Lockdown couldn’t stop the metallic juggernaut that is Possessor. And according to drummer Nathan Perrier, the pandemic won’t extinguish the underground either. Rich Holmes got the lowdown on the band’s new album, Damn The Light – and explored the trio’s ongoing evolution.
The shutters have gone down on treasured venues.
Live shows have been replaced by live streams.
Festivals have been mothballed.
And underground acts have had to scrape by, having been denied the gig network and cultural infrastructure that sustains them.
Yet in a year which has seldom offered joy and excitement, we’ve been gifted some spectacular music.
Bands have learned to adapt. To explore new ways of working. To think outside the isolation box.
In the case of Possessor, lockdown hasn’t prevented them from crafting a career-best in Damn The Light, an iron-clad behemoth of a record that revels in the joy of heavy metal, and could never be shoehorned into any stylistic straightjacket.
NWOBHM, proto-thrash, noise rock, Iommian sludge… they’re melded together into gnarly anthems like Bloodsuckers and Razorback.
Bearing salvos of mighty riffs courtesy of founder Graham Bywater, Damn The Light, released on APF Records, surpasses albums like 2019’s Gravelands for song writing suss and rhythmic dexterity.
Produced by Wayne Adams and recorded at Bear Bites Horse studio, it’s a raw, passionate and organic-sounding record, a milestone for this prolific act.
And for drummer Nathan Perrier – who joined the London-based outfit last year – Damn The Light represents one hell of an achievement, especially given the trials and tribulations 2020 has brought with it.
“I think you’re always proud of a new record, but the exceptional circumstances under which we made this one make it something special,” says Perrier. “The whole thing – bar one song, Coffin Fit – was written and rehearsed separately in South London and on the Isle of Wight.
“Graham and myself were back and forth with drum machine demos, dictaphone recordings and WhatsApp videos.
“We had never played 99% of the material together until day one in the studio.
“We are super happy with what we achieved with Wayne’s help – we’re proud it even exists!
“Now the reviews are coming out it’s exciting to see people getting what we were trying to do with it – to elevate all the previous attributes of Possessor to the next level and make a standalone metal album.”
Like its predecessors, including 2014’s Electric Hell, 2016’s Dead By Dawn and 2017’s The Ripper, Damn The Light is steeped in horror fiction and cinema.
Perrier cites Stephen King, Italian director Lucio Fulci and even vintage X-Files as inspirations this time around, and the album is wrapped in a suitably menacing cover, courtesy of Quebec-based artist Alexandre Goulet.
But where did Possessor take their musical cues from?
Well, check out this little list from the sticksman…
“Enslaved, Dissection, mid-era Darkthrone, late 70s to mid-80s Rush, lots of death metal, some Maiden and albums two and three by Megadeth.
“I was on a complete Gar Samuelson binge in the run up to recording and would play Black Friday every morning on the kit until it hurt!”
That’s some array of influences, it has to be said…
“I’m just going to directly quote Graham here, ‘why play in one style when you can have them all?’,” laughs Perrier. “I think the refusal to be pigeonholed is going to benefit the band in the long run.
“Scenes and trends come and go but good music will stand the rest of time.
“With the exception of the mighty Quo, all the best bands evolve and grow beyond their beginnings.
“We just like exploring great riffs.”
Possessor aren’t standing still
Perrier, who has played with legendary instrumetallers Capricorns, blackened thrashers Satan’s Wrath and psych doom outfit 11 Paranoias, witnessed Possessor’s creative growth over the last few years, before eventually joining up with Bywater.
“From an outsider perspective it’s clear to see there has been a natural evolution from being a one man, self-recorded awesome bedroom project to a fully-fledged studio recording and live band,” the drummer observes. “This has happened slowly but surely since 2013 with one constant, which is Graham at the helm.
“Over the releases he’s gained so much experience and tried so many things that the end result is where we are now – a guy who knows what works and how to heap sick riff after sick riff to make great music.
“I also love hearing the chronology of his journey in shredding.
“The solos on this record are exquisite!”
He continues: “Graham is a machine. He gets shit done.
“It’s refreshing to be around at this stage in my musical journey.”
Perrier’s dynamic kitwork has undoubtedly helped Possessor move forward too. His drumming electrifies songs like Fresh Hell and Take It To The Grave, a tale based on the Beast of Jersey – for which he also wrote the lyrics.
Power, subtlety and groove all come into play.
For fans familiar with his previous work, that should come as no surprise.
Indeed, in his own words, Perrier has “been around the block”.
More than two decades on the UK underground’s frontlines has taught him a thing or two…
“I’ve learned a fair bit about what works for me and what doesn’t,” he explains. “Ultimately what I wanted to bring to Possessor was a deeper connection between the riffs and the drums.
“I wanted to bring some colour into the rhythm section and put something powerful and a bit different behind these killer riffs… plus lots of toms.
“All my heroes have lots of toms. I cannot understand why as a drummer you wouldn’t want lots of toms!
“As far as writing goes, me and Graham work well together, we generally agree when something is working and when it isn’t.”
Possessor in the pandemic
Possessor were due to play London riff extravaganza Desertfest in May this year, showcasing their new line-up to metal fands from the UK and beyond.
That festival is just one of many postponed until 2021, with touring both at home and abroad a distant dream for the time being.
Perrier, evidently, feels a sense of loss.
“It’s tragic, devastating for our little industry and sadly everyone is in the same boat,” he says.
“In all honesty though there are worse things happening to people. We miss the gigs. More so, we miss meeting our people and friends who we always see at gigs. A large chunk of our social well-being, if you will, is on ice.”
He continues: “I don’t want to complain though because we are grateful we got to make this album.
“APF records were our rock to cling to through this pandemic and Damn The Light at least gave us purpose.
“For that we are the lucky ones.”
He admits that he’s concerned over the future of underground venues and the metal scene, given the ongoing restrictions.
Yet he does offer some hope for the future.
“One thing which is always true of the underground is that it will always be there.
“Venues may and have changed – I’ve been at this for 25 years and have seen them come and go.
“But here we are.
“And the underground will survive.”
Damn The Light is out now on APF Records.
Check out our review of Damn The Light here.