They might have only shone for a brief time, but the impact San Franciscan act Possessed left on metal is undeniable. Regarded by many as the originators of Death Metal, between 1985 and 1987, the Californian four-piece released two full-length albums and an EP, their now legendary debut, Seven Churches (Relativity/Combat) gaining deserved recognition as one of the benchmarks of mid-eighties Speed/Thrash.
Splitting up in 1987, guitarist Larry LaLonde went on to join Blind Illusion and from there onto great success with Funk Metal outfit Primus. For frontman Jeff Becerra however, life wasn’t so generous. Shot twice during a convenience store robbery in 1989, the attack left Becerra paralysed from the chest down, unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair. Descending into a five year, near-suicidal spiral of alcohol and drug abuse, the frontman cleaned himself up, attended college, got married (although this ended in an amicable divorce) and fathered two children, eventually reactivating Possessed in 2007.
So now, thirty-three years after the band’s last full-length studio release, Becerra and co. have finally returned with apocalyptic new album Revelations of Oblivion(Nuclear Blast). Beginning with the slow, ominous tolling of a bell ‘Chant of Oblivion’ builds into a piece of satanic classical music like something from The Omen before being obliterated by the whirlwind of drums and razor-sharp guitars of the appropriately titled ‘No More Room in Hell’. Clearly designed for maximum carnage, Becerra’s huskily barked vocals sound every bit as ferocious on this opening cut as they did during the band’s heyday.
‘Dominion’ sends you back in time with a riff so hungry and evocative of the ’80s Speed Metal spirit that you have to wonder if it’s been chained up and starved in Becerra’s basement for thirty years. Songs like ‘Damned’, Abandoned’ and ‘Shadowcult’ are driven by pure frantic energy, straddling that line between Death and Thrash, while ‘Demon’ and ‘Omen’ switch between prowling menace and explosive flurries of speed.
Hatred and religion are common themes throughout the record, especially on tracks like the five minute blastathon of ‘Ritual’, and album closer ‘Graven’, while the churning but melodic battery of ‘The Word’ explores the idea of life without scripture and how humanity might act without the word of God to act as a moral boundary.
Replete with classic sounding riffs and guitar solos (not to mention those signature Possessed drum rolls), and boasting a punchy, crystal clear mix, Revelations of Oblivion provides new aggression and old school sensibilities and does so with ease.
8 / 10