The extreme genres of metal are utterly obsessed with war, death, and violence, suggesting the view that the human experience is one of cruelty largely restrained, with all of us united by the cold embrace of death. Extreme metal seems to explore these ideas intently, attempting to find a certain beauty or, at the very least, excitement in the worst impulses of man. Art, at its core, seems to try and explore and express a particular facet of the human experience and imbue it with some sort of message or worldview. We’re naturally repulsed by death and destruction, but, like the story of Leonitus looking at corpses in Plato’s Republic, we’re also fascinated by it: “Look for yourselves, you evil wretches! Take your fill of the beautiful sight!” Perhaps metal is another manifestation of this appetite? Greek band War Possession tries to force the listener to look at their barbaric war metal on debut Doomed to Chaos, hoping they react like Leonitus in finding the music beautiful yet disgusting.
Instead of thinking outside the box, War Possession looks to what they can do with the space inside it. Merging the aural assault of Conqueror but running roughshod over it with Bolt Thrower emblazoned tank with some Swe-death viscera caught in the treads, this is aggressive and almost claustrophobic music. The influence of bands like Incantation and Hail of Bullets is plainly here as well, showing an effort to bring some riffs and dynamics to the spotty at best chaos of war metal. What leaped out at me is that Doomed to Chaos sounds somewhere along the lines of what I’d hope war metal would in some senses, with a focus on intelligible songs and riffing instead of plunging full-bore into nearly incomprehensible chaos.
The cinematic introduction of “March into Hell (Beyond the Chaos Gate)” is an effective opener that sets the stage for “Operation Neptune” well. The latter immediately invokes Hail of Bullets in its introduction, swiftly transitioning to a simplified and streamlined Conqueror meets early Bolt Thrower blasting bit. This approach works for War Possession, as they stake out a small patch of blood-soaked land that didn’t have any flag on it and make it their own. The implementation of some early Entombed, by way of Demonical melodies, in the conclusion is a nice addition as well. “Verdun Hell” is a driving and energetic track that sounds like a Swedish version of Bolt Thrower interspersed with the Conqueror-styled war metal riffing so integral to this record. It works as a good example of what seems to be the goal here, and it’s effective in being intense, dynamic, and ceaselessly violent.
The downside is that War Possession is figuring out how to implement classic parts into a new-ish sound, and in turn have an uphill battle ahead of them. Masterful implementation of what one band finds to be the most influential aspects of their influences (i.e. Sulphur Aeon, Hyperion) are rare, and Doomed to Chaos does not provide an example of this. Closing number “Mass for the Dead” is anticlimactic, seeing War Possession try their hand at darkening the typical Hail of Bullets melancholy ending, taking away the many parts that preceded it, and chopping down to about two minutes. It’s not very memorable, and there’s no gut-punch there; for an album so focused on aggression and carnage in all forms, this sounds tacked-on. “War is the Father and King of All” succumbs to war metal’s forgettable tremolo picking obsession, and apart from a couple of short-lived interesting parts in its second half comes across as disposable.
War metal’s conventions in production are fortunately abandoned on Doomed to Chaos. This is a beefy, bass-heavy, and clear affair, and the pounding kick drums work particularly well when blasting isn’t happening. Overall, despite its flaws, War Possession’s debut is a worthwhile record that bridges the gap between war metal and death metal about war (which some people, confusingly, also refer to as war metal) nicely, and is a good exercise in multifaceted violence. It never goes beyond the level of good, however, and I simply cannot fathom this being more than a merely well-regarded record. While it’s unfortunately bound to get lost in the sea of death metal releases we’re inundated with every year, those who give it a full listen will come away largely pleased. Doomed to Chaos is a good record that shows War Possession likely have a better one in them if they keep barreling down their current path. Not necessary listening by any stretch but far from regrettable, those looking for more coherence and clarity in war metal would do well to check this out.