Possessed - Beyond the Gates - October 31, 1986
Given that Possessed's first effort was one of the most extreme and brutal thrash metal releases ever, hopes must have been high for their sophomore effort. Presumably to the chagrin of many (some?) though, Larry LaLonde's dirty little secret seems to make a concerted effort to sound more like Metallica rather than Death on Beyond the Gates. While it's definitely not a bad thing to refine a sound to a desired goal, Seven Churches was such a revelation that this album can be seen as nothing but a disappointment. Is it an enjoyable listen? Of course it is. The overall tone is still oppressively heavy, with Jeff Becerra's barking vocals leading the way over the whirling guitars and pounding drums.
What's that I hear, though? Is that a hint of melody in the vocals, especially noticeable on "Phantasm"? Is that a riff that sounds like an early demo of "Trapped Under Ice" ("Tribulation")? The answer is yes. This is a band who has decided to reel themselves in, and let other bands blaze the trail to death metal, content to become an also-ran in the thrash metal genre.
I'm being harsh though. This is a good album, as far as thrash in 1986 goes, and probably among the top 10 releases of that year. There are still few bands heavier than Possessed at this point, but there are also bands who play tighter and write more interesting songs.
Standouts: No Will To Live, Tribulation, March To Die