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Rusty Eye – Possessor (9,5/10) – USA – 2009
by Jonathan “Hell’s Unicorn”
Originality is the rarest of all commodities in today’s world of music. Heavy metal affords a bit more freedom to experiment than other styles, but finding something genuinely fresh and inviting is still largely a challenging task within this side stream art form. When looking for it, the first place recommended is that truly unrestrained lot of nonconformists known affectionately as the underground, where disturbing yet beautiful things await. Apply to this those most subterranean images of reanimated corpses, mortuaries, graveyards bound in mist and moonlight, and a vampire/Medusa hybrid with centipedes where the snakes should be, casting dark spells with pagan/demonic charms, and you have the face of Rusty Eye’s “Possessor”.
Naturally the first reaction to such imagery is one of expectation. Most would assume it to be the imagery common to either a modern brutal death metal band with crazed atonal riffing and unintelligible guttural vocalizations. Others with a more archaic understanding of the genre might look back to the most extreme elements of the 80s thrash metal scene, if not further still to the beginnings of said style within the blackened bowls of the most twisted outfits of the NWOBHM and the corresponding darker acts of mainland and northern Europe. But the reality is something a lot more nuanced, something that takes into account all possibilities, both old and new, and fuses them together into a semi-extreme, ruthlessly progressive, yet still somehow consonant and accessible whole.
While most carrying the label of progressive metal tend to focus on one or two elements such as involved song structures or hybrid of styles, and exaggerating them to the point of hitting new territory, Rusty Eye takes little pieces of everything, almost like a jigsaw puzzle of putrid flesh, and puts together a truly unique and auspicious work of necromancy. Some technical Thrash riffing here, a few odd changes or unexpected sections there, a pinch of fancy bass work rivaling both Steve Harris and Geddy Lee, a touch of older hard and punk rock influences, a seasoning of keyboard ambiences and Neo-classical tonality, and the occasional smatterings of both black and death metal vocalizations all mix together into a mystic witches brew of sounds.
Perhaps it is fate that the most proficient of progressive bands, be they rock or metal in persuasion, come in groups of three. Throughout each of these 13 solid mixes of metallic beauty each member provides an invaluable part to the whole, often more than one part actually. Mr. Rust puts forth a highly active bass performance while taking time to put form several classic dirty vocal styles, including a gravely punk/thrash shout, a set of guttural barks that invoke both David Vincent and Chuck Schuldiner, and some more blackened screams coming closer to an Attila or a Nocturno Culto sound. Baron Murtland is the most restrained of the 3, but his riff work and lead breaks are masterfully accomplished and intricate. Miss Randall, who held her own in a speed playing contest with several proficient male drummers, plays the role of multi-instrumentalist by providing some keyboards in addition to her consonant yet attitude driven rock vocals and brutal rhythmic patterns.
While “Stendhal Syndrome” dished out a shorter and more compact version of what this band is capable of, “Possessor” brings to full fruition the potential locked within. Far from being a 50 minute fit of technical showboating, what emerges are a series of very catchy works that can be both sung along to and admired for their sheer abstractness. “Somnambulist Possession” and “A Poisoned Letter” are classic examples of this, featuring beautifully crafted chorus melodies delivered in a dark angelic fashion by Miss Randall, with Mr. Rush chiming in with his varying extreme metal vocal characters. “Day Of The Dead” and “Mondo Cane” take more of a thrash metal approach riff wise, but the underlying melodic quality endures. There is an underlying Iron Maiden, Venom and otherwise general NWOBHM vibe to most of these songs, but the presentation is much more involved and occasionally brings in influences from early 80s Rush. The most notable example of this can be found on “Jerusalem Cricket Souffle”, which merges elements of Maiden’s “Transylvania”, Sabbath’s “Rat Salad” and Rush’s “YYZ”.
For anyone who wants more than just another homage to one of the elder greats in Metal’s history, “Possessor” is definitely a place to start looking. It might be a bit premature given the highly anticipated releases up and coming from 2009 out of Immortal and Megadeth, but I can pretty comfortably say that this is one of the best albums to come out this year. It lives in a world all its own, one where the most horrific visual depictions walk side by side with an enticing collection of sounds. I was fortunate enough to get the limited edition release with the vinyl-like CD design, which is a fitting one given the commonalities this shares with the tenaciously nonconformist metal works of the early to mid 80s. Break out the spell books and get yourself to the local cemetery, the magic of metal is back.
- At The House By The Cemetery (intro)
- Day Of The Dead
- Mondo Cane
- The Serial Kind
- Those Who Flee From The Sun
- Wings Of A Demon
- Malefice (Intermission)
- Somnambulist Possession
- Jerusalem Cricket Soufflé
- The Entity (Ghostly Lust)
- A Poisoned Letter
- Mandragora Screams
- Rituales De Sangre (Outro)