May 6, 2019 Possessed – Revelations of Oblivion (Album Review)
Death Metal legends Possessed are back with their new album, Revelations of Oblivion, on Friday, May 10th, 2019 through Nuclear Blast. Their first full-length of original material since 1986’s Beyond the Gates, which itself came on the heels of their legendary 1985 debut Seven Churches, after these two instant classics, the power lineup of Jeff Becerra (vocals and bass), Mike Torrao (guitars), Larry LaLonde (guitars), and Mike Sus (drums) managed to release a quick EP in 1987, The Eyes of Horror.
Undeterred by a robbery in the late 1980s that left Becerra shot and paralyzed from the waist down, he kept the name alive with a rotating cast of musicians—at one point employing the core members of Sadistic Intent—and guided the band through a series of festival appearances, live recordings, and resurrected demos, before signing with Nuclear Blast in 2017 and immediately teasing a new album. For the new effort, the single-axed shredding of LaLonde is ably replaced by Claudeous Creamer (From Hell) and Daniel Gonzalez (Gruesome), with Robert Cardenas (Coffin Texts, Malice) taking over the bleak, plodding bass from Becerra amidst percussion laid out by Emilio Marquez (Asesino, and formerly of Brujeria).
Looking back, where the debut Seven Churches opened with “The Exorcist,” a reworking of the “Tubular Bells” track famously used in 1973’s The Exorcist, so does Revelations of Oblivion, three decades later, begin with “Chant of Oblivion.” An instrumental track that mixes the more familiar sounds of distant church bells with a demented symphony, it sets proper tone for “No More Room in Hell,” a track that was released as a single in March. Just one listen and it is immediately apparent that the rigors of touring, mixed with the simple passing of time, along with general deterioration of the planet, has done little to cheapen the snarl of Jeff Becerra; the deep growls are just as potent and recognizable now as 1986.
Moving on, a blistering riff opens “Demon,” but the vibe eventually slows to an old-school Death Metal pace, laying the ground for the vocals of Becerra to take turns with the guitar of Creamer and Gonzalez during what amounts to the chorus. Then comes “Shadowcult,” a second single released this past April, replete with a video shot during the band’s set at the British festival Bloodstock two years ago. Each member is featured prominently in the video, displaying the tight familiarity that was already in place before Revelations of Oblivion was put to tape. This is while “Omen” features some impressive twin guitar work from Gonzalaz and Creamer, shredding high and wide over the classic galloping Thrash beat laid down by Cardenas and Marquez. Thereafter, “Ritual” follows a similar formula with equally impressive results, while “Graven” almost seems like a fifth wheel.
The comeback falls a bit short with “Dominion,” particularly vocally; the style used by Becerra here leaves a bit to be desired, but the rest of the band makes a brave effort to save the track, particularly with the technical progression midway through and a smattering of solo guitar work. Finally, the album drifts to a close with “Temple of Samuel,” a solemn acoustic number that follows “Grave.” Falling in line with its predecessors, “Temple of Samuel,” with a small twingle of pulsating electronic work, threatens to break off into one last old-school Death Metal romp, but instead, it takes a haunting acoustic route into the sunset.
Fans from the ’80s and ’90s need not be hesitant to give Revelations of Oblivion a serious spin. While the recent, dull procession of modern bands co-opting retro sounds is out-muscled only by ancient bands dusting themselves off for reasons unknown, this album is nothing of either sort. Becerra has masterfully breathed life back into the Possessed name while updating the band’s sound to compete with contemporary bands. It also does not hurt that his raspy vapor is likely the most vivid aspect remembered by anyone who wore out their copies of Seven Churches and Beyond the Gates amidst other classics. That said, Revelations of Oblivion shows that Possessed still have something to prove, and their first effort in thirty-three years should quell any skepticism. That is why Cryptic Rock is pleased give Revelations of Oblivion 4 out of 5 stars.