35 Years of Brutality And Evilness - Tribute to POSSESSED's Beyond the Gates
All interviews conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 31, 2021
We recorded at Prairie Sun Studios. This was the same studio that we used during the recording of Seven Churches. Although this time we had Carl Canedy (The Rods/Manowar/Thrasher) producing us. We had been getting a lot of grief from the PMRC and others opposed to our type of music as well as freedom of speech. They had already pulled most of our albums off the shelves. We tried toning it down a little, but you know me. I was trying to bring an added sense of atmosphere and storytelling to Beyond the Gates as well as singing about subjects other than Satan. In the end, BtG was, in my opinion, a very dark and atmospheric album. This was our second offering to Combat Records and, according to the record label owner Steve Sinclair, we were the highest-selling album on Combat that year, which is saying a lot as we were in great company. One thing for certain is that BtG added depth to our setlist and brought Possessed up from the deepest recesses of the extreme underground up into the sun where we could reach a lot more people. Soon afterwards we started garnering interest from the majors. As far as the actual recording process we did it much the same way as Churches, as far as my bass/vocals at least. By this time Larry was writing some of the music and also played all the rhythm guitar tracks since he was such an amazing guitarist and kept better time. Of course, Torreo was a genius and wrote music that was amazing in and of itself. He was able to really step outside himself and, in my opinion, write some incredibly colorful music. We were still in the Wild West as far as extreme metal so almost everything we did was new sounding. As a band I think we were operating at the highest level possible considering the time. Originally, we had a really amazing guitar sound. Unfortunately, once the master tapes left the studio there were some difficulties during the mastering and we lost most of the distortion and quality of guitar. Still, I think it is still a really solid album as far as writing and vocal work. I love Beyond the Gates because it's this weird Frankenstein of an album and was the beginning of us becoming more than just a one-trick pony band. I also remember this album sparking my interest in becoming the best band possible as far as what we could accomplish. Keep in mind that Larry and I were still teenagers. And even though I am always critical of my work I know in my heart of hearts that every Possessed album took an amazing effort. I have always suffered for my craft and am always so deep in my own mind during the creation of my lyrics and my vocals. I can't help it but to be happy with its outcome. And of course, it's always the goal that our friends, fans, supporters and listeners enjoy the album. Beyond the Gates was an important part of our relationship with our music, our listeners and the development of Possessed. I wrote each album as a continuation of the next and as a continuous story. So hopefully, when all is said and done people will continue to hear each one of our albums both individually and as a whole catalog and remember Beyond the Gates.
- Foreword by Jeff Becerra on September 4, 2021
Huge thanks to everyone for their participation in this 35th anniversary retrospective of Beyond the Gates by Possessed
When did you hear Beyond the Gates for the first time and what was your initial reaction?
Qojau (IMPERIAL): I listened to this album in 1987 or 1988, when I borrowed it from the municipal library in my city. It was not a revolutionary album for me because I had already used to the sound of Venom and European thrash in general, but I immediately loved this album due to the quality of its song compositions and dry sound, which influenced my playing a lot, especially a song like "Tribulation."
S.A. Destroyer (NOCTURNAL BREED): I don't remember exactly, but it must have been about a year after it came out. As with everything back then, it was pretty hard to get hold of initially being up in Norway and all. I eventually got it on cassette. My initial reaction was that it was pretty cool. It was evil and wicked and made me bang my head and that was all I cared about back in those days. I always loved the cover art and I still think it is a unique one, and it suits the music very well, even though it sounds a bit less thought out than Seven Churches. More spontaneously created so to say, but it sounds great. There is a more back alley kind of sound on this one and it is pretty close to the early Exodus stuff in sound and production. Just a very cool Thrash sound in my eyes, and a forgotten gem nowadays. ;)
Witchhammer (WITCHTRAP): I was only 14 years old and had just started being part of the metal scene in early 1987, February as far as I remember. I think I listened to Beyond the Gates for the first time in late summer of 1987. Let me tell you something, this shit blew my fucking head off. It was like a truck with Satan at the wheel smashing into me. Every single song has something that flies and whispers constantly in my mind. The intro was something like a calm before the storm, the guitar tone is exclusive and the drum fills are unique and the mighty voice of Becerra were the perfect combination to signal the gates of hell hide something ready to destroy whatever is out there once they are opened. There are a couple songs side B of the vinyl that I don't enjoy as much, although it's a great album. Songs such as "The Heretic," "Tribulation," "March to Die," "Phantasm," "No Will to Live" (my favorite), "The Beast of Apocalypse," "Seance," "Restless Dead," etc. - just wow man, these songs are the fucking shit! I have to mention the first album I heard from Possessed was this one and afterward I was hooked on Possessed insanely.
