Exorkizein is the debut album from Belgium death metal group Possession, released in April, following several EPs and demos since their formation in 2012. Released on Iron Bonehead records they’ve rightly been garnering a lot of attention to their old school death metal with a blackened edge and their Swedish style buzzsaw guitars, catchy riff driven songs and evil atmosphere.
Possession’s style is firmly old school, riff driven blackened death metal caught somewhere between Entombed and Marduk. After a brief into there’s six tracks proper across the album, each a headbangable riff-fest filled with tempo changes and blackened energy. Blastbeats and tremolo picked buzzsaw guitars with something of a blackened treble propel the tracks forward with catchy and memorable riffs on most of the songs no matter how fast and frenetic as the music gets. It’s when they slow it down though, especially on In Vain and the ridiculously catchy bass heavy Take the Oath that they really come into their own, the huge grooving mid paced riffs in the style of the old Swedish masters defy you not to bang your head furiously. It’s this songwriting and change of riffs that makes them so interesting, as well as the frenetic wah fuelled lead guitars that snake their way on occasion through the album.
The vocal performance is great, a razor sharp black metal rasping scream, with the added benefit of the lyrics being easily understandable, with a great sense of timing, sung rhythmically alongside the riffs, especially on the best song here Take the Oath, but also sounding particularly evil on the dark Sacerdotium. One must also give praise to the production, they eschew the murky sound of a lot of today’s bands playing blackened death metal, or going the other way with an overly clean sound – with their mixture of chunky death metal riffs and faster tremolo picked ones, the buzzsaw guitars has a more trebly black metal aspect to them than would be found with Entombed or Dismember, and with the drums being prominent in the mix it has a raw and rotten death metal sound, but a blackened dark atmosphere at the same time. They don’t just throw the prominent elements of each subgenre together to come to a heavy sound, they’ve worked the music through the song writing and atmosphere into a coherent melding of the two.
One of the things that does let the album down is the way it’s paced, with In Vain and Take the Oath being the two most catchy, and with both present on the second half of the album, it means that the closer and longest track Preacher’s Death, a more considered piece with less memorable riffs, though foreboding in it’s slow doomy beginnings and intense in it’s faster conclusion, is kind of a less effective closer, and while Sacerdotium is a great evil sounding piece, maybe one of the catchier ones should have opened and closed the album and it would have sounded better paced. This is a minor complaint, but it feels like an album that could have had a stronger opener and closer has the tracklist been better considered.
Overall though, it’s understandable why Exorkizein has received so much hype this year, it’s a great old school sounding blackened death metal album from Possession. Raw and rotten, dark and atmospheric, it’s a great melding of black and death metal in the style of the old Swedish masters without sounding stale for a second.