Monday, December 5, 2011

Poison - Possessed By Hell (1986)

1986 was an important year for underground Metal. Many will immediately think of such albums as Reign in Blood, Pleasure To Kill, Obsessed By Cruelty or Morbid Visions, to name a few. However, none of those releases came close to the pure evil and dark feeling of Poison's November 1986 rehearsal tape, Possessed By Hell. Recordings like this sent most bands packing for the surface, haunted by nightmares and the knowledge that they were incapable of producing something this hellish and black. While many of the First Wave bands were cleaning up their sound and moving on to pure Thrash Metal, Poison was unleashing the type of hideous Black Metal that could have only come from the very depths of Hell. This was at a time when even Mayhem were more concerned with writing songs with lyrics about splatter and gore. This obscure German band was possessed by the will of Satan, himself, and brought to the mortal realm his diabolic message.

Possessed By Hell is as raw as it gets, while still being clear enough to be discerned. The music is incredibly dynamic, which may surprise some. At times, it races along at a frenetic speed, while other sections slow things down and add an aura of morbidity. The faster parts are enough to give Bathory a run for their money, and yet the quick tempos never become an excuse for sloppiness. The mid-paced riffs cannot escape comparison to Hellhammer / Celtic Frost, and yet this is so much darker and more serious that it makes Tom Warrior's musical projects seem like joke bands. Angel of Death exhibits far more skill with the axe than some might expect, upon first listen. True, from the first moments of "Satan Commands", one may get the notion that this is going to be far more simplistic than it turns out. Virgin Slaughter's vocals are one of the real highlights of this recording, as he sounds absolutely possessed, though more demonic than human, and the utter malevolence can be felt as the venom spews from his mouth. The screams near the end of "Wake the Dead" are enough to send chills up your spine and to freeze your heart. This is so far beyond what anyone else was doing at the time, and the influence can be heard some years later, in the early work of Mütiilation. The bass playing of Incubus Demon plays a fairly prominent role, at times, with various moments where certain lines stand out from the rest or actually take the lead for a bit. Witchhammer's drumming is consistent and never goes beyond what is needed, which is a great thing considering that a lot of people were beginning to get too overactive by that time, showing off what they could do instead of sticking to what the song required. The songwriting demonstrates the ability to create a dark atmosphere by actually putting a lot of thought into the arrangement. Some tracks take their time to build up, moving along at a funereal pace and imbuing the listener with a sense of tension, then unleashing a lethal assault with intense passages that go right for the throat. It is remarkable, in a sense, since some of the material gives off the impression of being improvised, as if this was a mere jam session, yet everything is timed just. This makes the most of every opportunity to forever steal the light from your eyes, dragging you to a deeper level of Satan's dominion. The listener is tormented with feelings of doom, fear, terror and total hopelessness on this epic journey through the Kingdom Below.

The sound quality is not bad, at all, for a mid-'80s Black Metal demo. Being a rehearsal, one might expect a very poor sound, especially if acquainted with a lot of the Moonblood tapes. However, as raw and grim as this is, the production really suits the material and allows for everything to be heard, pretty well. The guitar sound is rough and sharp, though a bit heavier during the slow parts. The drumming is clear and precise and is high enough for everything to be heard quite well, yet it does not really distract from the rest. Occasionally, the cymbals are too noticeable, but this is a minor complaint. The guitar could have been slightly higher in the mix, but it is still loud enough to have the desired impact. The vocals are rather up-front, which really helps to accentuate the maniacal performance and the overall tenebrous and Satanic atmosphere of the recording.

Possessed By Hell is absolutely essential, not just for fans of Poison, but for anyone into the First Wave of Black Metal. This is probably the most evil thing to be spawned in 1986, and kills just about everything that came before. While a lot of bands wore spikes and wrote lyrics about Satan and Hell, this band seemed to be genuinely corrupted by some wicked force from the underworld and sought to spread damnation and hopelessness to the pathetic mortals. All those who so much as claim to be fans of Black Metal are urged to seek this out, at once. It may be too much for some but, then again, those people should hang themselves anyway.