Ulthar/Taurus Spinoff Spirit Possession Are Beholden to Their Black Metal Influences on Self-Titled LP
Published Jul 23, 2020Spirit Possession is the newest project featuring Ashley Spungin of Taurus on drums and synth and Steve Peacock of Ulthar on everything else. Their new band is a vehicle to explore their more primitive tendencies, now culminating in their self-titled debut.
Spirit Possession takes it back to the first wave of black metal, before metal had enough sub-genres to fill an encyclopedia, and when the iron of extreme metal was still hot. So, it should come as no surprise that this album owes much to the works of Celtic Frost and Bathory, particularly on songs like "Twin Tongued Pathways" that have a more early thrash and speed metal vibe to them. The band do a good job of recreating the essential aesthetics of that sound, like the dull, thudding blast beats, the razor wire guitar tone and the eerie effect-laden vocals combining the shrieks of Quorthon and the visceral grunts of Tom G. Warrior.
There's also parts of this album that incorporate sounds from the second wave of black metal, such as the icy minor chords and darkly melodic lines of "Amongst Inverted Castles and Holy Laughter" and "Eleven Mouths," sounds that are used sparingly and bring more breadth to the album. The band also adds harsh noise elements to their material, but it's only used as a non-sequitur into unrelated songs and never in a way that's interesting. There's also a heavy use of trills on the guitar, seemingly carried over from Ulthar, but they're so ubiquitous that the album can blur into one long hammer-on/pull-off sequence.
That's part of what holds this album back. While some interesting choices were made, the framework of this music is too rigid for experimentation, so the album seems to exhaust its ideas and by the end the songs become indistinguishable. It's a pitfall of revisiting a sound that's special partly because it exists in a certain time and place. To an extent, it's already been perfected by the bands who created it. (Profound Lore)