Possessed – “Revelations Of Oblivion” (Nuclear Blast)
Battle Helm Rating
Back in 1985, four Bay Area dudes still in high school would release “Seven Churches”, an album that would bring to the world the unforgettable sound of death metal. Yes folks, if you didn’t already know it, Possessed invented death metal, the obscene spawn of the bastard children of satanic and thrash metal. Thereafter, that sound would spread globally like wildfire, where it remains to this day as a cornerstone metal genre. As bands like Death, Sepultura and Napalm Death capitalised and gained commercial success in doing so, Possessed remained underground, and ironically, in an attempt to become more technical and sniff at a wider audience, led to disbandment in 1987. However, even worse was to follow. With the various members scattering, leaving only bassist / vocalist Jeff Becerra to continue the band, a fateful car jacking would leave him paralysed in 1989 and trying to get his life back for the best part of a decade until, backed by Sadistic Intent, Possessed would grace the stages of the Wacken Open Air festival in 2007. Sadly, Becerra would succumb to more illness, yet bravely soldiering on to play more shows and composing in the hope, perhaps to keep himself alive or to bring closure and get some justice, of releasing one more Possessed album. They say time heals, and Becerra has used it to wisely to put together an amazing band including Emilio Márquez from Sadistic Intent on drums, as well as this astounding release – Possessed’s first in over 30 years. Sensibly opting not revisit the past, but instead to take the original essence the band and articulate it into the monster it could have – and should have – become through his experience and maturity, “Revelations Of Oblivion” is 12 tracks of original death metal made to massacre in today’s modern times! Forget the fledgling musicianship, student lyrics and overall Jack ‘n’ Jill feel of 1985, but instead prepare yourself for a manic intensity matched by rhyming lyrics with tons of hooks, catches and grooves, not to mention a massive sound in what must be one of this year’s most OTT albums, true to Possessed’s legacy, and finally attaining that wider respect that eluded the band of past. Best of all, Becerra has not shied away from his original inspirations of early Venom, Slayer, Exodus and Motörhead, although the music is by no means a re-possession, but one that occasionally features those winning stylistic attributes – certainly great for those of us who remember it back in the day! With anabolic drumming throughout given Márquez is simply all over his kit be through blast beating or drum rolls, not forgetting his precision, the relentless energy from the rest of the band, while not forgetting their talent in weaving their technicality throughout the demon fury is what makes this such an outstanding release. For his part, Becerra’s own bestial roars, hellish drawls and hoarse singing are even more menacing than before, perhaps exorcising his own demons of the past in what must be the best performance of his life. Indeed, if this album is to be his final parting, then he has given it his all here so full kudos to the man. Despite most of the songs being one word titled, don’t expect any simplicity whatsoever as Possessed have crammed what seems like everything they could (in)humanely muster into these tracks. From ‘Damned’, it’s clear that the arrangements have been put together superbly with the explicit intent of never letting go of you, so there’s no way you’re gonna be in a stupor on this one as Becerra’s anguish is shared on lines like ‘…I’m a beast unleashed with a thirst for the worst…there’s hole in my soul I’m alone with no home and I’m losing control…’ while the twin guitars flick out razor riffs amid blistering neo classical solos and wailing tremolo insanity – albeit all to great aplomb. Clearly proving what the original band might have gone onto on ‘Ritual’ with Becerra roaring ‘..what gods made this place, death to the human race..’ and Márquez going kick pedal mental, the chorus with its killer hook backed by the twin guitars of Daniel Gonzalez and Claudeous Creamer (what a name!) spitting demonic melodies scythes death blows again and again. Through a flurry of drum rolls ‘The Word’ brings back original guitarist Mike Torrao’s evil fretboard warbles for a nice touch before speeding off amid an impressive cascade of melodic death and decadent Marduk style riffs as Becerra drawls ‘…our world is a lie..as those who came before us prove it’s always been this way..’ while the rest of the band duel it out grandly, intelligently employing tempo changes but never letting up on throwing catchy licks, beats and rhythmic changes to be anything but boring. With the church bells tolling ominously (once again), ‘Graven’ actually threatens to send the band into orbit as Becerra’s rhyming vocals are spat out so fast (old school!) it’s actually hard to keep up until a mid song chundering groove allows a hint of recovery before the guitars roar and wail sending you straight to hell. “Revelations Of Oblivion” is more than a feat for a resurrected band, but for one man whose redemption has, at last, been mercifully attained.