One of the biggest groundbreakers in Estonian progressive rock history is Mess. This band, spearheaded by keyboard guru Sven Grünberg, paved the way for symphonic prog to expand in Estonia. The intricate symphonic nature of the music, alongside intricate playing and soothing atmospherics, made Mess recordings much sought-after a quarter of a century after their recording.
Mess was formed in January 1974 on the ashes of Positron, a groundbreaking musical unit that featured the interesting electronics work of Härmo Härm. The partnership of Härm and Grünberg was a natural one, as one was a master of electronics and one was a master of keyboards. Härm created some of the finest analogue synthesisers in the world during those years, with sounds that are truly unique in prog or any other music. Bob Moog and other synth connoisseurs would be knocked over if they heard these things.
Within a few months the "classic" line-up of Mess was formed, which also include bassist Matti Timmermann, drummer Ivar Sipra, and guitarist Elmu Värk. This line-up played many gigs around Estonia; adding an extra dimension for the live shows was artist Kaarel Kurismaa, who provided a ingenious stage design full of props, immersed with a intricate lightshow, and turned the entire concert into an experience. Soon Mess concerts became art events, delighting people visually and sonically.
During the years 1975 and 1976 the band recorded some of their material, with help from world-famous composer Lepo Sumera. Ruja founding member Andrus Vaht joined on percussions, as well as a host of other musicians playing oboe and horn. The world famous Tõnu Kaljuste also lend his choir to add flavour to some of the pieces. What resulted was one of the best symphonic rock pieces ever to be recorded in the mid 1970s. Some of the pieces, like "Rohelised leed" and "Küsi eneselt" are masterpieces. Sven Grünberg also lends his fabulous voice -- with some resemblance to another underrated singer, Eddie Jobson of UK fame -- to the songs.
The band gigged with their full stage show into 1977 (though with a few line-up changes), but still without recorded material released. The situation under the Soviet occupation did not allow for the material to be released, unfortunately. An EP was released in 1980 under the name Sven Grünberg/Mess with some excellent pieces, but all forthcoming recordings came under Grünberg as a solo artist.
The music was thought to be lost until Germany's Bella Musica released a collection of Mess pieces, cut down and edited by Sven Grünberg in 1995. The mix was shaky but the music is fabulous. It has since become a major seller in the US and other countries among symphonic prog fans for its excellent pieces, fabulous playing, and unique synthesiser sounds. However, the full version of the songs remain unreleased. For example the song "Küsi eneselt" was cut by at least half on the CD. Let's hope the full work of the period will be released at some point. Mess is clearly a symbol of Estonian prog, and it should be shared with the world. For those who have heard it, they've come running already!