For the last fifty odd years or so, horror movies and metal have been frequent bedfellows. Both genres of media have always stereotypically been violent, thrilling, gruesome and engineered to agitate in someway or another. With this in consideration, it’s no surprise countless acts have designed their sound and aesthetic to represent the grisly conventions associated with the genre, with acts such as King Diamond, Aborted, Rob Zombie and The Black Dahlia Murder being renowned for intensifying their craft with horror inspired imagery. Another act who have devoted their musical art to channeling the fright and dread of the blood streaked big screen are London rippers Possessor.
Signed to connoisseurs of all things bastard heavy APF Records, Possessor narrate tales of horror designed to be enjoyed around the dying embers of a moonlit campfire via lacerating riffs, fog stained vocals, overdriven leads and skull cracking pile-driving drums. With their sound carrying the full blown density of acts such as High On Fire, Kyuss, Fu Manchu and Weedeater all whilst dabbling in the thrash savagery of Nuclear Assault and the red-eyed stoner sludge of Electric Wizard, Possessor are a product of a life devoted to enjoying all things heavy, provocative and sadistically exciting. It was a fact showcased in a fashion most visceral with their 2019 offering Gravelands and something set to be highlighted again very soon indeed.
Following on from shows alongside bone shattering acts such as Conan, Black Moth, Boss Keloid and Allfather, Possessor are set to release their forthcoming new record Damn The Light later this October. Dropping the day prior to All Hallows Eve, Damn The Light is set to see Possessor at their most bedevilled and enchanting, something documented on the viscera soaked new singles ‘Coffin Fit’ and ‘Bloodsuckers’. A foreboding catacomb of a record cursed with killer riffs, tearing hooks and suffocating ambience, Damn The Light is not only perfect for the season but for anyone who enjoys their metal devilishly enjoyable and with a penchant for a Hell-raising good times.
With Damn The Light fast approaching, we got in touch with frontman Graham Bywater on the band’s history, the record and all things horror.
For those new to Possessor how would you explain the band in a nutshell?
"We are a ghastly three-headed apparition here to shock the uninitiated and raise the devil horns to those in the know, best appreciated with a beer in hand next to a camp fire under a full moon. Possessor has always been about good times and scrapping any unnecessary monikers or cliquey scenes. This is pure rock music for the midnight hour, phasers set for stun and raring out of the gates to do the Devil’s bidding with a salacious, horror obsessed, blood hungry riff attack. And everyone’s invited."
Talk to us about the history of the band, how was Possessor formed and how did horror films play into that?
"Possessor started late 2013 when I put together the Electric Hell album myself. Not intended as a full time band, that soon changed when my old college friend Marc demanded I take it the stage with him on bass. After the second album Dead By Dawn and a memorable performance at Sonic Blast Festival in Portugal, things gathered momentum pretty fast. People picked up on the spooky horror infused imagery of those earlier releases and the band name started to pop up a lot more. We released two albums on Graven Earth Records and haven’t really stopped to breathe since. It amazed me just how fast those early t shirts and tape releases sold. Hell, we sold more merch than we played gigs for ages. Image wise things aren’t that different now, but musically I think the progression is like night and day, we are tighter and much more focussed on who we are and where we stand in this crazy world. The essence and spirit remains the same though."
What horror films and media particularly influenced the band?
"I guess it all started with Star Wars, which has always been a humungous inspiration to me. Those original films (before Lucas destroyed them) were my introduction to a larger world and remain extraordinarily important to me to this day. I even called my son Luke, and he’s become quite a fan himself. I also adore Enter The Dragon, The Terminator, Alien and the usual ground-breaking gems of that era, but lyrically Possessor are indebted to the slashers of the mid seventies and eighties and all the other numerous crazy moments of exploitation that emerged around then. I feel like I’ve watched so many films over the last 30 years it’s almost impossible to narrow down how and where the connection started but I’d have to go with The Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Experiencing those for the first time genuinely altered something in me and I remember exactly where I was at the time."
"The Hills Have Eyes was another early discovery for me. Horror is an unusually addictive genre of cinema to become so preoccupied with and I have discovered so much insanity I couldn’t even begin to explain it’s importance in the bands output. Possessor albums function like films. The continuity builds into chaos with moments of unease and pitch black humour."
