Limelight: Arcade Messiah

John Bassett just doesn’t do twiddling thumbs. The Hastings multi-instrumentalist, who is best known as the brains behind psych-rockers KingBathMat, released his solo acoustic record Unearth this year, and has a track record of seven albums in just a decade with KingBathMat.

Now the 44-year-old has dipped his toes and a whole lot more into the dark side with his latest project, Arcade Messiah. Taking heed of KingBathMat’s chunky rock nods and prog cues, the band’s instrumental self-titled debut album snatches fresh inspiration from metal, post-rock and the stoner realm to spawn a nihilistic concoction of riffola and rambunctiousness, peppered with moments of reflection. And surprisingly, given its expansive, dense sound, the project is moulded by just one man and his whirring musical mind.

“I was in a place where I was down in the dumps a little bit, so I used the album to get the anger out,” Bassett replies when asked why he turned 180 degrees to metal after previously going acoustic. “If you look at the news today and see things happening in the world and all the corruption that’s going on, it can get you down a bit – you think nothing will really improve and things will get worse. I thought I’d take that mentality and put it into music.”

Arcade Messiah’s prog flavours stem from sprawling time signatures, post-rock meditation and fret-happy chutzpah, but at the core is a backbone of Black Sabbath-inspired post-apocalyptic sounds that act as a vehicle for the experimental flourishes.

“It’s a bit difficult to know whether it’s prog or not,” Bassett says. “There’s some keyboards, the tracks are pretty long and they change around quite a lot. It’s a bit post‑rock and there’s a bit of metal, prog and stoner. A bit of everything, really.”

The musician reckons Arcade Messiah is a “harsher and more relentless” version of KingBathMat, with some extra odd time signatures chucked into the mixing bowl. For Bassett, the project is another notch on the bedpost when it comes to experimenting with different styles.

“You want to keep challenging yourself and keep going forward,” he says. “I don’t like to repeat myself. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t do a KingBathMat album after the last one. I felt like in some ways I’d have to stick to what people would have expected, so that’s why I made the records I’ve released this year.”

With a hugely prolific back catalogue and a follow‑up Arcade Messiah record already being mooted, you might worry that Bassett’s creative juices could dry up in the years ahead. Thankfully, though, it seems like the river of inspiration will just keep on flowing.

“I think I have too many ideas,” he laughs. “I don’t want sound like I’m bragging or anything, but sometimes it annoys me. There’s loads of stuff coming out and there’s just not enough time to put it all down.”

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## PROG FILE line-up
John Bassett (all instruments)
sounds like
A prog metal maelstrom that juggles slabs of distortion with post-rock introspection
current release
Arcade Messiah is out now via Stereohead
Chris Cope

A writer for Prog magazine since 2014, armed with a particular taste for the darker side of rock. The dayjob is local news, so writing about the music on the side keeps things exciting - especially when Chris is based in the wild norths of Scotland. Previous bylines include national newspapers and magazines.