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My gods, I remember buying this at a used record store in my home town because I liked the cover--simple and effective--and I was a big fan of what was on both Combat Records and Metal Blade Recrods at the time (early 80s). This was when Metal Blade were the best in the field and Combat was right up there with them, mind you.
Then I got home and threw it on the turntable and was amazed at the rush of fury and power that bellowed from my speakers after the haunting intro of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" (better known as the theme from William Friedkin's classic horror epic, "The Exorcist") . And the song of that same title follows it with razor-sharp riffing and Jeff Becerra's glass-gargling screams and growls over Mike Sus' chaotic drumming. Sus' coming from a jazz background accounted for his off-kilter style that was atypical of drummers in those days.
Mike Torrao and Larry LaLonde (who'd have thought he would go on to Primus after this?) scatter, spray, and shred shards of screaming metal madness in the form of lead guitar breaks that took what Slayer laid down and ran with it. And twisted it into a whole new mutation of extremity that was at the time unprecedented. Torrao's style was the more predictable of the two, as he tended to play a lot of the same licks and patterns, whereas LaLonde was slightly more inventive--as a student of the great Joe Satriani I expect no less. Their riffing was bizarre and weird, and it was utterly their own sound as they went for the throat. Larry simply shrugs this off as "a bunch of drunken kids from El Sobrante trying to be heavy" these days, but I don't know if he realizes just how much influence these early recordings of his hold in the underground. On the title track, bludgeoning beast that it is, they are at their most deranged and manic and it is a wonderful sound indeed.
Jeff Becerra was the first vocalist I was aware of to do this sort of thing, the glass-gargling growl/scream approach, and he sounds really sick on this album. He sounds as though he wants to break into your house and massacre your entire family before your eyes! as he pukes out what at the time were shockingly Satanic lyrics Of course, some would argue that his vocals are over the top, but what do they know? His bass work for the most part stays in the background anchoring the low end, but he gets in some tricky unison bits on "Pentagram" after each chorus. It's all about his vocals on this album and he sounds frightening, which is what matters. And vibe and feeling are what this is about.
The production is one of the few Carl Candey production jobs I like, as it has a nicely cavernous ambience that conveys the otherworldly feel Possessed had at their best, that feeling of madness sent by the Lovecraftian Elder Gods that Morbid Angel later on harnessed to such deadly effect. WIthout this band, it can be argued that MA would've sounded far different were it not for their inspiration. The guitars are crunchy and evil, the drums boom out at you like artillery fire, and the vocals are just right in the mix, muddy though it comes off as at times.
This is a perfect intro to the roots of modern death metal and you need it for purposes of context and history as well as incredible shredding power. Look to the title track (one of the best death metal songs ever, IMO), "Pentagram", and "Burning In Hell" for standouts to illustrate the scope of their sound, as well as "Fallen Angel" with its tricky verse riffing. Just get this already. You need it.