Carlos Villegas (HEXORCIST): The first time I remember listening to this album was while driving to college. It was given to me by the guitarist from my old band Devastator. I thought that album was, and still is, one of the best thrash metal albums of all time. Everything from the production to Jeff Becerra's vocals is perfect.
Wannes Gubbels (PENTACLE): The first song I heard was "The Beasts of the Apocalypse" on Vara's Vuurwerk radio show broadcast on Dutch national radio. I was already familiar with the Seven Churches LP and read somewhere (Aardschok Magazine, I guess?) Possessed recorded a new album, due to be released "soon." Back in the days, one didn't know if this meant weeks or months (the latter one being far more realistic), but I knew something was coming up and kept my eyes and ears open for it. This song was the first actual sign of things to come, and I enjoyed it. Needless to say, I was already a Possessed fan. "Seven Churches" was a big fave of mine, so obviously I was looking forward to their next offering. The album received its first spin at our small, but very well stocked record shop in the town of Bladel where I lived at the time. I visited the shop once or twice a week to check out if they had received anything new. And one day, there it was. Wrapped in foil and with the white sticker on the front, it stood proudly on the shelves above the record bins: Possessed's Beyond the Gates. I asked the employee behind the counter to play the record for me, which she did. I remember only too well being enchanted by the intro when all hell broke loose with "The Heretic." I was a teenager on a quest for anything heavy, so this was certainly a record I was searching for. I remember my mom talking to me while I was wearing headphones, trying to absorb the songs and I can tell you I wasn't interested in her talk about doing groceries at all, hehe... Straight away convinced about the quality of the album, I bought the record and took it home with me. "The Heretic," "Tribulation," "Phantasm" and the title track became personal favorites, but I loved the album as a whole. Granted, Beyond... felt a little bit less brutal than Seven Churches. The song writing was more complex and the riffs more intricate. It was less straight-ahead brutality but offered more twists and turns. I thought the production sounded strange. It wasn't very clear and sounded somewhat muffled which took away some overall energy and the details of the songs. Yet, without this particular sound, the album wouldn't be as atmospheric as it was. Strange enough, even with its downfalls this production adds a lot of charm and vibe to Beyond... Yes, it would be very interesting to hear the songs with a crisp and clear production, but it would change the vibe of the album totally and I have my doubts if this would benefit the overall experience. I prefer to keep it as it is. I had never seen anything like the cover. It was really strange but fit the overall atmosphere of the album very well. And the inside... a true wasteland! The band photos on the back of the album were awesome. I always thought some of the individual shots were taken at the Word War III festival, but I am not sure about that. I have to dig out the photos I own to verify this, but even when I bought the record, I thought this was the case. Anyhow, I loved the layout of the photos. The reddish/orange/yellow colors of the cover sleeve gave the album an infernal visual experience, which perfectly fit the lyrics and vibe of the songs themselves. As always, I loved the photo collage and felt intrigued by the apocalyptic messages of the lyrics. It was a slightly different approach from the satanic ranting of Seven Churches and offered more different subjects, but were still depressing enough for me, haha! Jeff's vocals sounded sick to my ears. More suffering I would say. It's hard to explain, but I hope you understand my point. A case of pocket money well invested!
