A Death/Thrash Revelation, or Oblivion-fodder? Possessed Reviewed
Every band that has ever quit will make a comeback. Fact. But not all of them are worth the while. Is Possessed worth it?
The Possessed story is not an unfamiliar one. Formed around ’83 as one of he very first death metal bands, their ’85 debut Seven Churches has since received plenty of commercial and critical acclaim, and though both, it’s immediate follow-up Beyond The Gate and the slick, polished EP Eyes of Horror have their fair share of detractors, but I’d still call them well met. By ’87, however, Possessed were done, a bright burning flame soon exhausted. Though few seem to recall that in the early 90’s guitarist/songwriter Mike Torrao reformed the band and struggled to reconnect with his audience before hanging it up after two forgotten demos. Perhaps it was because those demos were terrible (they weren’t) or perhaps because Jeff Beccera’s heroic story of overcoming tragedy – being shot in a robbery, forcing him to wheelchair, but eventually championing his way back onto the stages, and now into the studio – is a far more endearing one.
The journey to that return began when Sadistic Intent recorded a cover song for a Possessed tribute album. Beccera was invited to join the band in performing it, and when all went as fine and dandy as it should, Beccera in return invited Sadistic Intent to join him in touring as Possessed. A few years later, the band, sans drummer Emilio Marquez decided to focus on being their own men again, and after a few years of assembling a more permanent line-up of guitarists Daniel Gonzalez of Gruesome and newcomer Claudeous Creamer (yes, really), bassist Robert Cardenaz (Agent Steel/Masters of Metal/Engrave/Coffin Texts) Jeff Beccera & The Possessed are back for real.
How is Revelations of Oblivion, first of a three album deal with Nuclear Blast, then? Much like this review, pointlessly long despite it’s easy trim-ability for no reason whatsoever, and sadly not quite as noteworthy as it could. Unlike this review, it’s also pretty good, moreso than I had anticipated. Let us first, dive into the issues, because to be frank, there’s very little to be said of the albums successes. Right off the bat, “Chant of Oblivion” a two-minute intro track, demonstrates the majority of the albums flaws, and when I say the majority, I mean every last one of them. Firstly, for all ends and intents it’s an effective mood setter, but the accuracy of the mood it sets for an old school death/thrash record is another matter. Secondly, for an album that relies so little on atmosphere as Revelations of Oblivion does, there’s no point in trying to spend the first two minutes of your album trying to set it (especially if it’s going to be misleading). In the time it takes to listen to this album, you could consume 2/3’s of Possessed earlier discography. Revelations of Oblivion has only one track, but 20 minutes more material than Beyond The Gates. And this has mostly been achieved through bloat. Many of these songs exceed 5 minutes, and none of them should – even the shortest one (“Graven” at 4:19) feels like it wasn’t actually written to be so long, but the band just kept on playing. Multiply by ten and add two throwaway instrumentals, and you wouldn’t have the recipe of a modern classic in your hands, but mostly Possessed manages fine.
As expected Revelations of Oblivion has a polished quality to it’s sound, typical of today’s big(ger) label releases, but pleasantly not too much so. Though it lacks for blood, splatter and sweat, it does not so in clarity and power. Beccera sounds much like he used to, only even less like a typical death metal vocalist, and more like he’s lending his angry rasp to a poetry speak-off at some hazy corner cafe. Whether that’s a good thing or not is strictly relevant to your previous attachment to his style.
Though mostly moving at a brisk pace, Possessed isn’t trying to outdo modern bands in speed, technicality, brutality or anything else. Instead trying to sound as old school as possible, and while nothing at display could have been pulled off of Seven Churches, all of it sounds like Possessed. Or Possessed in 2019 trying to sound like Possessed did in 1985-ish. And that’s largely why Revelations of Oblivion works, despite it’s lack of any real hits a’la “The Excorcist”, it’s a sound that isn’t being done by many others. Not a perfect merger between the band’s influences, but rather a collection of such, working towards sounding like death metal did, before it was as well-defined a genre as it is today.
Though Revelations of Oblivion doesn’t offer anything particularly memorable on it’s own, it’s only true flaw is the length. A song or two could very well have been preserved for the coming two albums, and the rest trimmed, to make for a more striking appearance but by-and-large it’s a fine return from the senior-most veterans around.
3.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell