Style: Death Metal
Release Date: 10 May 2019
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It's testament to the importance of Possessed that, since they split up in 1987, nobody else on the planet put together another band called Possessed, one of the most obvious names in the whole of metal. I found rock/metal in 1984 so I was there when Seven Churches came out and it was one of my very favourites from my first time through it. I liked Beyond the Gates too and The Eyes of Horror too, if not quite as much. I've always appreciated when bands cite them as an influence because, given that Possessed split up in 1987, you knew they meant it.
Seven Churches was something special. It was lumped in with thrash at that point but it was never quite what other bands were doing. It wasn't really the most anything—the most raw, the most brutal, the most intricate—there were always other albums outdoing it on all these fronts. But nothing else combined heaviness, speed and melody quite like Seven Churches, especially as it felt like the band were constantly about to fall apart, even if they never actually did. The whole thing felt acutely real and dangerous, with the drums of Mike Sus struggling to keep up and the rest of the band ever inching forward faster.
While Possessed changed even from 1986 to 1987, I was sad when they ceased to be and very happy when Jeff Becerra brought his band back from the dead in 2007 to perform a legendary set at Wacken with Sadistic Intent backing him, but I've been waiting for this inevitable album ever sense and it has finally arrived, holy crap, thirty-frickin'-three years since the last one.
I have to sadly point out that Becerra only performs with his voice, being paralysed below the waist in 1989, so Robert Cardenas handles bass duties nowadays. Emilio Marquez was there in 2007 when Possessed were reborn as he was the drummer for Sadistic Intent, but the remaining members joined in at later points in time, with guitarist Claudeous Creamer the last on board in 2016.
However long these folk have actually been together, it feels like longer, because this new Possessed are very tight indeed. I enjoyed the Shadowcult EP that came out last month, which featured two tracks from this album, and I find that everything else here holds up to its standards. This is a good and worthy new album.
Much of its success, of course, rests on the voice of Jeff Becerra. He's a little more controlled nowadays, but his voice is still an intelligible raw growl, nowhere near as extreme as the harsh vocals most bands use nowadays but still deep and warm and evil. He's still a singer rather than a texture to add to the music behind him, which feels refreshing. He also still sings about the sort of Satanic topics that veered off into black metal as the sort of death metal that Possessed pioneered found its own style.
His backing band have more control too. Larry Lalonde was always a notable guitarist but Creamer and Daniel Gonzalez increase the tempo he worked at and don't feel like they're even stretching, perhaps because Marquez keeps up throughout with some fantastic drumming. Their solos are a lot of fun as well; just check out the interweaving solos in Damned for a start and then follow up with Abandoned. Cardenas maintains the deep tone throughout and gets a great bass run on Demon.
They collectively keep up the blitzkrieg for almost an hour, which is much longer than the previous two albums, neither of which broke forty minutes. Then again, that's probably appropriate because times have changed and it's just an album, unlike Seven Churches which felt like a headlong rush into oblivion, an immersive experience as much as a collection of songs. I miss the mid eighties when bands like Possessed were challenging extremes while society at large looked on in abject horror.
The highlights are mostly the singles: No More Room in Hell, Abandoned and Shadowcult, but Damned is another and so are Omen and Ritual. Welcome back, Possessed! I've missed you. It's fantastic to hear an authentic old school death/thrash album and the fact that it's pretty damn good is a real bonus.