Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Possessor - The Ripper (2017) Review + Interview
It's only been a year since Possessor had released "Dead by Dawn", but here they are again with "The Ripper", a full albums worth of raucous heavy anthems that are sure to wake the fucking dead. Possessor aren't afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves, and in their case it's a battle jacket filled with all sorts of patches. Everything from Doom, to Classic Rock, to Early British Heavy Metal, and even some Grunge, Punk and Thrash as well. It's hard to pin down exactly what metal sub genre it is Possessor is playing, because they defy any sort of label. These dudes dine at the grand buffet of heavy metal delights, each member picking and grabbing from different plates and platters old favorites and modern crowd pleasers. All this and I haven't even mentioned the horror influence which is a big part of their image and sound. Through their rough and tumble exterior is a sinister shadow of terror lurking beneath the windows at night. It's the kind of music that gets all the creepy crawlers and night prowlers hyped on a Saturday night. It's heavy duty rock n roll for the living undead. With it's chugging guitars, blazing steed drums, and infectious growls, "The Ripper" is a catchy as fuck record, that like title suggests, fucking rips as well!
So here's the interview I did with the band. Cool fucking dudes!
Super Dank Metal Jams: What were you listening to when you were writing these songs? Do you feel like what you were listening to had any influence, or did you draw upon other sources of influence to help create?
GRAHAM: There are always a lot of different forms of inspiration when it comes to making albums but with us it’s normally films, music and the outdoors… and beer. Ha. I’ve been listening to Darkthrone and Cannibal Corpse way too much, as well as L7, High on Fire, Acid Bath, Unsane, Kvelertak and too much else to mention. I get a lot of my inspiration from mates and liked minded folk who make music around me. I love seeing friends being creative.
BEAN: As with every Possessor release, the creative element is almost exclusively Graham's input. My role is to take what he brings and inject a certain energy to it. My influence in that regard came less from specific songs or albums and more from wanting to put a completely live feel behind the music. I watch a lot of live bands. It's an environment I feel very happy in and that's got a lot to do with the exchange of energy from the band to the audience and back again. My aim is for people to experience a Possessor album in the same way they would if we were set up and playing it in front of them. I felt quite strongly that The Ripper should be recorded live, with no click tracks or multiple takes. It's very similar to Dead by Dawn in that the basic rhythm tracks really came from the first takes with minimal editing. We kept the process moving quickly and just slammed it out! Conjure and Possess was finished barely a week before we took it into the studio which I think helped it to sound fresh. Also, a lot of extra vocals and stuff that we overdubbed ultimately just got taken off again. We wanted the whole album to sound as “no frills” as possible.
SDMJ: What was your writing process for this album, and how was it similar/different than past albums?
GRAHAM - This album was the first one we did without me producing. I think we wanted to take more of a backseat and just play without the mixing, mastering to worry about etc… and it worked wonders I think. A lot of the songs on The Ripper were half written ideas from last year and I’ve spent this year piecing them together to make one cohesive record. As with Dead by Dawn everything on this album was done as a two piece, but with our buddy Sam Thredder (Slabdragger) at the controls. I think the bottom line was we never wanted to do anything but our very best and in order to do that we needed to get a producer in who would just be cool as fuck and let us just play in a great environment. In this case, his Mums attic! Ha. We are also very keen on catching the feel and energy of the band and not spend days doing overdubs and take after take. The way we see it is get in there and play it. If you spend too long it usually ends up sounding really unnatural.
BEAN: By the time I hear the songs they've already been shaped into fairly detailed demos. Graham has a clear idea of how all of the parts fit together. This includes a general feel of the drum parts which he programs into a machine along with all the guitars and passes on to me. The great thing is he seems to think about drums in a very similar way to how I play, so it feels like a very natural process to pick up what is presented and develop it from there. Any changes are minimal. I’ll just add my own flavor based on the feel of those demos. Next, we just take it into a rehearsal space and play it all until it feels completely natural. For me it’s all about getting an atmosphere down on tape rather than specific drum parts. To be honest, beyond the established structure, I’ll rarely play a Possessor tune in the same way twice.
