” is an etude by Scriabian but second track “Singular” dives right into black metal/death metal vibes with speed and alacrity. It isn’t until fourth track “Sigma” that things lighten up with a plaintive clean guitar melody before diving back into the extreme metal but manages to add some intriguing, ghostly clean singing. “Equinox” starts equally soft but just as quickly dives back into speedy, black metal blast-beaty goodness. But here, it opens up the genre crosses a bit more with a quiet ethereal breathers in the middle. “Bore” gives the listener a synth-drenched, droning instrumental breather that is woefully short at under 2 minutes. Title track “Iota” returns to more of the same but further adds some DEVIN TOWNSEND-like vocal and instrumental layering to give the feel of an epic middle track to propel the listener onward toward the end. “Haze” is another unmercifully short instrumental interlude, fully utilizing the orchestra, especially the woodwinds sad, somber timbre. It goes on for a bit a longer, but never quite interlocks the two genres and I was disappointed by the lack of cohesion between tracks given the assertion of the promo material that the band has such a knack for cross-genre pollinating. Overall, MESSIER 16’s “Iota” is a decent extreme metal album but lacks anything amazing for lovers of progressive or even tech-death music.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 5
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Scriabin: 12 Etudes, Op. 8, No. 11 in B-Flat Minor
2. Singular
3. Omicron
4. Sigma
5. Equinox
6. Bore
7. Iota
8. Haze
9. Lotus
10. Zenith
11. Zeta
12. Rho
Jonas Ulrik Eide – Guitar, Vocals & Orchestral Writing
Thomas K. Pederesen – Guitars
Sondre M. Svalastog – Vocals
Adrian Dzięcioł – Bass & Vocals
Laszlo Juhos – Session Drums
Record Label: Independent


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