Saturday, February 7, 2015

Messiah's Kiss Are Getting Their Bulls Out!

German metallers Messiah´s Kiss strike back with their fourth album after being on a forced hiatus for a couple of years. The promo label on the new album describes their music as "A courageous blend of rock music. Powerful and energetic, yet soulful and melodic with great vocal hooks, spine shattering riffs and irresistible groove". 

And it´s true, if you are into "true metal" the traditional way with heavy riffing, great vocal hooks and some memorable melodies you will get your hands full listening to the latest outing by this German/US band. It represents the cultural and musical symbiosis of both continents from which the members originate. But first, let´s take the time machine back to early 2000 for those of you who are not familiar with Messiah´s Kiss. The band was formed in Dinslaken, Germany, out of the ashes of German metal band Repression which had four albums under their belt, released in the late 1980´s and early 1990´s. Initially, the band was centered around guitarist Georg Kraft and drummer Eckhard Ostra. They were looking for a singer that could perform and do the songs they had written together justice. They found Holy Mother vocalist Mike Tirelli in the US. The band was complete when bass player Andreas Roschak and guitarist Alexander Hitz joined the band.

In the summer of 2001 they recorded the debut album and it was presented to the German SPV label who offered them a record deal immediately. This recording was released in 2002 as No Prayer For The Dying. Right from the start the band focused in on the true metal genre with some slight NWOBHM influences shining through on this debut album. Messiah´s Kiss' first gig was at the famous Wacken Open Air Festival in 2002. A tour as support for Doro followed after which Roschak was replaced by Wayne Banks (later in Persian Risk, Repression and Blaze among others).

Messiah's Kiss soon recorded their sophomore effort simply called Metal which was more epic and anthemic and venturing into Manowar territory. This brilliant piece of heavy metal was then
brought out on the road. The songs were stronger and the hooks and the melodies were one notch up compared to the debut album. In 2005, Mike Tirelli took over as lead vocalist in Riot replacing the departed Mike DiMeo and he remained with Riot until it was time to record a third album with Messiah's Kiss.

This album was recorded and released in 2007 and named Dragonheart. It was an album more leaning towards traditional power metal with lots of double bass drumming still without losing their identity. You can still hear the heavy riffs and the melodies that are so characteristic for Messiah's Kiss. Just before recording the third album
 guitarist Alexander Hitz left the band and instead producer and legendary guitarist Herman Frank added some guitar to the new album. The album was well received by both fans and the international press. For the tour, Wayne's brother and guitarist Jason Banks joined the band.

Then double tragedy struck the band and forced them into a very long hibernation. Guitarist Georg Kraft was the driving force behind the band and he and written almost all material on the first three albums. He suffered a bleeding in the brain that still hampers his playing and ability to write new material. If that wasn´t enough singer Mike Tirelli was diagnosed with stage 3 stomach cancer and underwent surgery several times and chemotherapy. Fortunately, Mike was able to fight this life threatening disease and pulled through the ordeal. This was the same malicious disease that took Ronnie James Dio away from us.

During Tirelli's long rehabilitation process, the rest of the band recorded a comeback album by Repression which was released as Reloaded in 2012. The Banks brothers also released an album with Persian Risk called Who Am I? in 2014.

In 2014, the band finally got back together and started jamming out new ideas for a fourth Messiah´s Kiss album. Due to his disease Georg Kraft handed over the songwriting to the band where everybody was welcome to bring in their own ideas. This lead to all the band members contributing to the songwriting for the first time in the band's history making it a more diverse affair.  During the jamming, the band collectively decided there were "no rules" when trying out new songs and riffs. Everything should be tested and given a chance. According to the band, this created a new sound and stretched the concept and boundaries that are Messiah's Kiss. So what does this new album sound like in the ears of The Lionsheart?

Get Your Bulls Out
When I first started listening to the new album it was not convincing in the songwriting department and it took a while for some of the songs to really get into my head. My first impression is that this is far more a hard rocking album compared to the earlier albums that have their own separate distinct characteristics. It is still well within the concept and formula that is Messiah´s Kiss and we are
Picture courtesy of Messiah´s Kiss homepage
talking about small differences, this is still a heavy metal album that fans will recognize. As always with Messiah's Kiss you get your value in length and a large number of songs, maybe even a couple of songs too many. You can, after listening to the album several times, pick out 6-7 songs that really stand out from the rest. There might be a couple of fillers on the previous albums that are good solid songs but nothing exceptional. The exception being maybe the second album Metal which I think is an album ahead of the rest of the pack. The epic and heavier side of Messiah´s Kiss has always been my weakness and on Metal it comes out in full force. But let´s examine the songs on the new disc a little closer.

