Mar 202023

(Here we present Hope Gould‘s evocative review of the new album by Oregon-based Spirit Possession, which is nearing its March 31 release by Profound Lore Records.)

The year is 1987. You’ve got weekend plans to take your girl to see Dirty Dancing and the world isn’t even close to being sick of Rick Astley. Not long ago, Venom unleashed their brand of Satanic alcohol-sodden proto-thrash upon England. Soon after, a kid from Sweden built upon that sound by infusing the epic mid-tempos of Manowar and really hammered home the Satan-thing in a little project called Bathory. Hellhammer stripped it all down with their raw, punky approach, a German band called Sodom played speed metal riffs with a similar primitive execution, then Celtic Frost pushed all the limits with a more sophisticated songcraft that managed to keep all the bite.

It is this moment in time, upheld by raw aggression and suspended between definitive genres, that Portland’s Spirit Possession have set their flux capacitor.

photos by Isaac Bushkin

The duo’s self-titled 2020 debut showcased guitarist/vocalist S. Peacock’s affinity for the most chaotic sides of Aura Noir. Not bound by early structure, Spirit Possession was chock full of thrashing angular riffs that cascaded upon each other in unpredictable twists and turns. What really set their sound apart was a psychedelic quality made, in large part, by the peppering of analog synthesizers contributed by drummer, A. Spungin. Their sophomore album, Of The Sign… goes full throttle into this cerebral-meets-breakneck approach, offering no compromises or apologies for the whiplash.

Showing no mercy, Of The Sign… shoves you into a vortex of riffs and trills that are so quickly stacked on one another you’ll lose track of them within the first minute. The erratic pacing is again, very reminiscent of Aura Noir’s debut, where Apollyon’s raw drumming comfortably fit into Aggressor’s spiraling riffs, and Aggressor’s precise drumming complemented Apollyon’s often discordant riffing choices. As Spirit Possession’s sole guitarist, S. takes a damn good crack at two different riffing styles and total instrumental schizophrenia, doling out equal parts impulsivity and technicality. At times his riffs even bear avant-garde black metal wizardry akin to Thorns or Mayhem. The moments of mid-paced Celtic Frost grooves would have been welcomed to stay awhile longer, and I do find the direction can become lost in the erraticism. To put it plainly, I wish this was easier to headbang to.

Colin Marston’s production work carves out space for each element, allowing A.’s vicious drumming to really shine. Her corrosive blasts crash around S.’ waterfall of riffs and keeps the runaway bullet train from derailing entirely. All pistons on Of The Sign… are firing so damn fast that it feels like a voyeuristic look into a friendly power-struggle between the duo just to keep up with one another. At every turn, A. stays swinging with impressive stamina and inspired fills. Her handmade synthesizers are also given their due, most notably on the instrumental fifth track “The Hex” with hissing synth and a spacey atmosphere that nods heavily to Beherit’s Drawing Down the Moon.

Marston also tastefully nudged the placement of S’ vocals from where they sat in the debut, maintaining the wash of reverb but having them sit prominently where they can really pierce through the chaos. S.’ unhinged delivery blends the scathing rasps of Nifelheim’s Hellbutcher and the authoritarian grunts of Tom G. Warrior, descending further into insanity with every track.

The 42 minutes fly by and leave me wishing for more variation in pace and tone so that I could really immerse myself before it was over. With that said, Of The Sign… is a scathing follow-up record that feeds Spirit Possession’s insatiable need to push their limits. Spirit Possession has shot up the list of USBM bands to watch at frightful speed, and I’ll be eagerly waiting to hear how they plan on harnessing their explosive energy next.


  4 Responses to “SPIRIT POSSESSION: “OF THE SIGN…””

  1. Oh it’s on like Donkey Dong !

  2. Yes I islander i just check this acoustic emission it is a more succulent than i even had a hoped.

  3. Heavy anticipation!

  4. That’s just weird, my roommate and I were just talking about them before I saw this. According to him they are very similar to a band called Furze, might be worth looking into for some of you. Definitely a good band to see live!

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