Evilkrusher (DEATHLY SCYTHE): My first encounter with Possessed's Beyond the Gates album was during the winter of 2001. I remember that a classmate from school showed me the almighty Seven Churches (on a CD-R with xeroxed covers) and I recall what fuckin' impressed me was the flaming, evil logo of the band. The whole imagery was unbelievable. After hearing the first tune "The Exorcist" I couldn't believe the dark intensity of the music and the infernal fury of the voice that this band expelled! To make it short, after that experience, my life fuckin' changed, haha...! And after such a hammer blow to my fuckin' brain, I wanted to discover more about this band. Back then I didn't have enough money or contacts to buy original tapes nor CDs. I was fuckin' lucky that a couple of months after discovering the mighty Seven Churches at a random flea market I came across Beyond the Gates on CD! I bought it with a fuckin' evil smile on my face because it was the 1999 Century Media version that includes The Eyes of Horror EP, too! Holy Hell...! After such a dark melancholic intro before "The Heretic" I was impressed that the sound was cleaner and very focused on the guitar sound. Nonetheless, I was completely amazed by the savagery of the riffs and the intense drumming and, of course, the fuckin' full of hate feeling of the vocals! Fuck! I can sing every single song from this album; actually, I know the lyrics by heart! I would dare to say that "No Will to Live" and "The Beasts of the Apocalypse" are the peak of Becerra's vocals!
Erik Kristhammar (INSANE): I think I heard Beyond the Gates after reading about the album on an old forum called "Swedish Thrash Assault." I was pretty young at the time and had only listened to Seven Churches. I remember I was surprised that BtG had much more of a thrash vibe compared to Seven Churches and I really appreciated the album from the first spin. "March to Die" was my favorite song and that album helped me dig deeper and understand Possessed. Nowadays I understand what an extreme record it is, but my first thought was the opposite. It is still today one of my most played older albums.
Rob Durrant (KEMAKIL): I first heard the album back in 1986 with my first encounter being the track "No Will to Live," which was played on a radio rock show. It really was an evil-sounding track filled with the dread of nuclear war. Possessed had the knack of writing riffs that sounded almost cheerful but fearful at the same time!
Ronnie Vanderwey (DEAD HEAD): From the start when we were forming our band Dead Head in the spring of 1989 this Possessed was a band that was triggering all the band members. We already knew Seven Churches by then. I think it must have been the summer of 1989 that I was really playing Beyond the Gates seriously.
The vocals were different from the standard death metal style, which was low and deep as possible. Jeff was singing in a more hysterical and penetrating way, with a lot of poison, but yet very pronounced and articulated. I also remember that I was not really upset by the fact that their second album sounded way less massive than the debut. I think this is caused by the fact that (you may qualify BtG as being badly produced) the result is very nasty and evil. Technically speaking the production is not what you may expect from a band with Possessed's status, but I find it is more a coincidence that it turned out this way.
You may conclude that the sound of BtG is far more direct and thinner than Seven Churches. I think that is exactly the reason that this album cuts like a knife, sound-wise. And considering the level of quality of the songs and riffs, this album is as good as Seven Churches. Or maybe even better.
Helregni (FILII NIGRANTIUM INFERNALIUM): Back in the late eighties, the teenage me was becoming ever more enthusiastic about the heavier sounds that were emerging and that were harder to find. I remember seeing bands in the magazines and going, "these guys look great, look at all that leather and spikes... I hope I manage to listen to their sound someday." A feeling today's younger people never had. We used to buy a record, in the rare instances when we could afford one, often based on how great the cover artwork and back photos looked. My first contact with Possessed was listening to their brutal song "Pentagram" when I bought that amazing introduction to some of the most killer bands ever (!) called Speed Kills – The Very Best in Speed Metal. The truth is I actually bought Beyond the Gates before a friend recorded a cassette with Seven Churches on one side and Venom – The Singles 80-86' on the other for me. I cannot say how many times I played that tape on my Walkman, sometimes it was just in endless rotation during the day.
Beyond the Gates was a constant presence on my turntable around the turn of that decade. I feel pretty sure that even today I can remember the vast majority of the lyrics by heart (I have to play it again later tonight and give it a go). I loved the fact that the "gates" of the vinyl truly opened (even though I always thought the illustration of Hell inside was far too simplistic and underpopulated). I loved the photos on the back cover amidst all that fire with the huge, demon-tailed logo above, and I loved all the songs! That kid I was would headbang in his room while barking "March to die! Die! Die!" and enjoy himself immensely in those early days of a lifetime dedicated to this amazing sound. True, it sounds more polished than the avalanche of satanic darkness in Seven Churches, but I never thought about it that way back then. It sounded devilish, heavy and metallic! A true '80s black metal album for me, all the way (I could never buy into that "Death Metal creators" tag that's so often repeated these days, Chuck was the father!) By the time The Eyes of Horror came out, they had certainly morphed into a regular Thrash band, but I only felt the change then, not before.
