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Possessed Review

by Eduardo Rivadavia

Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say, and though Venom's original trio of Cronos, Mantas, and Abaddon were regarded as no-talent, deviant noise-mongers during much of their career, collectively they are now considered a "classic" lineup and black metal pioneers of the highest order to boot. Verily, despite their evident creative and performance shortcomings (they only played their first live shows three albums into their career!), Venom's strength lay in their weaknesses. Like other black metal trailblazers (Celtic Frost, Bathory, etc.), Venom's musical holocaust was impervious to most accepted notions of good or bad because their supposed inadequacy was their own secret weapon, a simplicity that spurred thousands of similarly inadequate-feeling teens to get up and say, "Hey, I can do that too." But with the poor reception accorded their sprawling, conceptual third effort, At War With Satan, still ringing in their ears, the band was under serious pressure to deliver something special when starting work on album number four, 1985's Possessed. Sure enough, first track "Power Drive" was vintage Venom, blasting off with fire and brimstone for all and seemingly promising a return to form was on hand. But despite the valiant efforts of additional standout cuts such as "Burn This Place to the Ground" and the overlong but still quite effective title track, Possessed's pool of inspiration quickly ran dry, with dull grinds such as "Moonshine," the subtle little ditty "Satanarchist," and the instrumental workout "Wing and a Prayer" coming off despairingly one-dimensional, more amusing than memorable. In retrospect, it's clear that the end was near, yet Venom's original lineup would nearly complete the recording of one more album to be named Deadline before the departure of a disgruntled Mantas (the sessions' results remain unreleased). [As with other Sanctuary/Neat reissues, the remastered version of Possessed is greatly improved with the addition of informative liner notes, rare photos, and six bonus tracks, including nonalbum single "Nightmare."]

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