Belgium’s Possession are moving from strength to hideous strength. They began precociously with their 2013 demo (His Best Deceit), took forward steps with their 2014 EP (Anneliese — reviewed here), and have made even more progress with their second EP, 1585-1646. Equal parts morbidly atmospheric and rifftastically raging, it’s an unholy union of black, death, and thrash metal that’s well worth adding to your musical arsenal.
The four songs on the EP are conceptually linked. As in the case of Anneliese, the band have taken as their subject matter the true story of a young woman who lost her life at the hands of religious zealots. Here, the misfortune befell a French woman named Adrienne D’Heur; the EP is named for the years of her life.
According to The Font of All Human Knowledge, she was arrested by the French Inquisition, tortured in an effort to compel her into confessing that she had entered into a pact with the Devil (she refused to confess), and was then burned to death. However, Possession have put their own spin on these events, as described in the press release that accompanied our promo of the EP:
Through these four tracks, Possession tells the story of a witch who lived in France between 1585 and 1646: on “Obscurity,” an intro sets the crucial medieval atmosphere; with “Visitation,” the future witch receives the visit of the Devil, who offers her a pact she accepts; on “Ceremony” comes the Sabbath; with “Guilty,” the Inquisitors hunt the witch, catch her, and torture her to make her confess; and at last, on “Ablaze,” the Inquisitors burn the witch.
Actually, I’m just guessing that the woman whose story is told in the EP is Adrienne D’Heur. But my internet researches haven’t turned up another French woman burned as a witch who was born in 1585 and was executed in 1646. Maybe there was another who actually did make a bargain with Satan. It sure sounds like Possession did.
The first long track, “Obscurity – Visitation” does indeed set the stage in atmospheric fashion. The most persistent presence over the first six and a half minutes are the sounds of wind, heavy rain, and thunder. Against that backdrop you hear a medieval monastic chant, the peal of church bells, and eventually a dark, dismal, tremolo’d guitar melody. It’s not until the last few minutes that the song takes flight, like the mad gallop of a red-eyed, bat-winged demon horde. The melody remains dismal and ominous, but as it accelerates in a thrashing frenzy it becomes electrifying (and catchy as hell). And in those final minutes you’re also introduced to one of the hallmarks of Possession’s sound: the vocalist’s stunningly vicious reverberating goblin snarl.
“Ceremony” starts with the sound of a booming drum and jagged riffs, a mid-paced introduction that reinforces the ominous atmosphere of menace — and then it also explodes in a hellish frenzy, like flames leaping in a bonfire. But Possession switch things up, progressively rocking and stalking, before ramping up again in a swarm of urgent, writhing riffs at the finish.
“Guilty” is fast and swarming from the start, with hammering rhythms and a grisly riff that’s repeated, over and over, ratcheting the tension tighter and tighter, with roaring accompanying the hair-raising shrieks. You may wonder if the tension is ever going to break — but eventually it does, with a rocking backbeat and venomous chords providing the reprieve.
The catchiest of the four songs comes last. “Ablaze” launches with a buzzing tremolo riff and then explodes in an effusion of blasting drums and ravaging guitars, eventually segueing into another bout of poisonous rocking and rolling. About four minutes in, a bass solo acts as a bridge to a heavy, headbangable stomp, slower but no less menacing in its atmosphere. And if by now you don’t think the vocals could become any more infernal or demented, you will be proven wrong — it sounds like an entire legion of demon spawn are fighting for supremacy.
Possession have reached back in time and locked arms with the spirits of early Bathory, Venom, and Motörhead (among other revered progenitors of Satan’s rock ‘n’ roll), while giving their thoroughly evil-sounding music some modern burnish (and benefitting from the production quality on this EP). There are some truly killer riffs and hooks in this new collection of songs, but the band are also becoming equally adept at surrounding their assaults with an aura that’s palpably sinister and forbidding. Without losing their feral edge or diminishing the stench of sulphur that has always surrounded their music, Possession’s ambitions are carrying them forward to new heights. They remain a band worth watching closely.
1585-1646 was recorded at Blackout Multimedia in Brussels by Phorgath of Enthroned/Emptiness. The cover art is by Thorncross (Chris Moyen). It will be released internationally on June 6, 2015, with Iron Bonehead handling the vinyl pressing and Invictus Productions releasing the music on CD (rumor has it that the CD will include the two Anneliese tracks as bonus material). After the links, check out the song “Guilty”.