It’s been another busy year for John Bassett, leader of prog rock band Kingbathmat. Even though Kingbathmat hasn’t released anything, John has. Earlier in the year, John released his first solo album, “Unearth,” which is an acoustic album that focuses on melody and John’s strong vocals. So what would John do next? Many probably assumed another Kingbathmat album would be next,
but they would be wrong.
John has created a side project called Arcade Messiah, which
is effectively the polar opposite of his solo album. This is a riff-laden, all-instrumental METAL album. I look at this album and “Unearth” as the two sides of the man himself. These songs flat-out rock. The opener, “Sun Exile,” is an asskicker with lots of power chords and a guitar line that flows throughout the track. Like Kingbathmat, John knows when to change the riff in the song so each track progresses exactly when it should. All too often, instrumental artists don’t communicate the mood of a track because the track just never goes anywhere. Arcade Messiah doesn’t have that problem.
Songs like “Your Best Line of Defense is Obscurity” or “Traumascope” start with a quiet intro and build into heavier, louder riffing of the same theme, only to add a new theme on top as the song progresses.
The album has seven tracks, with the peaceful “Aftermath” acting as a sonic oasis from the turbulent seas of the other tracks around it.
But it's still the eeriest track on the album, something out of a '70s Italian
horror movie (read: Goblin). It's a perfect place for the track.
The wah-wah guitar part on “The Most Popular Form of Escape” is the perfect example of this. It is instantly memorable.
It has more of a stoner/doom metal vibe, which makes for a nice change of
pace. Overall excellent musicianship is expected, not just the guitar playing. Check out the drumming on “Everybody Eating Everyone Else,” especially near the start of the track.
The closing track "Roman Resolution" is a bit of an epic, which is perfect to
finish off this album. It has multiple parts and builds well, adding more and
more as it progresses.
One thing I do miss is John’s amazing vocals. But when you have hooks and melody lines as strong as these songs, you don’t need vocals. You will hum along with the lead guitar line on each track. And don’t worry, this is NOT a Joe Satriani wank-fest.
Stylewise, this album fits nicely alongside Russian Circles, Pelican and even
Iron Maiden. It’s progressive metal meets post-metal with a ton of riffage.
John Bassett is a truly gifted guitarist, songwriter and (even though you don’t hear it on this album) vocalist. Check out his solo album “Unearth” and the entire Kingbathmat catalog, along with this Arcade Messiah album,
which are all on bandcamp. John is also a very charming, lovely chap. Arcade Messiah is just another great release from him.