Venom’s “Possessed” and the case for what might have been.

There’s a narrative, running through my mind. It involves some band. I’m gonna say it’s Metallica. That may or may not be correct, but let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good story. The telling of this tale – let’s say it was Kirk Hammett relaying this event. Metallica write a bunch of songs. They are proud as punch of those songs. They rehearse, they demo, they rehearse some more… you get the idea.

Enter Rick Rubin. Rick’s the guy that made a whole slew of Hip Hop records, before taking his hand to the thrash metal genre, delivering the greatest offering ever recorded, Slayer’s Reign In Blood. The sound, the fury – Rick knew how to get a band to deliver the goods. No one’s going to argue with this. So Rubin comes along, and listens to Metallica’s songs. He says 10 are rubbish, and there’s two they can keep. What I don’t know about Hip Hop could fill a library, but I can definitely say that Rubin knows how to ensure bands deliver a focused, concise offering, that sounds a-may-zing!

Let’s recap on the key themes to date.

Rubin’s records are concise.

Rubin only delivers classics.

Rubin’s records sound amazing.

What has this got to do with Possessed by Venom, you ask? Everything. It has everything to do with Venom.

Venom made three excellent albums. They (inadvertently perhaps) gave life to a genre that still reigns til this day. Depending on who you listen to, they were kind of a big deal. In fact, their third album, At War With Satan was intended to liberate them from obscurity, dropping them right into the mainstream. It may have been naive to think that AWWS was to be their Ace Of Spades, but dare to dream, right? Unfortunately, this utopian vision didn’t manifest. Despite that, the band’s fingerprints are worn into countless bands that followed in their nuclear wake, and like many a pioneering artist, those who drank from their putrid well, would experience a success wildly beyond the experience of the progenitors.

Where AWWS could have been the trio’s world destroyer, the fourth Venom LP, Possessed, had no chance – speaking subjectivity or otherwise. So, how may have this scenario been different? How could history have been rewritten? While the planets wouldn’t have aligned for Rubin to conduct AWWS, he could have definitely made Possessed his maiden metal voyage. And you know what? Venom would have landed in a magickal place had that happened.

Tell me more.

Conrad and the lads would have played him the four-songs-longer-than-it-needed-to-be Possessed, and Rubin would have told them what he told Metallica. Keep these three, and junk the rest. And he would have been 100% correct to do so. While Powerdrive, Satanachist, Burn This Place (To The Ground) and Too Loud (For The Crowd) are tidy enough orchestrations, the other 40 songs are seven shades of drab. The record is consistent – consistently underwhelming. They made AWWS, followed that with the monstrous 12”, Manitou and then this? And you want to know why? Because Rick Rubin never came along to tell them the songs weren’t good enough. He never told them to scrap all the songs, south of anything they dropped between 81 and ‘84. They were left to their own devices, and they produced something that sounds a little muffled, and slightly more uninspired. They dropped a record that failed to advance them. If I’m to be earnest here, on Possessed, they sound defeated.

Now, if I could go back in time and have Rick Rubin take his hand to Possessed, would I want that to happen? Not really. My fear is that could have affected the outcome of Slayer’s third studio offensive, and I would never wish or want for that. I doubt Rick Rubin’s name even made the short list. Keith Nichol was to Venom, what Vic Maile was to Motörhead, except they didn’t have Little Philthy to create a ruckus and oust him. Motörhead never employed Rick Rubin either, so maybe that’s not a good example of how that would have played out.

I’ll tell you that Possessed is no more than good enough. If you want to get a picture of this recording through the eyes of someone who really feels it, dig out an interview with the Archgoat guys. This is the record that set them on the path to Black Metal dominion. For that alone, this record should be acknowledged.

I also think the cover is colossally stupid.

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