Arcade Messiah – The Host Review

The first time I ran into KingBathmat and Sacred Ape‘s John Bassett was three albums into his progressive rock/metal outfit Arcade Messiah. Twenty-sixteen’s III was, without a doubt, his best offering under that moniker. Returning to it as I prepared for the newest record, I’m reminded of how “simplistic” it is. Mostly instrumental—the vocals acting like that occasional piano or stringed instrument to other bands—every clever arrangement, plucked note, and crashed cymbal is 100% Bassett. Simple, right? But when I revisit the 2016 TYMHM piece, I’m reminded of a certain comment: “It must have been a shitload of work for a single person, to write and perform an album full of such dense arrangements and rhythmic irregularities, without losing the overall flow of the music. Hats off! I’m impressed.” Four years later, I can say nothing less about Bassett’s newest outing, The Host. I can still say it’s “simplistic” and smooth to the ears. But, musically, this new record is anything but simplistic.

Not one to sit at idle, Arcade Messiah‘s 2019 release Diagnosis1 was the turning point for this representation of Bassett. While Messiah‘s debuting trilogy focused more on instrumentation and less on vocals, Bassett discovered his voice as another instrument for manipulation and perfection. More like a long EP (“Diagnosis” plays twice; once with vocals, another without), Bassett’s soft, captivating voice was not what I expected. Using those gentle croonings to capture the emotion of “Diagnosis” and the heaviness of “Hell by Default” rounded him out more than he already was. But with only four songs to lose myself in, my thirst was not quenched. When Bassett announced the release of The Host, my hope was he would continue where he left off. Thank the stars he did.

Bassett must agree that “Diagnosis” was a great song because, even though we got it twice last year, we get it again on the back-half of The Host. Though it remains the same song,2 it has a different life here on The Host. With like-minded pieces surrounding its progressive, beautifully-voiced, eight-minute existence, the epic, dramatic chorus is made even more so with ticketholders like “Electro Magnetic Divine” and “Show Me the Sun.” These latter two are the biggest pieces on the album. With their bizarre keys and effects, along with the head-turning bass work, I get some weird Spock’s Beard vibes. Both have catchy vocal deliveries while pulling out all the stops with complicated timings, impressive precision, and layers of instrumentation.

And the rest of the album is equally impressive. Which makes it difficult to talk about a handful rather than all eight. “The Witch from the West” is both booming and beautiful, with some of the more addictive vocals on the album.3 While the title track, like the closing Western-vibing “Wasteland” and calming “Wildlife,” is more guitar-oriented. Well, minus the over-the-top Raunchy-effected introduction of “The Host.” From gentle guitar effects to unforgivable cleans and acoustic guitars, the closing duo leads the album away from the high-energy numbers of the first-half to the conclusion’s calmer place.

This is what I live for as both a music fan and a reviewer. Following a band and watching them progress. Sometimes you see it happen album after album. Other times you see a good band breakout later in their career. Or when the band branches out from their signature sound, surprising listeners with a whole new side to their music. Arcade Messiah is a band that has only gotten better with each successive release. Including when it comes to dynamics and production. While I’ll still tell every one of you to check out III, I demand you check out The Host.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 1,411 kbps wav
Label: Self-Released
Websites: arcademessiah.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/arcademessiah
Releases Worldwide: September 17th, 2020

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Which, I’m sorry, slipped by me last year.
  2. Except with a better vocal performance.
  3. Second only to the fist-clenching chorus of “Diagnosis.”
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