Track By Track Comments
The album kicks off with a great riff and has Tirelli unexpectedly chanting the chorus right at the start about "Living In Paradise". This is a driving hard rock anthem with a strong chorus line and some nice twists and tweaks. Definitely one of the stronger songs with a slower stick where the rest of the band join in the harmonies. A different and interesting track and not the usual Messiah's Kiss song. The next space on the disc is occupied by "Immortal Enemy" which has Tirelli screaming his lungs out right at the start and is a fast driving rocker just like the previous song but has not got the strong chorus and vocal hook. Next up is "Rescue anyone? Rescue me!!" which starts with a heavy riff going into a nice verse with some great melodies. The chorus line got a nice groove and Tirelli is begging "C´mon, C´mon, C´mon!".

Track no 4 is "Survivor (Take A Ride On My Heels"). Now Ostra puts the foot on the gas and it´s the album's fastest song so far with some gang vocals on the nice and catchy chorus. One of the stronger songs on this comeback album. That is followed by "Time To Say Goodbye" which one could think would be a ballad judging by the title but it´s not. This is a heavy track with a rhythmic sung verse leading into a fast chorus. Then it´s time for the strongest track in my opinion on this disc. I wrote earlier that I´m soft for the more epic side of Messiah's Kiss and I get what I want in "Only Murderers Kill Time". It's a heavy song with a menacing and dark atmosphere, but also a great and catchy chorus line that stays in my mind for a long time. It´s a song that you still remember and sing to yourself long after the album has been put off for a while. Easily the strongest song on the album so far!
Messiah´s Kiss 2014-Picture courtesy of band's homepage.

Up next is "Fuel For Life" which is a straight ahead rocker but nothing groundbreaking and special. "Mission To Kill" is a fast track with an interesting chorus line in the vein of ---- surprise: Messiah´s Kiss! "Symphony Of Sin" is another heavy rocker in the same style. "Nobody Knows Your Name" follows suit within the established formula. "Who´s The First To Die" starts with an acoustic intro leading over into some heavy riffs that make my head move up and down involuntarily. The riffs transfers into a fast chorus with some great choirs. A really strong effort that sticks out. Surprising and unconventional. Another heavy rocker with a driving beat follows called "Whisper And A Prayer" and it is very much in the same vein as the earlier mentioned songs but not the strongest card in the deck in my opinion. "Without Forgiveness" starts off with a great vocal from Tirelli and he delivers some great stuff on the verses but the chorus is not so strong on this track and leaves me thinking of what could have been. The regular album is then rounded off with "Buried Alive" which features some freaky riffs from Kraft/Banks and again a great vocal performance from Tirelli leading into a nice chorus. A strong effort indeed.

If you buy the limited edition digipak you get two extra songs. Track no 15 is an acoustic version of "Only Murderers Kill Time" which is a great song - but a different version of another song on the album adds little value in my book. Then you have a really interesting take on the old Depeche Mode hit "It´s No Good" and the band took the song and gave it the Messiah´s Kiss treatment and it really works. A memorable and great cover of this old "floor filler"!

It´s great to see the band back, alive and kickin´ after all of the bad luck and terrible diseases. There is always a little variation on the formula and this time they´ve blended their traditional heavy metal with some old school hard rock. Like with earlier albums, you easily recognize the band and the base is still traditional heavy "true" metal. In my opinion, the album could have been cut a little bit shorter and it is not as strong as 2004's masterpiece Metal but it´s a solid and strong traditional metal album.

My favorite picks from the new album would be "Living In Paradise", "Rescue Anyone? Rescue Me!)", "Survivor (Take A Ride On My Heels)", "Only Murderers Kill Time", "Buried Alive" and "It´s No Good". As with earlier albums, I think the songs that are heavier and more epic in the song structures work best with Mike Tirelli's strong vocals and that´s where the melodies and hooks are the strongest. It´s also where the traditional driving metal songs mix with some other surprising elements like an acoustic guitar, an odd riff or something that breaks the standard formula.

I would give this album seven geeks out of ten and I can recommend this album to all fans of traditional heavy metal/hard rock, "true metal" fans and the rest of you rockers out there. Give it a spin and give these guys a listen. It will be worth it! Welcome back boys!

The Lionsheart

Messiah´s Kiss Homepage

Buy the album here!

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