SDMJ: What was the recording process for The Ripper, and how did it compare to other albums? BEAN: The main difference between this and our other albums is just that we tracked it at the Cro’s Nest with Sam Thredder from Slabdragger at the desk. It’s the first time we’ve used a studio to capture the songs and brought in some outside support. For comparison, Dead by Dawn was essentially a DIY project for which we used our own equipment (multitrackers, etc). For that we recorded the drums at our rehearsal space and everything else was tracked at Graham’s home. That’s the only real difference though. Our approach for The Ripper was largely the same. Rehearse the songs and record them quickly. The recording process was over and done with in just two, sweaty days.
SDMJ: Is it a concentrated effort to mix metal sub genres such thrash, doom, sludge, and Old School British Heavy Metal, or would you say that's something that comes naturally?
GRAHAM: I’m not a fan of pigeonholing. I have never understood why a band would ever want to categorize themselves with a simple word. I think it worked wonders in the eighties as it was cool to be part of a new scene. Nowadays, a lot of metal subgenres are over-saturated and in danger of becoming stagnant. Sure, we combine elements of thrash, sludge, black metal and just plain heavy metal but it’s just how we play as we like so much different stuff. There is never a plan. I always liked the idea of playing thrash slowly or doom quickly just to see what sticks. There are enough bands doing witchy stuff with Black Sabbath, copy/paste, weed inspired band names, we just want to fucking rock and have a good time with it. Why limit yourself to one tempo and style? I’ve never got that. Explore your possibilities.
BEAN: Yes, I'll say it comes completely naturally. As far as I am concerned, all of the sub genres you mentioned just come under the wider banner of Heavy Metal. We just wanted to make a great Heavy Metal album and have people bang their heads. I will say that we talked a lot about the NWOBHM scene throughout the rehearsals during the run up to the recording. I think it's fair to say, if anything, we wanted to infuse the vibe of that era into these songs. Stale booze, moonlit alleys, denim, leather and chains! Iron Maiden’s Killers was the most tangible frame of reference. We wanted the album to sound like an early Derek Riggs illustration.
SDMJ: Name some horror movies or books you would say made a big impact on you, and can be found creeping around in your works?
GRAHAM: The classics always remain the big pull for me, although there have been some damn scary films of late. That recent Blair Witch was really good! Ava's Possessions and The Babysitter were also both very enjoyable if dreadfully forgettable. I’m fussy with horror these days, ha, I loathe any torture crap or centipede nonsense as lazy shock value is just tired. I like atmosphere and terror. Lyrically there are many nods to vampires on this album, such as Lost Boys, Near Dark and Christopher Lee in his most famous role. The mother of all films, Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains a very big deal to us in every aspect. You either get that or you don’t. Ha. This album features some little snippets from Motel Hell, Devils Rejects (which is not a masterpiece) and weirdly enough Charles Manson, who died two days before the record came out…? Reckon that might make us the last band to ever sample him!
BEAN: I think metal music, horror movies and books will always go hand in hand. Both represent an extreme point of view and they deal with darker themes. Seems like a no-brainer to merge these things together and use them to create something edgy and exciting. I saw a great little film a few days ago called, The Eyes of My Mother. Beautifully shot and full of tension. A worthy addition to the genre and recommended! As for how this all has influenced The Ripper; we've dedicated this set of songs to Tobe Hooper (RIP) and for reason’s Graham has already mentioned, you’ll hear references to Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the lyrics. Fans of Night of the Living Dead will spot samples taken from that film and you can probably pick out song themes influenced by another of our favourites; Troll Hunter. Possessor albums are created to be enjoyed in a similar way to those films. Cool, fun, scary and best enjoyed with beer.