Dee Dee Altar (BUNKER 66): It was 15 years ago, more or less. I only knew Seven Churches back then and was (and still am) really into it and I came across Beyond the Gates in a record shop, the beautiful triptych Under One Flag vinyl version. Instant buy, of course, listening to it right now! I remember I kind of felt a little bit weirded out because everything was more "controlled" and not so wild as on Seven Churches but after a couple of listens it grew and grew.
Alvaro Fernandes (DEMENTIA 13): I really can't remember when that happened, to be honest. I remember listening to Seven Churches for the first time, though. Back in the day we did tape trading in the underground scene and someone sent me a few albums on a couple of tapes and that must have been around 1991/92. There was Death's Spiritual Healing, Sodom's Better Off Dead and Possessed's Seven Churches. It didn't get a very positive impression from me because back then I was more into heavy metal and hard rock like W.A.S.P., Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Mötley Crüe and so on. It was a bit later when I got into more extreme stuff that I really paid attention to bands like Possessed. So, by the time I listened to Beyond the Gates, a few years later, I was already listening to thrash and death metal bands. That's how far I can remember. But I have always loved Beyond the Gates since I first listened to it and Possessed has been a long-time influence on me.
Sadistik Fornicator (NECROMANIAC): Ave Luxi! First of all, thanks a lot for your interest in Necromaniac and for inviting us to participate in this fitting tribute to this monumental death metal institution, it is truly an absolute honor! Possessed is, needless to say, not only regarded as one of the major inspirations and biggest influences by every single death metal act that came after them, but also as one of the genre's true purveyors and originators. Without their output and legacy, our outlook on music in general would not be the same, so we'll always be proud to show our veneration and respect to these ancient masters until the day we shuffle off this mortal coil. To answer your first question, I'll start by saying that growing up in a small conservative town in Spain in the pre-internet days it was sometimes really hard to find releases by obscure '80s metal bands during my teenage years back in the early to mid-'90s. It wasn't until sometime after I had already moved to London in the late '90s that I finally managed to find a vinyl copy in a second-hand record store and listened to Beyond the Gates for the very first time. My initial reaction was that this album was slightly different from Seven Churches and even though I've always liked it since the very first time I listened to it I always thought that it was unfortunately slightly overshadowed by its predecessor. A sentiment that I still maintain to this very day. Seven Churches is a very unique album and has a really dark and evil atmosphere, something that, in my opinion, is perhaps not so obvious on Beyond the Gates upon the first few listens, but once you are able to stop comparing it to Seven Churches, the album really opens up its gates and shows that it's just composed of slightly different shades of the very same infernal atmospheres found on the band's debut.
Jon Reider (ASCENDED DEAD): I first heard Beyond the Gates when I was in high school. I was young and new to metal at the time. After being completely blown away by Seven Churches, which I still feel is the greatest metal album ever made, I obtained a burned version of it from a friend which didn't have the intro. It just went abruptly into "The Heretic." Initially, I was put off by the production that was comparatively thin to Seven Churches. I liked it more and more as the album progressed and with each successive listen. After scrapping up enough money, I bought the actual CD from a friend, one of the Relativity/Combat reissues from the '90s. Hearing it with the intro allowed me to understand the full context of the album. I listened to it every day for an entire summer.
John Grim (ECTOPLASMA): The first time we heard this album I think was the year 1999 and we felt a face-melting brainstorm of death metal in our brains.
How do you rank the album compared to the other extreme metal albums that were released back in 1986?
Qojau (IMPERIAL): This is a really very difficult question because 1986 is the best year in terms of thrash metal products. Destruction's Eternal Devastation, Deathrow's Riders of Doom, Sodom's Obsessed by Cruelty, Assassin's The Upcoming Terror, Cyclone's Brutal Destruction, Kreator's Pleasure to Kill, Exorcist's Nightmare Theatre, Slayer's Reign in Blood, Hallows Eve's Death and Insanity, etc., etc., etc. So, the question is how do you stand out from the crowd in the face of this flood of masterpieces? I think this album took longer to gain recognition in the rest of the world and the arrival of Death and death metal helped this album to become better known as well. Yet they got there in Europe precisely because of this special sound and this speed of execution!!
S.A. Destroyer (NOCTURNAL BREED): There was a lot of good shit coming out in '85-'87 that runs next to this. So, it has to be a good 7 out of 10 in my eyes. But the last three places are occupied by bands just epic in albums and quality, so a seven is not bad.