"I admire so many films but here’s a few I’ve felt have inspired Possessor in one way or the another: Deranged, Motel Hell, Nekromatik, Elm Street, The Legend of Hell House, Troll Hunter, The Thing, Just Before Dawn, Last House on The Left, The Slayer, Braindead, Wolf Creek, MS.45...the list could never end. Lucio Fulci’s zombie films will always stick with me too, as will all those other disreputable Italian gore maniacs. I feel like all decades of horror have produced classics though. From 1962’s Carnival of Souls through to 2016’s Don’t Breathe, the genre lives on! Being in my teens in the nineties also meant I got to see The Blair Witch Project on it’s initial run on the big screen. That really struck a major chord with me."
Bar from the visual aspect, what bands and musical artists played a major part in inspiring the sound of Possessor?
"We have always mixed up our influences in a nasty beer fuelled cocktail to arrive at a relentless punk assault on the senses. Our songs possess both the sludgey stoner rock heaviosity of Kyuss and High On Fire, crossed with the ‘fuck you’ of Black Flag and Anti Cimex, seasoned with the teeth and claws of a rabid Celtic Frost and Motorhead infused hybrid."
"Metallica have always been a major part of my musical upbringing, as has the whole thrash movement. Bands like Nuclear Assault and Kreator started to inspire me from a very young age, as did the Norwegian Black Metal fiasco. But then I was also a die-hard Nirvana fan in the nineties, much like most folk I know. Those guys introduced me to a world of slacker fun. Wipers, L7, Mudhoney…That carefree, scruffy attitude has been in my blood since. As long as it’s fucking loud and you mean it…that is all that matters. I’ve found lots of inspiration from the likes of Impetigo, Terrorizer, Anata and Merciless. There are so many truly prodigious death metal bands it’s physically impossible to keep up. And a lot of it is a great fun too. Music shouldn’t invariably be too serious. KISS and Darkthrone are another two bands that endlessly inspire me. Both have epic back catalogues too!"
Your new upcoming record Damn The Light is out October 30th via APF. How did you approach the creation of the album, especially during the pandemic? Did the current global crisis inspire the record at all?
"The writing process for this album was different. I wrote the songs gradually over the course of a few months whilst in lockdown at home with my wife and two kids. I had a vision of what this album was going to sound like very early on. Everything from the running order to the overall theme and tone were engraved in my mind as soon as writing begun. Nathan (drummer) was isolating with his extended family on the Isle of Wight but luckily he remembered to take his drum kit. I would send him my song ideas and he would send back drum parts and gradually it all came together.
We knew from the outset that this should be released on Halloween as it’s not only our favourite time of the year but it gave us a deadline to work towards and perhaps some structure during a very strange time. We moved pretty fast, learnt the songs to the point of knowing them in our sleep and hit the studio as soon as Nathan returned to London. The four day session went really smoothly considering we hadn’t actually played the songs in the same room until that point! It could all have backfired but I think we pulled it off. Lyrically there are certainly a fair few references to the predicament we have all faced over the last few months. The song ‘Fresh Hell’ is pretty self-explanatory."
Damn The Light is your first record with Nathan Perrier behind the cans. How has the dynamic changed with his inclusion?
"Nathan is a pure metal drummer through and through. He’s very dedicated to what he does and is also very clued up on his gear and time constraints. We worked well together from the start. Nathan loves Judas Priest and (Iron) Maiden and you can hear all that loud and clear!"
Legendary artist Alexander Goulet created the artwork for the record, what was it like working with him?
"Alex is a really nice guy, super laid back and extremely talented. I think that once we got going the album design happened pretty fast. We were on the same page from the start so it was a fun experience. He’d already worked with our label mates Video Nasties and I’d been really taken aback by one of the awesome covers he did for Dopethrone. Go check his stuff out if you haven’t done so yet!"
You’ve released a few records via APF, what’s it like working with the label?
"There aren’t many other labels like APF at the moment and the roster of artists has been going from strength to strength. It feels like a happy family. Oddly enough though I’ve never even been to Manchester and it doesn’t look like I will any time soon as the pandemic has seen to it that our last two planned shows didn’t happen."
"Damn The Light is our second album with the label and from the start it’s always been a pleasure. Andrew really has a good attitude towards his work and has zero bullshit. He’s also a very easy guy to trust and has given us as much free reign of our work as we want. Plus we are both big fans of Rush."
Finally, what do you want fans to experience and take away from the new record?
"I think it’s clearly our strongest album and that’s likely down to the adverse conditions and time in which it was created. The process felt a little like going into battle."
"I really hope everyone gets something special from it. Grab a beer, kick back, have some fun and hopefully come see us live whenever that might be. All the best!"