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Missionary Work: Seven Sermons (Album Review)

The legacy of Italian prog-rock band Goblin looms large in the minds of horror fans, especially those who are fond of the soundtracks the band crafted for Dario Argento films like Suspiria (1977) and Profondo rosso (Deep Red, 1975) as well as Joe D’Amato’s infamous Buio omega (Beyond The Darkness, 1979). With the recent explosion in popularity of synthwave music (Scandroid, Com Truise, Carpenter Brut, Gunship, Survive) and the ever-expanding roster of the Giallo Disco record label, there is no shortage of bands who claim Goblin as an influence.

How many of these bands actually sound like Goblin, though? If you haven’t yet come across Missionary Work, get ready to be amazed.

Within seconds of “Sacrementi,” the first track from Seven Sermons, it might be difficult to believe that this is not actually a lost Goblin album. In a musical landscape where so many bands seek to create that Italian horror movie/giallo soundtrack vibe, Missionary Work rises above and beyond.

The bass melodies in these tracks are eerily similar to those of Goblin’s Fabio Pignatelli, particularly on tracks like “Three Fingers on a Maimed Hand” (a brilliant title which demands to be reverse engineered into an actual movie), “The Secret Shame of Mr. Hartman,” and “Wickedness & Reverie.”

Then Missionary Work throws the listener for a loop by incorporating the mellotron choir and analog synth sounds of Fabio Frizzi, whose scores for horror films like Zombi 2, City of the Living Dead, and The Beyond are as well-loved as those of Goblin themselves. “Kind Shepherd, Cruel Shepherd” is an excellent example of this sound, but “Seminary” takes it to the next level by incorporating church organs to create something that is truly Gothic in scope.

As with all instrumental albums, those who prefer to analyze a song’s meaning through the lyrics might feel overwhelmed by the music on Seven Sermons, but thankfully there are a lot of clues provided. The name of the band, Missionary Work, immediately evokes those religions who engage in just these sorts of activities, while the Seven Sermons title is a reference to the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. Yet this is not a concept album per se; despite having seven tracks, each one does not correspond to one of those sacraments.

Still, the religious connotations are certainly intentional: the cover art includes black and white photos of the interior of a church, partitioned by white lines that separate the elements into a series of rectangles, almost like stained glass.

What’s even more incredible about Seven Sermons is that it was not produced by a band; it’s just one musician (Renato Montenegro), who creates all this wonderful noise in his home studio. According to Mr. Montenegro, other than the guitar and bass, everything else is totally digital, no small feat considering how thoroughly analog everything sounds.

Seven Sermons is a remarkable piece of work. Listen to it once, put it away for a while, and then play it again. These seven tracks will have somehow infiltrated your brain and taken root inside of your neural pathways. If Missionary Work needs anyone to spread their particular brand of giallo gospel, count me in. I’m a believer.

 

Seven Sermons was released by DWZ International on 25th April 2017 and is available in vinyl and digital formats via https://missionarywork.bandcamp.com/album/seven-sermons.

About Less Lee Moore

Less Lee Moore fell in love with weird music and movies during countless hours spent watching Night Flight and listening to college radio as an impressionable teenager. She is the founder of Popshifter, and also writes for Rue Morgue, Everything Is Scary, Biff Bam Pop, Modern Horrors & more. She has a degree in Film Studies from UCSB and a Hannibal tattoo.

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