Review by Fernando on July 26, 2020.
US black metal is an interesting scene to talk about, as it is one of the most musically varied and diverse when compared to all other regional scenes, mainly because its many bands often take inspiration from other black metal bands and artists from other genres. The problem however is the lack of uniformity, most metalheads can pinpoint how a Finnish or a Norwegian bands sound, US black metal bands are all over the place in terms of sound, but sometimes that works for the better, and a little duo out of Portland, Oregon called Spirit Possession are here to prove that exact advantage.
Spirit Possession themselves are a fairly recent band, and this outstanding self-titled debut LP follows the band's demo. What's truly impressive about SP is the technical skill and how complex their playing is. The band's music could be cataloged under the "avant-garde black metal" label but that would undersell how good the music is, since the more outlandish and dissonant elements that are indeed present in the music are just one aspect. In terms of being "black metal" the band checks all the boxes, screeching and echoing vocals, blast beats, distorted guitars and bass and backed up by a filthy and grim production that maintains the raw authenticity of the performances, however, those who are genre savvy will notice a very apparent thrash metal influence, particularly in the guitar playing of member Steve Peacock, who also handles bass and vocals. The riffs and melodies are much more similar to thrash than black metal, in a seemingly deliberate throwback to the 80's bands that heavily contributed to the creation of the subgenre. Spirit Possession uses black metal as a foundation, with elements of thrash and "avant-garde" mixed in to create a sound that's chaotic but oddly psychedelic and the band masterfully displays all of this. Songs burst out from the very beginning or feature several dissonant synths and noisy electronic, courtesy of drummer Ashley Spungin, furthermore, the songs are able to keep the initial momentum and have sections where the aforementioned psychedelic chaos is in full display, as heard on songs like the 'Amongst Inverted Castles and Holy Laughter' and 'Deity of Knives and Pointed Apparitions'.
However, while the band succeeds in spades in creating such a chaotic and complex brand of black metal that makes them stand out, the one nitpick I have to point out is that the album ends too quickly for my personal taste. Additionally the short length can make some songs sound same in spite of how eccentric the music is and how skilled the SP duo are. But again, that is just a personal nitpick as the band more than prove their worth for all the reasons I've already mentioned.
Overall Spirit Possession are not just a welcomed addition to the ever growing and ever diverse crop of US black metal, but have the potential to be one of its greatest and most unique acts.
Best songs: 'Deity Knives and Pointed Apparition', 'Spirit Possession', 'Amongst Inverted Castles and Holy Laughter'
Rating: 8.9 out of 10134