MESSIAH - FINAL WARNING (2010, Retroactive)
The history of MESSIAH's 1984 "Final Warning" is a tragedy. Thankfully this LONG overdue remastered re-issue of this incredibly rare piece of heavy metal mastery may remedy this situation. The reason I stated that this record was a tragedy is that first off, barely ANYONE heard it! Second, is the issue of Christian Metal. Some believe the term an oxymoron and firmly hold onto the belief that any band professing Christianity fundamentally CANNOT be Metal. To a large degree I hold this belief. With ONE exception: MESSIAH. Which brings us to the idea of "White Metal". This term was most famously used to describe the GREATEST U.S. heavy metal band ever, TROUBLE. But the term was immediately controversial because TROUBLE did not outwardly profess any connection to the christian church. Their lyrics(in the tradition of BLACK SABBATH) dealt heavily with existential issues of good vs. evil and powers from beyond(both good and evil) who exist in the minds of men. So in my opinion TROUBLE were NOT a Christian Metal band(although "White Metal" I still find an apt description for them).
Which brings us to the album we're discussing: MESSIAH-"Final Warning". MESSIAH WERE a Christian band. But the thing that makes them so fascinating is that UNLIKE the few Christian Metal bands of the time(Stryper for example) & the hundreds of crap Christian "metal" bands that followed, MESSIAH DO NOT quote verses from the Bible in their lyrics. They don't preach! Rather, like TROUBLE(but admittedly in a Christian way) their lyrics deal with generic biblical themes of good vs. evil, judgement, temptation and sin, Lucifer, etc. in a way that one need NOT be a Christian to identify with(just existentially aware). For example, the song "Where Are You" is basically an angst-ridden plea to God to reveal himself. So PLEASE DO NOT pass this album by because you think the songs are all loving Jesus crap and quotes from the Bible. Honestly, had I NOT known that MESSIAH were a Christian band before I first heard them, I very well may not have realized it until after multiple spins, and possibly not at all. I just would have figured they were like TROUBLE or SABBATH and really pre-occupied with good vs. evil, the silence of God, etc.
Now, why did I give this album 5 stars? Easy. Like TROUBLE, MESSIAH had a nearly TOTALLY unique sound and style. It is extremely melodic, moody, and at times crushingly heavy while at other times up-tempo, driving & edgy proto power metal. I GUARANTEE fans of early SAVATAGE will LOVE this LP!!! There are keyboards but they are used tastefully and play an essential role in creating the incredibly bleak moods and strange atmospheres of several tunes. They also nicely adorn more up-tempo tunes like killer opener "Who's To Blame". The vocals are EXTRAORDINARY! Like Eric Wagner from TROUBLE or more pertinently Jon Oliva from SAVATAGE they have this unique, undeniable power and mystique. The melodic choruses are just mind-blowing. HEAVY METAL AT ITS BEST!!! The guitar work is equally excellent. These dudes could play! But just like TROUBLE and early SAVATAGE nothing is OVER-played. The rhythm section is rock solid. MESSIAH could really hit the groove, a rarity in far too much metal. The production is EXCELLENT for a lower-budget LP(especially obvious now that we have a remastered version-praise you Metal gods!). At times the LP has an almost proggy-spaced out feel(VERY friendly to those who enjoy listening to their metal after smokin a little ganja and it's always reminded me of QUARTZ's classic "Against All Odds" LP production-wise) which is super-evident in the absolutely awesome tune "Heavenly Metal"(a song which is TRULY heavenly in its pure Metal brilliance).
"Final Warning" is 80s traditional heavy metal at its finest! The level of craft is SO high that if you consider yourself a fan of 80s melodic metal you MUST hear it! Especially fans of European groups like HEAVY LOAD, 220 VOLT, TORCH, early EUROPE, HIGHWAY CHILE, early SINNER, GRAVESTONE, AXE VICTIMS, SAINTS' ANGER, and also fans of melodic hard-rockin NWOBHM stuff like QUARTZ, CHASER, debut era-TOKYO BLADE, DIAMOND HEAD, TYTAN, "Crazy Nights" era-TYGERS OF PAN TANG and also poppy hard rock/metal UK acts like STAMPEDE and debut-era HEAVY PETTIN' and prog-styled metal groups like SHIVA, DAWNWATCHER, etc. MESSIAH will be of particularly GREAT interest to fans of early power metal and great U.S. groups of the era like WARLORD's '83 classic "Deliver Us", debut-era Q5, CHASTAIN, FATES WARNING, OMEN, MANILLA ROAD, debut-era HEIR APPARENT and other lesser known but excellent U.S. groups like EXXPLORER("Symphonies Of Steel" LP), GRAVEN IMAGE, E.S.P.(from Connecticut-released the rare, stellar "Future Is Now" LP in '87), VALHALLA(who released a self-titled 6 track gem in '84), and others. BUT, MESSIAH resides AS HIGH as any upon the list of bands I've mentioned and I sincerely believe(despite the Christian tag) that "Final Warning" is arguably the greatest independently released U.S. heavy metal LP of all-time and easily one of the greatest releases in the whole world of heavy metal in 1984.
In conclusion, this gem has remained virtually hidden since its release in '84. I own the crappy old bootleg CD versions of "Final Warning" ripped off scratchy old copies of the LP with muddled sound. Even then though, I cherished that poor sounding bootleg because it was SO obvious that the music contained therin was of epic quality. NOW, we have a beautiful, crisp, crystal clear remastered CD version to enjoy, so there's NO excuse. If you truly consider yourself a connisseur of 80's heavy metal(or metal in general) you MUST hear this album! And if you pass it up because they were a Christian group you will have to answer to the METAL GODS...this is your Final Warning!