POSSESSED - Revelations of Oblivion (Album)
The San Francisco Bay Area is synonymous with thrash metal among fans of the genre. Giving us most notably the likes of Metallica and Exodus, the scene was responsible for pioneering fast, aggressive music which then in turn lead to the creation of death metal with the rise of Chuck Schuldiner’s Death who wrote and recorded their debut record ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ in the area with legendary thrash metal producer Randy Burns.
But between the 1983 release of ‘Kill Em All’ from Metallica and the aforementioned Death record in 1987, a 4-piece by the name of POSSESSED released a record unlike anything before - ‘Seven Churches’. Both lyrically and musically POSSESSED pushed all perceivable boundaries at the time to create a record which no-one could ignore and no-one would be able to forget.
However, despite the fact that POSSESSED should need no introduction as one of the Godfathers of death metal - they do. They wrote the right record in the right place at the right time, gave us one of the most iconic band managers in metal history in Debbie Abono, featured Primus guitarist Larry LaLonde on their initial releases and have been hailed by both Kerry King of Slayer and Chuck Schuldiner of Death as being the main influence on their early releases. So why in the late 80’s did they fade into obscurity?
The only people who really know the answer to that are the founding members but tragically, in 1989, vocalist Jeff Becerra was shot during a home robbery and was left paralyzed from the chest down. However, 2007 saw Becerra return backed by members of Sadistic Intent (who had been featured on a POSSESSED tribute gig) to play Wacken Open Air which was followed by a series of various festival performances and subsequent tours which leads us to today. Nearly 35 years after the release of one of the most influential metal albums of all time...
The album starts with an ominous intro track in the form of ‘Chant of Oblivion’, a concept familiar to fans with their debut record notably opening with the theme from The Exorcist. The album then shifts immediately into top gear where it stays pretty much for the duration. ‘No More Room in Hell’ and ‘Dominion’ provide absolutely no let up in their trademark death/thrash riffs and blistering drum beats.
Some of the guitar work on tracks such as ‘Shadowcult’ and ‘Abandoned’ feel familiar but generally the riffs and solos are exactly what you’d want from a death metal album - menacing! The production quality is also noticeably excellent, the guitars really jump out of the speakers at you and the drums, which all too often overpower on heavier records, are really distinct which definitely adds to their ferocity. That’s not to say by any stretch of the imagination this album is all speed and punishment. Tracks like ‘Omen’ have a far more sinister edge to them with its synth-laden intro and ‘The Word’ which switches effortlessly from all out speed to grooves.
Both Jeff Becerra’s vocals and lyrics are unmistakable on this album. The second he opens his mouth you know who it is - the anguish and aggression in equal measure in his voice. The lyrical themes of the album are a direct continuation of the early albums with ‘Dominion’ featuring lyrics such as “Seven years and seven lives, seven brides, the devil's wives, seven priests and seven sins, seven gates to enter in!”
POSSESSED are in the unique position with this album of it being their first release in over 30 years - not many bands come back after such a long time away. And I believe the most impressive feat on this record is how they’ve managed to come back not only in the exact same vein as their earlier releases but also remain relevant. This album easily stands up with other modern death metal records whilst being completely uncompromising to what made POSSESSED so influential in the first place.
Jeff Becerra | Vocals
Daniel Gonzalez | Guitars
Emilio Marquez | Drums
Robert Cardenas | Bass
Claudeous Creamer | Guitars
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