Of all the bands I worshiped during my misspent youth in the 80s, Possessed felt like they had the most unfulfilled potential. After helping set the foundation for both death1 and black metal2 with their genre busting Seven Churches debut, the band shifted toward a more traditional thrash sound on sophomore outing Beyond the Gates, disappointing most of their fanbase with its underwhelming, often half-baked writing. They released the Eyes of Horror EP a year later showcasing a much slicker, more polished sound, and just like that, they were done and gone. Guitarist Larry LaLonde went on to help form Primus and vocalist/bassist Jeff Becerra was later tragically paralyzed in a shooting. Seven Churches was a legendary legacy, but it always felt like Possessed died too soon, leaving too much business unfinished. Now, some 32 years after their last proper release, Becerra is out to resurrect the dead with a whole new lineup. Can Revelations of Oblivion finally fulfill the promise that died way too young?
In a word, no, and to expect such things is pretty unrealistic. With only Beccera remaining from the original lineup, this is whole new band in a much different time and place. They’re a talented crew though, and they do their absolute damnedest to impress. After a typically cheesy 80s styled intro, “No More Room in Hell” rips the lost decades away like a rancid Band-Aid, revealing the maggot infested sound of extreme metal’s past. It actually sounds like Possessed too! With Beccera’s one-of-a-kind hoarse bellow leading the charge backed by frenzied riffs that cascade and flood the zone, it’s almost like this was what was meant to come after Seven Churches. It’s fast, furious and features a truckload of classic thrash moments with Daniel Gonzalez (Gruesome) and Claudeous Creamer (ex-Dragonlord) positively tearing things apart with insane leads and stunning solos. It left me highly impressed, even hopeful that a band this dead could be reborn relevant. The positives keep coming with “Dominion” which isn’t as frantic, but benefits from a slightly more nuanced vocal performance from Becerra and loads of inspired guitar-work, especially at solo time.
Other solid moments include the thrashtastic rage of “Damned,” which reminds me of the material on Testament‘s debut, and “Abandoned” which is another burner full of wild riffs and frenzied but technical solos to scorch your coffin lining. Aside from “No More Room in Hell,” it’s “Ritual” that digs closest to the band’s roots, showcasing a berserk thrashing energy full of the quirky guitar flourishes they were known for. There’s a slight black metal vibe in some of the leads and they even trot out some blast beats for extra convincing. Unfortunately, there are some issues that reduce the album’s fun factor. At 54 minutes it feels too long, and several cuts blast well past their expiration date, jutting into the 5-6 minute mark when they should have stuck the landing at 4. “Omen” is the worst offender, being the least compelling cut and also the longest. It’s a fairly generic thrasher with a modern sheen, reminding me in a negative way of Grip Inc., and it doesn’t hold my interest for even half its runtime. The one-two punch of “The Word” and “Graven” doesn’t fully hold up either, though neither song is bad3. It just feels like the quality dilutes as the album fades out, and the “hail Satan 666” lyrics of the latter are a bit silly in this day and age, though I would have loved them in 1987.
What leaps out at me with every spin is how vital and powerful Jeff Beccera sounds after all these years. The man has been through the wringer since the 80s and is confined to a wheelchair, but you’d never know it from listening to him wail and scream his blackened heart out. He sounds almost exactly as he did in the 80s and his highly distinctive rasp powers the material along, giving it that classic Possessed sound. The insane guitar work of Gonzalez and Creamer is the perfect foil to play against Beccera’s leather-lunged ranting and a big reason the material works. They bring aggression and technicality in equal measure, tearing your face off one moment and blowing your mind with wild fret-board gymnastics the next. While they could never replicate the weird, charismatic riff magic Possessed had back in the day, they come close enough to keep the band’s sound mostly intact.
After a 30 plus year layoff, it was going to be tough for Possessed to rediscover the special sound they left in the 80s. To their credit, they do a better job than I expected, and in the process they managed to create a chaotic little thrash opus with a few nice surprises. I don’t know what the future holds for these evil warriors, but it does my ancient metal heart good to hear them swinging the axe again. Stay evil, gents!