Review Summary: If you think Terra Incognita demonstrated Gojira's most straight-forward death metal roots, you haven't heard Possessed.
Before they released their first full-length, these four Frenchman released a trio of demos under the moniker Godzilla
is the second of these demos, and demonstrates a much simpler, straight-forward approach to death metal than is to be found on any of their full-length albums. There is also a thrash influence that is most present in the tracks “Bleeding”
and “Brutal Abortion”
, along with some identifiable elements that foreshadow the direction Gojira’s sound would soon take.
Those who have had the pleasure of hearing all of Gojira’s albums have noticed the distinct difference in production quality between their first two releases and their next two. While the production of Terra Incognita
and The Link
are nothing to scoff at (given the industry standard for early metal releases), it still leaves much to be desired. It comes as no surprise, then, that Gojira’s early demos are of yet even lower quality production. The title track’s rattling and rumbling low frequencies are the first indication of this, but it does carry with it a certain brutal charm and morbid character that fits well with their early sound.
The guitars are heavy, down-tuned and muddy while the drums are sharp and pummeling. Mario Duplantier unfortunately doesn’t demonstrate the unique style and immense skill behind the drums that he so generously does moving forward, but this can be attributed mostly to the stylistic difference between early Godzilla and the broader Gojira sound. The same can be said for the guitars, as the muddy tremolo-picking and palm-muted chugging doesn’t have room to shine compared the the hybrid styles that ultimately developed with their sound.
Vocally, Joe Duplantier strictly adheres to a death metal growling style, although he varies in pitch effectively to accentuate the riffing appropriately and avoid monotony. There are a few instances where vocal layering is used to achieve the demonic effect that appears numerous times in Terra Incognita, but otherwise Joe showcases none of the great vocal techniques he would later use (such as clean vocals, throat-singing and tonal growling).
There are some great heavy riffs to be found in the first four tracks, with the most memorable ones found in the title track and “End of Time”, but one of the demo’s strongest moments is the final track “Mandragore”
. This short acoustic piece has string accompaniment and a very sombre yet minstrel quality that is not heard anywhere else in the Gojira discography. I wouldn’t have minded if this track were bit longer and was allowed to more fully develop, especially since we may never hear this style of hauntingly beautiful composition from the French quartet again.
While not indicative of the more developed sound of later Gojira releases, Possessed has an important place in their sonic evolution. The production quality is poor, and the songs are strangely unoriginal for those who are familiar with Gojira’s full-lengths. That said, this is only an early demo, and is still a short and solid collection of songs that gives great insight to their roots.