Some things take time. Some things require patience. “Possession” is one such example, first impressions aren't unfavourable but you won't be cock-a-hoop either, it has taken a good many listens and a considerable amount of time for this album to endear itself to me. Let me explain.
“Possession” initially falls into the bits of string and sticky tape area of Black Metal, for some that's enough for the door to be slammed shut but for me it just means a degree of perseverance, that's not to say that this album is difficult to grasp or rendered unlistenable. There are songs here that ooze atmosphere and that drift in like a Scottish Haar, it's just the fact that the facets aren't immediately obvious but once they are revealed it's like an Anacapa moment and the wonders are revealed.
DEVILISH's sole offering comprises, I'm led to believe, of five chapters which form one single track, the distinction between these chapters is obvious and you would be forgiven for considering them to be tracks in their own right. Clearly the songs aren't excessively long but they do hint at the epic, in fact there is a SUMMONING undercurrent to “Possession” whether it be the razoring guitar or the keyboards that have that melancholy triumphalism about them. In using that pointer, I would clarify the rawness apparent and so we are harking back to “Stronghold” and beyond, it will probably be dawning by now that this album is gaining merit.
Proceedings begin with a faltering start that sets alarm bells ringing on first listen, a tentative guitar and directionless synth stumbles along but soon enough a buzzsaw of dirge rips in and the dark clouds come a'rolling. DEVILISH canter along from thereon in with considerable purpose, though the production sometimes obscures the statement until the album's plot is revealed, the mid-paced progression prevails, though there are moments of greater urgency. And so, the abrasive substance of the guitar tears at the velvet fabric of the synths, it's a balance that many fail to achieve but I think the band have just about nailed it here. Amongst the scouring there are also times when the guitar picks its way through whatever dark tales are being told, it adds emphasis and heightens the drama, often there is a whiff of victory, albeit pyrrhic, in the air when the riffs begin to whirl and you may well be carried on the updraught.
Grandeur may have been smothered and choked to some degree by the production but not to the extent that it is hidden, it isn't pompous, just full of majesty, the snarling anguish of the vocals ensures that these songs are brought back down into the pit whenever they find too much air. So whilst the songs soar and the guitar saws, what are the drums and bass up to? Well, in the case of the bass, you'd be hard pushed to tell, it's in there somewhere but you tend to feel it more than hear it but it does poke its head out of its dark hole occasionally. The drums have that muffled quality to them, they thump along with nary a clatter to be heard, they beat out a rhythm and are busy enough without having to resort to anything in the way of bombardment.
Ultimately “Possession” turns from shit to shine the more you listen to it, it's like a Black Metal version of “The Ugly Duckling,” over time it becomes an elegant creature that still manages to maintain something of the hideous. They haven't made many copies but if you can get hold of one and are prepared to invest some time, the reward is there.
(Online September 26, 2008)