Review: The Ripper by Possessor

In the blackest most wretched pits of hell, where the fetid remains of the conspirators who first wrought blood and bone with iron and steel, atop the crumbling, cancerous bones of those who seek to consume beauty in every form, and colour the world in the unholy stain of the of the void, lies a small, dark box. It has no markings, no catch, latch or lock, it weighs nothing and, at once, everything. A man wades amongst the ossein, his raiment in ruin, searching, presses his ear to the box and can hear the dread screams of abhorrent nightmares, the sighing shriek of the stark, loathsome judged, the wrecked, whimpering mewl of life ebbing from the malevolent, rancorous presence within.

“Sounds good,” says the man, his truckers cap covering his eyes, his hand reaching for a quill, “I’d better write this down.”

Humming to himself, the man returns from the pits, his papers full of arcane scratchings. He pulls himself to the lip of Hades and touches the peak of his cap as he passes by his Dark Master, “Thanks. See you soon.”

Time passes and the man, haunted by visions of swine and wine, journeys across the wastelands, looking for a companion. He finds one.

“Help me.” he says, “I hallucinate daggers and guillotines, I see full moons rising and cleaver cut faces. Help me.” he sinks to his knees, broken.

“You have been in the pit again Bywater, ” intones the second man, his face stoney under three feet of bristles, “I can help you. Are you armed?”

“My axe.” leaning on his axe, he rises to one knee, a carved wooden handle and the blade a V, “It is honed.”

“Then my skins will join you. Come.” he turns, the leather of his coat creaking, his boots tracking through the ash, he turns once, “I will help you.”

Bywater rises, stumbles once. “Will we exorcise, Bean?” he asks.

“We will friend, ” replies Bean, “Come.”

More time passes. The men plan and hone their skills, each unique talent balanced against the other, their wits and wisdom woven into a macabre dance. Soon they are ready.

“It is time.” says Bywater, “We must excise this rot from within me. To the Cro’s Nest we must hasten. Thredder will guide us further.”

And thus began the exorcism of Graham Bywater. For a day and a night the duo fought demons and helldogs, hordes of madness, awakening mighty beasts and, lubricated by the elixir of the Gods, the hours turn into days into nights. Finally, the battle was done, was etched into the bright souls of the men. To be remembered for time immortal, the battle was named as The Ripper and recorded as a warning against those that would delve into the pit.

The third studio album from London’s Possessor is upon us and it is mighty. From the opening track, Conjure and Possess, you know that you’re going to be in for one hell of a record. Graham Bywater, who wields the axe high and the axe low is supported by Bean, slamming the skins in a performance that tops anything else I’ve heard from the man. This set of songs is an exorcism by any other name.

Conjure and Possess sets the tone with a raucous opening – shredding guitars and crashing symbols bleed into a long tone and then a thumping intro. The fuzzed-up vocals that are the signature of a Possessor song remain and I fucking love it. The pace is set for the slide into Guillotine, the second song on the album with another heavy, fast intro which is repeated for the chorus. “Rooms from beyond your dreams, hiding in your mind.” sings Graham and my brain fizzes.

Wet Cemetery begins with the velutinous bass sound that is another Possessor signature move and, while the pace feels slowed, it still slams your face into the nearest wall, not letting up, even if you cry for mercy. This is not a band that knows the meaning of the word “moderation” when it comes to heavy as evidenced by the opening of The Slime. I literally have no idea how the studio didn’t crumble into a pile of dust when recording that. The Slime has this delicious bridge that, frankly, sounds like something from a Mastodon album and shows just how well Graham writes. The Slime is also one of the songs on the album that has a lyric and melody you’ll be singing to yourself once the album is done – “Full Moon Riiiiiisssssiiiing”.

Whitechapel Murders, an ode to Jack The Ripper (and, at a guess, the reason for the album title), resonates like early Metallica – fast, thrashy and shouty. The lyrics on this album a step above previous releases, more literary and evocative. Whitechapel Murders also has a Mastodon feel to it in places and it’s a welcome sound, it feels good and lets the song grow into something more epic than some of the hit-and-run tracks elsewhere on the album (not that hit-and-run tracks are a problem, but it’s nice to feel a change of pace).

Lava clocks in at 5:24, the longest track on the album and only topped by Slaughter High on Dead by Dawn. In fact, this whole album can be listened to in just a touch over 30mins, this is both good and bad. Good in that it’s a focussed, attention holding onslaught of fuzz and fuck, bad in that it leaves you wanting more of the same. Still, you can always just listen to it again (and again and again).

Notting Hell is worth a mention, it’s not a song, but some fucked up soundscape that has samples of squealing pigs, bongo drums and someone, possibly Graham, shouting and screaming. It causes visions of deep-south banjo playing sister fucking, crossed with witchhunting and devil worshiping. A welcome one and a half minute break from the fuzz. Which is good, because Hacksaw starts with possibly the most insane bit of drumwork I’ve heard from this band. Listen, I sometimes get puffed out writing a review of an album, so how Bean manages to maintain the intensity and tempo of the drums without having a brain hemorrhage tells me he probably went down to Georgia and sold his soul. Which wouldn’t surprise me given how this band operates.

All of a sudden, we’re on the last track, Earth Shaker, and this is the perfect ending to an album. You’ve thrashed your way through 30mins of heavy as fuck metal music and Earth Shaker brings the chug. There’s no lyrics here, so just enjoy the perfect musical feast as the album winds down into some solid riffage that makes you want to punch the air and cut the arms off your denim jacket, while your winky twinkles with delight.

There isn’t a bad song on this album, each track is crafted out of pure heavy metal, tempered in the forges of thrash and decorated with the blood of all the weak that went before it.

I’m going to have a bit of a lie down before cranking it up again.

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