POSSESSED — Revelations of Oblivion (review)

POSSESSED — Revelations of Oblivion album cover Album · 2019 · Death Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Vim Fuego
When Possessed went through their various bust ups, there was a feeling among fans that the band’s true potential was never fully realised.

Through the legendary “Death Metal” demo, the influential “Seven Churches” album (NOT the first death metal album. No, it just fucking wasn’t, even if this site says it is!), the slightly more polished “Beyond The Gates” (which has one of the stupidest album covers ever), and the mellower “Eyes of Horror” mini album, Possessed had created a small, powerful, but occasionally patchy catalogue of evil, high energy thrash.

The band first split in 1987, not long after the release of “The Eyes of Horror”, with a variety of fates befalling the various band members. Guitarist Larry LaLonde joined fellow San Fran thrashers Blind Illusion, and then to rock weirdos Primus. Guitarist Mike Torrao continued with the Possessed name, but the band’s reputation had declined to the point where they suffered the indignity of playing support to an up-and-coming unsigned band by the name of Machine Head. Bass player/vocalist Jeff Becerra was shot in 1989 during a robbery, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Swept away in the great metal purge of the early 1990s, it seemed this legendary band had died young and left a beautifully ugly corpse.

But then an unusual thing happened. Possessed came back from the dead. “Revelations of Oblivion” is the result. The wheelchair-bound Becerra decided that 32 years was long enough for the world to be without a new Possessed album, so put together a band, wrote some songs, and recorded this little beauty. It all looks so easy when written like that...

When the creation of this album was first announced, the naysayers were quick to jump in with opinions on how bad it would be. After all, there’s only one original member left in the band, often not a great recipe for success. However, the most important element is the one that’s left – Becerra’s distinct shout/scream vocals. Have you ever tried singing sitting down? No, not just at a birthday party or in church (eek!), but really SINGING. Ever notice that professional singers always stand? Look at opera singers, choirs, and pretty much any band or performer you ever see. Singers stand. Why? Because that’s where the power comes from. Volume and breath control comes from being able to stand and move freely. See where this is going? Jeff Becerra is confined to a wheelchair. Listen to his vocals. The difference between 2019 and 1987 is negligible. Yeah, studios, recording methods, technology and all that shit have advanced immeasurably in those three decades, but you can’t work wizardry unless you have the right noises to work with in the first place. Becerra still sounds angry, evil, and most importantly, powerful. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of what he has achieved here.

And the naysayers can fuck off. “Revelations of Oblivion” finally realises the full potential of what Possessed always threatened. No, this won’t have the impact or influence that the band’s earlier work did, mainly because there’s a shit-ton more top quality extreme metal in the late 2010s than there was in the late 1980s. Extremity has sprouted in numerous black, dead, grinding, and technical directions since that time, and any single release now will have a more specific audience than back in Possessed’s initial run. However, if old school thrash which dabbles in cartoonish Satanic themes is your thing, then you won’t top this.

“Chant of Oblivion” is ye olde traditional spooky intro track. Tolling bells fading in with spooky horror movie orchestration and chants. So far, so clichéd, so fucking good!

And then the album bursts straight into the speedy evil “No More Room In Hell”. The first and most obvious thing is that while the sound is sharp and clear, it’s distinctively Possessed. No one else wrote or played wrist snapping riffs like that. Spiky, sharp guitar riffs, courtesy of Daniel Gonzalez and Claudeous Creamer, fly off each other. And that’s the great thing here. There’s nothing these two do which would have been out of place if done by LaLonde and Torrao. It’s Possessed, done in the style of Possessed.

Drums were always the weak link in the original Possessed line-up. Mike Sus was enthusiastic, but never very technically proficient, and couldn’t quite keep up with the rest of the band. No longer. Well, Sus is no longer in the band anyway, having gone on to become a psychologist, but drummer Emilio Marquez doesn’t miss a beat, which is a dreadfully clichéd way to describe a drummer, but this guy is faultless and powerful, and clichés become clichés because they fit.

Drums and guitars aside though, this is really the Jeff Becerra show. “Damned” has a great vocal melody, with rapid fire rhyming couplets, which gives it a weird evil Dr Seuss feel, but it’s near flawless. “Shadowcult” features a wicked chant. “The Word” blasts in with a great opening riff, but as soon as Becerra’s rasp hits, it’s obvious the guitars are only there as a vehicle for this voice.

In 2006, Celtic Frost surprised the metal world with “Monotheist”, easily their strongest album, a decade and a half past their supposed prime. Strongest, yes. Most influential, no. It was never going to be since times had changed. The same thing has happened here with Possessed. “Revelations of Oblivion” is stronger and more consistent than anything Possessed created in the 1980s, but despite finally realising the band’s full potential. it’s not going to have the impact of the previous albums. Unlike Celtic Frost though, let’s hope Possessed don’t call it a day after this.
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Vim Fuego wrote:
9 days ago
Scream Bloody Gore by Death
Tupan wrote:
9 days ago
Still have a doubt: what's the first death metal album?
Nightfly wrote:
12 days ago
Brilliant album, agree their best yet.
Tupan wrote:
12 days ago
Excellent review as usual, man. I like the comparison with Celtic Frost, we have a very similar situation here!

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