Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Pazuzu watches over Possessed in Manchester

Before Cannibal Corpse… before Morbid Angel… before death there was Possessed. Influencing thousands of bands in extreme metal and helping kick-start death metal itself. Possessed are icons of the genre and arguably one of the most influential bands of all time and their very rare appearance in Manchester was long overdue. The only obstacle would be the five support bands. 

American guitarist Matt Miller began the show accompanied by his brother on drums. The two had fantastic musical chemistry as they ripped through some very demanding yet tasteful guitar-led tracks. There were moments when the songs were somewhat self-indulgent and overly long but that’s a staple of instrumental shred. 

Miller had a good understanding of how to please a crowd as he’d always make his way to the front of the stage whenever a particularly impressive lead section was going on and that happened fairly regularly. The guitar nerd in me was regularly looking at granular details like trying to figure out if he was alternate picking arpeggios or sweeping and if your playing captures someone’s attention in that way, it’s proof that you’re a very good instrumentalist.

Setlists were difficult to come across for this show so certain bands in this review will be limited on song titles but everyone is still worth looking into for differing reasons. Matt Miller’s sound feels a lot like Christian Muenzner (ex-Necropgahist, Obscura, Alkaloid) with his neo-classical tinge and his album Moment of Velocity is worth your attention if you like more melodic approaches to Tech Death. 

Next up was Stoic Suffering which also featured Matt Miller on guitar but this time… he had a seven-string and a vocalist and a bassist, all of which are things you’d find in a deathcore band like this. 

Their sound is in the Lorna Shore breed of deathcore in that the vocalist is doing unbelievable feats and creating monstrous sounds that would destroy an average person’s vocal cords. The music behind it is fairly standard but effective, it features a number of devastating and impactful breakdowns as well as what I can only describe as a symphonic drum solo. 

The highlight of the set was the vocalist, not just due to his impressive vocal skills but his comical on-stage persona. It’s clear he’s having a lot of fun and it bleeds into the audience. This was also made all the more entertaining by the drunk person who spent the entire set trying to get a fist bump. 

Hellfekted were next and they were a much more straightforward breed of thrash metal combining elements from all sorts of bands in the genre but personally, I thought they sounded like a blend between the classic Bay Area thrash bands like Exodus and Megadeth and the German Teutonic thrash bands like Sodom and Kreator. 

There’s a darker element to their sound and there’s a lot of the youthful aggression you’d expect from an up-and-coming thrash band. Their songwriting may be a little crude and in need of some refinement but they’re still miles ahead of what most bands their age are putting out and arguably more importantly, they seem like decent people having a ball watching the room descend into chaos.

Expect to hear from Hellfekted more over the coming months and check out their Bloodstock 2022 set. It’s also worth noting that Ol Drake from Evile was at this show and will be back in Manchester at The Bread Shed on November 10th supporting their amazing new record: The Unknown. He was a very down-to-earth guy who still clearly has a lot of love for the genre. 

Repulsive Vision were next and the show was starting to feel its length. Perhaps it’s an age thing but 6 bands over the space of 5 and a half hours is definitely great value for money but it’s a bit taxing on the neck… and back… and knees. I’m old, okay? 

Luckily the turnaround between sets was incredibly fast and there were rarely moments of downtime but this may have caused certain issues with the sound as it was difficult to make out higher-end guitar work. The low end dominated Repulsive Vision’s set and made it all muddy and hard to pick out individual songs. Perhaps it’s an issue of where I was standing but based on this show, I have no idea what Repulsive Vision sounds like. 

Vapor were the last support band and they had some artwork stands which added some colour and variety to an excessively long show. Vapor had some melodeath elements but it was rooted firmly in classic early 90s death metal. The crowd seemed really into it with mosh pits dominating the majority of the room but it seemed like they were just there to mosh regardless of who or what was playing and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Finally, after an insanely long night of metal, Possessed came on. Frontman Jeff Becerra was kitted out in studs as he took his possession armed with a raspy growl and a smile as the band opened with ‘No More Room in Hell,’ a grinding track full of tremolo picking and intense speed. ‘Damned’ came next and while this is still a great song from the long-awaited Revelations of Oblivion, everyone is here for the classics and they would be plentiful once the band entered the Seven Churches

Possessed have the reputation of being the first death metal band but their sound is much closer to thrash, Jeff shouts instead of growling and the chaotic riffing is more a side effect of playing unreasonably fast, all of this is on display on songs from Seven Churches, arguably the most important death metal album ever made. ‘Pentagram’ started with demonic noises before the eclectic riffing started. For a genre that prides itself on simplicity and a direct yet impactful approach, Possessed took a lot of risks in Seven Churches and they all pay off tenfold. 

The tracks from Beyond the Gates like ‘Tribulation’ and ‘Seance’ were welcome additions to the setlist largely because hearing them live is the best way to experience these songs due to the highly dated mix on the album but the songwriting is all still so good. The aggression is all there, the Mercyful Fate/Venom influence is on display for all to see and even though this is a completely different band now, they can still still play these songs exactly how they sound on the record which is impressive considering how wild and chaotic they get. 

The end of the setlist saw some absolute masterpieces of metal. The ominous synth version of ‘Tubular Bells’ made for an intense build-up as a massive gap in the room was formed. There was a small statue of Pazuzu, the demon that possessed Regan in The Exorcist, sitting on an amp directly behind the band as if he was watching the carnage unfold and nobody was safe once it did as the wild tremolo-picked riffs and double bass kicked in. 

Death metal still feels as important today as it did the day it came out, it’s very much the blueprint of what we would come to know as death metal. It feels so primal and free like it isn’t restricted by the rules of conventional music and to try and replicate it would be an exercise in futility but that didn’t stop millions of people from trying. 

Possessed have cemented their place in hell and so have we for supporting them and that’s fine, at least we have good tunes and memories of amazing yet violent shows as we’re ripped apart and dragged asunder in a lake of fire for all eternity. 

Lamestream Lydia
Lamestream Lydia
Self-proclaimed journalist, Progressive rock enthusiast and the most American sounding person you're ever likely to meet in the North of England

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1 COMMENT

  1. We were really disappointed with the sound quality throughout our set at the Possessed show, to the point where we were unable to hear each other onstage. I’m sad to hear that it came across too bassy to be discernable and I hope you get to catch us again in the near future for a more well rounded example of our sound. Repulsive Vision.

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