Whilst we at Astral Noize are junkies for anything unique or weird, sometimes you need your metal to be direct and to-the-point. UK outfit Possessor have won us over by managing to do both simultaneously, with a fuzzy strain of stoner-strewn metal that’s dynamic enough to be interesting and immediate enough to be a ton of fun. The band impressed back in 2019 with Gravelands, but there was a sense then that the band’s energetic music fared better live than on record. Moving into 2020, live music simply hasn’t been an option, so the band took the opportunity to write during lockdown, and the result is their finest album yet.
Damn The Light is a more consistent and cohesive statement of what Possessor are all about, boasting the band’s usual lively style with an added element of desperation brought on by the year’s tumultuous nature. Don’t be fooled, though, the record is still dominated by the band’s obsession with horror and the abnormal, from serial killers and UFO sightings to killer pigs and bizarre apparitions. To find out about the album’s creation and its unique mix of inspirations, we had a chat with guitarist and vocalist Graham Bywater.
Our favourite thing about your sound is that it’s not just one thing – it’s stoner, sludge, death, blackened thrash and more without being restricted to any one of these, and yet it still has that straightforward thrill of being fast and heavy music. How do you describe your sound?
A macabre boogie! We enjoy a lot of different music and I think a little bit of everything makes its way into our sound. Nothing is thought about too much though, I just like to make music that sounds like what I want to hear in a band. Buzzing like a chainsaw with a natural and raw delivery. And no riff should outstay its welcome.
Are we right in saying the band has been through some changes in personnel since Gravelands? How do you think this has impacted the trio and your sound?
We’ve had a couple of line-up changes, yes. It’s been a difficult year and I think the previous line-up kinda ran its course to an extent. The band has always been my project but for the first time I now feel like it’s becoming more of a band. Our new drummer Nate has been so dedicated and focused since he joined last year and the new album is a clear indication of the chemistry we have together. You can tell this was more of a group effort.
I find it inspiring that bands can keep the same line-ups going for so long! Especially as you get older, priorities change and tastes differ. But it’s all good. Right now I just feel lucky to be alive and able to still do music.
Who/what would you cite as influences, both on your music in general and this album in particular?
Big question! Well my musical roots are grunge stuff like Nirvana and Melvins crossed with thrash bands like Kreator, Possessed, Metallica etc. but I like to mix that with more recent stuff like Church Of Misery, The Shrine, Martrydod, Midnight and Speedwolf. The high-octane rough and ready style of Darkthrone also inspires me endlessly.
And I’m a huge Kiss fan.
But at the same time, films play a big part in my daily inspiration. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is my favourite and I like to think of us as the family from that film living in a rundown house of bones and terror, chuckling around the dinner table. And let’s not forget Star Wars. That’s why I get out of bed each day *laughs*.
Your music takes a lot of inspiration from horror films and presumably also their soundtracks. Besides The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, what films or composers do you find yourself coming back to, and what films have you discovered recently that you think are worth shouting about?
There’s a lot to consider here as the horror world is a mammoth, decade-spanning orgy of styles.
I enjoy paranormal films these days and found-footage flicks like Blair Witch inspire me lyrically. I went off a lot of the terribly-acted Italian zombie films a while back, with the exception of Fulci of course. Now I often prefer stuff with a bit of kitsch value like Braindead, Evil Dead or Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors. Fun stuff. Soundtrack-wise I’m currently obsessed with the Der Todesking score by Hermann Kopp. It’s freaky and heartbreaking and captures the onscreen anxiety of the film splendidly. All of Jörg Buttgereit’s films have exceptionally haunting scores.
Let’s not forget the soundtracks to Tenebrae and Phenomena too.
This album must have at least in part been created during lockdown? If so, what was that like? How did it differ from normal and do you think it influences the final album in any considerable way?
Entirely written in lockdown, bar two songs. It was an enjoyable experience as we didn’t feel as much pressure as if we had been rehearsing together as well. We just sent ideas to and fro via WhatsApp. I’m amazed and chuffed that we pulled this one off really! The forces of evil were on our side! (Maniacal laughter)
We simply set ourselves a goal and that was to make the best album we possibly could by Halloween.
Working with APF Records was a very enjoyable experience again. We really worked together to get this done.
Your music is lively and dynamic, which is why it works so well live as well as on record. I know you did have the one-off socially distanced gig at The Black Heart to launch the record, but has adjusting to life without gigs been difficult, and have you felt the impact of not being able to tour whilst working on (and now promoting) a new album?
I think we were extremely lucky to have played at all this year! We dodged a bullet as the second lockdown kicked in a mere week after our album launch.
It’s been a real tough time having to watch all the cool festival slots get cancelled one by one. We had some great plans this year with Riffolution and Desertfest but alas… guess we will have to just keep positive and hope it’s all sorted soon.
We all miss being on stage for sure. It’s an unbeatable feeling. Even if we’re not playing our best it’s a magical experience.
What can you tell us about the lyrics on this record? Is there an overarching theme or concept that ties the album’s tracks together?
Well I think the current global situation has played a big part. It’s added a touch of desperation and woe that you wouldn’t normally find on a Possessor album.
We’ve maintained our naughty punk edge and we are still the exact same three-headed shadowy apparition lurking in the mist, but we’ve learnt to deal with more than usual in 2020 and it’s certainly made its way into the new record.
That’s not to say it’s completely encompassed our writing, there’s songs like ‘The Strangeness’ which are about Roswell, Death Valley and the UFO sightings, and then ‘Coffin Fit’ which is all about a powerful female apparition that brings you to your knees.
‘Scalpel’ is the story of a serial killer that sees his murders in dreams.
And then ‘Razorback’ which is a technical romp about a killer pig that the locals try to kill for meat. But he’s having none of it.
Haha, yeah some of it’s quite daft but that’s what rock and roll is all about.
Damn The Light is out now on APF Records. Order here.
Words: George Parr