INTERVIEW: Possessor

Interview By Carina Lawrence

Possessor are a horror metal themed trio from London, UK and they have recently unleashed their latest album titled ‘Damn The Light’ on October 30th 2020 via APF Records. A lot is going on in this monstrously heavy album with many different rock and metal elements that merge to form an interesting and hard-hitting sound that is exciting and riddled with horror film references. Guitarist/vocalist Graham Bywater describes their sound as “South London based bastard love child of Sam Raimi and Ingrid Pitt” – intrigued?! Read on to find out all about them, the new album and the challenges of releasing music during the coronavirus lockdown/pandemic.

Going back to the beginning, how did Possessor come to form? 

Myself, Graham and just me around Christmas 2013 after starting a course of meds. It was never intended as much more than an excuse to play some metal in the vein of Cannibal Corpse, Hellhammer and Kyuss at the same time and done quickly and scrappily.

What made you decide on the name Possessor for the band?

We get asked this a lot. It’s just a mash up of two classic old school metal bands. Possessed and Confessor.

For those not familiar how would you describe your sound?

Like a monstrous swamp beast about to pounce on you with high gain amps and no remorse. Or just as the South London based bastard love child of Sam Raimi and Ingrid Pitt. 

So onto the new album, ‘Damn The Light’ how did you arrive at this title and what does it mean to you?

It’s connected almost entirely to the current global pandemic which has made us all curse each stressful day. So many bad things have happened this year I personally just want to go back to bed and pull the blinds down.  It’s also what I like to think vampires feel like during the sunlight. Ever seen the film Near Dark? That’s a good example of what I mean. 

The new album was written entirely at home due to the Covid-19 lockdown, what was that like? That must have been quite challenging?

It was and it wasn’t. It was a totally new experience rehearsing in totally remote locations but we enjoyed it and made it work. It was, I guess, a good distraction from the covid storm. It was an unusual vibe rocking up to the studio on the first day and realising we hadn’t rehearse these songs in the same room until that point. I dunno,  there were some worrying moments but we knew we had to make this record and it had to be at that exact time. The positive energy levels were high from the start and it didn’t take long to piece together. I always write as a body of work and no exactly where each component and song will go. We even tried to playing to click track for the first time but fuck that! Ha. We sounded atrocious. Possessor needs be natural like we are live. If we speed up so be it! That was how we were feeling at that point in time. 

All the song titles are quite dark, what are the main lyrical themes and where did you draw inspiration from? 

Ah it’s often very tongue in cheek like all the best heavy metal. I don’t take song titles at all seriously and more often than not just use the title of a film I’m not massively impressed with. There’s a song called Razorback named after the Australian Killer boar film. It’s not one of my favourite films but I like the trashiness and oddness of it, much like the film Rawhead Rex! So silly and not hugely brilliant but deserving of a dedication in lyrical form. Fresh Hell is directly about the pandemic, Take it the Grave kinda named itself, Scalpel sounds like a Scalpel and Coffin Fit, well that’s just dumb but it stuck so…

Obviously, it was nicely timed with Halloween releasing on the 30th!

Yes that was the plan all along. It helped hugely to have a deadline and work towards it. I’d say it’s helped the release quite a bit. Maybe next year we can do a Christmas album. 

How happy are you with how the album turned out especially given the extra challenges posed by coronavirus?

It’s definitely our most complex and far-out record yet but it’s also the heaviest and most concise. It’s had some very positive reviews which have taken us aback and it warms my heart that people have GOT this album so much more than the others. It seems fairly obvious that the world needs something positive right now. Everyone knows the conditions this was written under and people can relate to that. We’re all proud of it! I’m proud of everyone involved too. Nathan’s drumming is fucking wild! He worked his ass off on this. I guess we all did. 

What has the reaction been like so far from fans? Again, due to covid you are having to gage reaction on comments/video views rather than live shows, how different does it make the whole process of releasing an album at this time?

We’ve been lucky as we actually got to do an album launch. Seated and very carefully operated but still very cool. It was odd played live again after so long and I don’t personally think I played my best as I kept forgetting we weren’t just rehearsing! 

The album artwork looks very cool and evil, almost like a horror film poster, how did that design come together? 

That’s the work of Alexandre Goulet from Quebec. I was so smitten with some of his previous works I got in touch and thankfully our shared love of horror films meant he jumped on board and got to work in no time at all. The idea was simple; make the album look like an old dog eared Stephen King book from the library. Minimal but hugely enticing. 

Any there any plans to potentially do a live stream event like other bands have been doing or is that not possible?

Other than our album launch we are hoping to do a stream in December with some friends. They’ve been experimenting with an Old Grey Whistle Test kinda thing for underground headbangers. Keep your eyes open for that! 

How do you think the new album compares to your previous material?

It’s just a natural progression. I haven’t listened to our first album Electric Hell for years and I don’t really want to as I’d probably be critical and embarrassed ha. But maybe not! I like to just keep moving and evolving and getting more and more like the band I wanna hear in my head. I think since Dead by Dawn we’ve found our sound and style more and I’m happy with everything we’ve done up until now. I’m chuffed people are still discovering the older albums through The Ripper and Gravelands though, and I hope it’s clear as day that Damn The Light is the culmination of everything that came before and also our strongest body of work yet. I’ve always attempted to make albums play out like films and this one is definitely the closest we’ve got so far. I’ve been told it’s as exciting as it is creepy and scary…that’s a horror film right there. 

Other than working on the album during the lockdown, what else did you get up to and what plans do you have for the unfortune new UK (November) lockdown? 

We’ve focussed on this record and little else. There’s been a lot of PR and promo work as well as making a promo video with our new bass player Ollie. That was done super low budget on a couple of gopros. 
Personally there’s been some hard times and struggles but luckily I have a great family and circle of friends that make it all worth while. 

Do you think you will start work on new material right away?

Absolutely. We have a load of new stuff already written and ready. We aren’t going to rush into anything though as we need to let this album breathe first. I will say though, the new stuff is another progression and more akin to tracks like Scalpel and Return to slaughter high from the new album. 

Is there anything else you would like to add or share with us?

Stay positive and keep an eye on your loved ones. Oh and listen to our new album with a beer and a date. 

Listen to ‘Coffin Fit’ below:

Buy ‘Damn The Light’ here:

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