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Possessed – Revelations Of Oblivion (Album Review)

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A new classic wrapped in modernized traditionalism.

Modern trustees of death metal based brutality may not be familiar the early exploits of its forerunner, San Francisco’s twisted, thrash-steeped purveyors of all things horrific Possessed. It is an understandable situation, as despite having arguably the first example of death metal on the market as early as 1985, they are often overshadowed by Slayer in terms of prominent bands from the likes of Cannibal Corpse to Deicide citing the more prolific extreme thrash metal icons as a principle influence. Likewise, apart from their ground-breaking debut Seven Churches, they did tend towards more of a mainline Bay Area thrash sound and hadn’t put out an album since the mid-1980s, living on largely through the accomplishments of Death in the late 80s. Chuck Schuldiner himself cited them as the reason he changed his flagship project’s name from Mantas to its better known moniker and pursued a similarly death thrashing style on Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy, upping the ante in the brutality department a bit and providing inspiration to other early figures in the nascent Florida scene.

This lacking in familiarity among the younger generation of death crazed metal heads finds far less excuse at present, as following an excessive period of studio silence and re-orientation; Possessed has crashed into the current market with a vengeance with their third studio LP Revelations Of Oblivion. With a modernized production sound forceful enough to rival any recent offerings out of the likes of Malevolent Creation or Monstrosity, this band’s primordial version of death/thrash that a brand new thing in the mid-1980s has been translated into a present day context, demonstrating that the old school approach to macabre shock value can trade blows with the current trend of mindless brutality and hold its own for the whole 15 rounds. Armed with a guitar sound massive enough to kill a skyscraper and some occasional cinematic orchestral moments to further establish a horrific atmosphere in a manner comparable to recent Kreator output, this is a collection of songs to be reckoned with, even to those post-Defeated Sanity death metal heads who live and die by the blast beat.

All things considered, this is nevertheless an album based in the same mode of old school thrash with a hyper-dissonant sense of tonality that likewise typified Slayer’s Reign In Blood, Sepultura’s Morbid Visions and the early offerings of Death and Master. There is a strong affinity with the speed metal roots of Motörhead, which is further amplified by vocalist and founder Jeff Beccera, who’s gravely shouts are a bit less guttural than the typical death metal voice even if the basis of comparison is Chuck Schuldiner or John Tardy and almost sound like Lemmy himself rose from the grave to do session vocals. Likewise, while the riff work showcases how ahead of the curve this outfit was in laying out frenzied, tremolo picked chromatic melodies and morbidly heavy grooves, the twin guitar assault of Gonzalez and Creamer mirrors that of Mike Torrao and Larry LaLonde, who were flashy and chaotic in their soloing approach, but in more of a idiomatic thrashing sense rather than the overtly frenzied, noise-driven feats of King vs. Hanneman that paved the way for Trey Azagthoth and the Hoffmann brothers.

“Revelations of Oblivion” Album Artwork

From start to finish, this album is a raging colossus of an opus that runs the gambit of every extreme idea that was novel when death metal was in its thrash-based infancy, beginning on a highly dramatic cinematic intro in “Chant Of Oblivion” that conjures up images of an early 80s occult-infused horror flick and closing on a haunting acoustic outro dubbed “Temple Of Samael” that leaves thing on an unsettling note. Between the atmospheric instrumentals is a ten chapter collection of high octane terror as only death thrash can deliver, largely cooking at high speeds with intermitted fits of machine gun double bass drumming and blinding guitar madness, yet avoiding the arrhythmic chaos of early 90s grinding death a la Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel. Stand out offerings include such fits of raging fury as “No More Room In Hell”, “Abandoned” and the somewhat longer winded and occasionally symphonic epic “Omen”, while the slower bludgeoning of “Demon” sees occasional sunlight for Robert Cardenas’ bass work amid the unrelenting barrage of guitars and drums, while the more tuneful cruiser “The Word” shows occasional melodic death leanings that are nevertheless wholly rooted in primitive death/thrash.

Though this album may ultimately prove to be the biggest boon to old school minded listeners who remember a time when death metal was largely bereft of the grindcore influences that were imported from bands like Napalm Death and Repulsion, there is definitely enough of a current character of this album to make it equally appealing to any metal head who was little more than a twinkle in their parents’ eyes when Seven Churches first hit the underground thrash metal circuit in California. It’s a far more consistent and faithful rendition of the old ways in a modern context than the sadly overlooked comeback Massacre attempted in 2014 via Back From Beyond, and if this reviewer may be permitted a moment of shameless fan boy pandering, it utterly destroys everything that Slayer has put out since the close of the 80s. But above all else, it’s a masterful demonstration of how haunting dissonant riff work, precision-based speed and the right blend of atmospheric elements can kick the listener’s ass as hard as mindless brutality and a choir of 8-string guitars could hope to accomplish.

Released by: Nuclear Blast Records
Released Date: May 10th, 2019
Genre: Death  Metal

Musicians:

  • Jeff Becerra / Vocals
  • Emilio Marquez / Drums
  • Daniel Gonzalez / Guitars
  • Robert Cardenas / Bass
  • Claudeous Creamer / Guitars

“Revelations of Oblivion” Track-listing:

1. Chant Of Oblivion
2. No More Room In Hell
3. Dominion
4. Damned
5. Demon
6. Abandoned
7. Shadowcult
8. Omen
9. Ritual
10. The Word
11. Graven
12. Temple Of Samael

9.5 Excellent

A pioneer of the early days of death metal returns from the icy wastelands of Cocytus after three decades of scribing for Asmodeus, unleashing a terrorizing bombardment of modernized death thrashing nostalgia to rival Seven Churches.

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 10
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9.5
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