SDMJ: The Ripper to me seems heavier and more aggressive to me than Dead by Dawn. Do you look back on your previous works and use it as a point of reference for writing for the next album? GRAHAM: Besides the obvious nods to Jack the Ripper, the album for me was always meant to sound like it was set in the streets of the East End in the 1980s. As Bean says, the ‘Killers’ Maiden album was a quite a big inspiration. Remember the days of Mary fucking Whitehouse and the video nasties? That and sweaty queues to see Saxon at the Marquee. I do feel like we are certainly honing a sound now and it just seems like the done thing to get louder, heavier and nastier. My love for death and thrash metal have simply overpowered my riffs on this album. Plus my new amp! That’s pushed us into a crunchier territory. I’ve also been pinching solo ideas from Kai Hansen and Pat O’Brien, like I’ll ever be able to play guitar that good! Ha. We never really look back to be honest. I’ve maybe listened to ‘Electric Hell’ (first album) twice since it came out. I never enjoy listening to our older stuff as I’m very much about the now and what we can currently do. Plus I always pick holes in stuff and notice what could have been done better. As I’m sure most musicians do. That’s not to say I’m not proud of our previous work as I am for sure.
BEAN: We definitely wanted to turn everything on this one up to eleven. We wanted it to feel like a progression from Dead by Dawn but without losing the things that made that a successful record. Sam Thredder (engineer) helped us to achieve a weight to these recordings that gives them an extra push in the heavy department. Graham has written some of his most brutal riffs, I usually just hit the drums as hard as I can and as I mentioned before, the spirit of 1981 was strong with us… We wanted The Ripper to play like the soundtrack to a dirty, backroom fight in a seedy pool club. There's a strong irony there because Graham and I are generally pretty peaceful guys!
SDMJ: Are you listening to anything right now that you think our readers would be into or should check out?
GRAHAM: Too much to mention! Ha. Today I would certainly recommend ‘1184’ by Windir as that is one of the most triumphant and exciting black metal albums I’ve ever heard. ‘Initium’ by Samhain, ‘Sister’ by In Solitude, ‘Headless Children’ by W.A.S.P, ‘The Conjuring’ by Wo Fat, ‘The Return of Martha Spatthead’ by The Accused, ‘Master of Brutality’ by Church of Misery, ‘Los Angeles’ by X and ‘Youth of America’ by Wipers (which is like mainlining excitement) have been on heavy rotation of late. Recently I think ‘Cult of The Void’ by Seer is really special and I’ve rediscovered Cathedral’s ‘Garden of Unearthly Delights’ lately, that’s a stomping fun album.
BEAN: I loved Power Trip's Nightmare Logic album and Medusa by Paradise Lost has rarely been off my turntable since it was released. Today I’ve been listening to Brumation by Dead Ranch and I’d give a heavy recommendation to all of the above. From the vaults, I always have a steady diet of Judas Priest going on so I’m pretty excited about their upcoming new release. I’d also kick myself if I didn’t implore your readers to go and check out Discharge’s Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing record.
SDMJ: Any plans for a tour or extensive gigging for the new album?
GRAHAM: We are in the process of getting together a fresh live line up for the New Year so we shall see what happens. The next month or three are going to be focused on tightening up the new line up and bedding the new songs into the live environment, but once that's done we are ready to possess. BEAN: The calendar is currently completely clear, there is nothing booked in but as Graham says, our intention is to return to the stage sounding heavier than ever. Watch this space!
SDMJ: Do you have a release date yet for the physical releases?
GRAHAM: Yes, the tape and CD are set for release on December 11th but it looks very likely that they will be available sooner! We don’t really have a set date for vinyl yet but early 2018 would be a safe bet. The tape is coming out via Graven Earth Records, which is run by Rachel Excarnate, the lady with the biggest tape collection in America.
SDMJ: Get anything good on Black Friday?
GRAHAM: A flu bug!
BEAN: Ha! Truth be told, I spent Black Friday kicking myself for buying a brand new TV last week… D’oh! -Samir