I always had tracks like "Phantasm" and "March to Die" on my compilation tapes back then, so it did make it among the gods.
It always struck me as this is where Possessed turned a bit in the coffin so to say. Seven Churches is very American sounding. From Beyond the Gates and out, it always sounded to me like they took a more European approach to thrash metal. And I like it, being such a fan of the European sound.
Witchhammer (WITCHTRAP): I don't know why in the US metal scene there was not a place within the Big Four for the mighty Possessed. To me it's unquestionable that Possessed could have been a part of this league. But when talking about Beyond the Gates, in my opinion, it deserves be recognized among such important metal albums as Master of Puppets, Pleasure to Kill and Reign in Blood. To me at least, B.t.G. surely belongs firmly to this category and deserves to be mentioned as one of the greatest metal albums ever made.
Carlos Villegas (HEXORCIST): I may be committing blasphemy in the eyes of many metalheads but this is my all-time favorite Possessed release. Yes, Seven Churches is more extreme, and paved the way for death metal but I still feel that Beyond the Gates is perfection. The only album that could go toe to toe with this beast in 1986 would be Reign in Blood.
Wannes Gubbels (PENTACLE): Hmm, at that time, I didn't compare albums of different bands that way. As we all know by now, 1986 was a very important year for extreme Metal. I "just" bought the albums and enjoyed them. I never sat down and thought Eternal Devastation is better than Game Over, Rrröööaaarrr shreds Obsessed by Cruelty to pieces and Torment in Fire pisses all over Power and Pain. Oh no, all these records are amazing pieces of thrashing madness and I love them all. Granted, I had/have my faves like Pleasure to Kill or Darkness Descends, but it never felt like a competition to me. Sure, 1986 was the year of albums like Master of Puppets or Reign in Blood and they set standards for all successors to come (not to forget for both bands themselves), but if one would ask me today which are my personal highlights of 1986, I would rather pick an album like Pleasure to Kill, The Force, Hymn to Abramelin or indeed Beyond the Gates. It's not about going against a popular opinion on purpose, but what a certain record means to you personally. With hindsight, those Metallica and Slayer albums did have more impact on the scene, and they were on everybody's lips (positive or negative). As far as I am able to give any comment on this matter and from what I remember from friends who were into the same kind of metal told me, Beyond... didn't leave as big an impression as for example Pleasure to Kill or Darkness Descends. Possessed left their mark with Seven Churches and now it was time for other bands to deliver their classics (at least, by popular opinion). From how I perceived it back in the days, you had people who were disappointed with Beyond... Seven Churches was more extreme and paved the way for many upcoming thrash/death/black metal bands. It was their first record and it left quite an impression (understatement). A second album would have a rough time topping the standards set by the debut album. Overall, when you take it to the scene, Seven Churches is a more influential record than Beyond.... Seven Churches was a fist in your face and some people felt this was not the case with Beyond.... The second album offered more progressive song writing and a weird production and this was occurring during an era when fans were looking for the most extreme and straight forward songs around the globe. A band was a good as its last record and if this album was a disappointment, lots of fans moved on to find something more appealing to them. But again, this is how I perceived the reactions in my micro cosmos. Maybe in another (local) scene, the experience was different. I didn't have any problem with Beyond.... Yes, it was different from the debut album, but no let down for me. It was still 100% Possessed to me and I think I played it more often than Seven Churches.
Evilkrusher (DEATHLY SCYTHE): I consider myself a huge Possessed fan; hence, I would rank Beyond the Gates as one of the Top 10 from that year. For me, it is on the same level as Deathrow's Satan's Gift (the European version of the album was titled Riders of Doom – Luxi adds), Carrion's Evil Is There!, Metallica's Master of Puppets, Destruction's Eternal Devastation, Messiah's Hymn To Abramelin, Dark Angel's Darkness Descends, Exumer's Possessed by Fire, King Diamond's Fatal Portrait and Sacrifice's Torment in Fire.
Erik Kristhammar (INSANE): I think it is one of the best extreme metal albums of all time. I do not want to rank them in any particular order, but as stated above, I listen to BtG often and for me it is such an interesting album full of extreme riffs and great song writing. The riffs and the way they play the songs are truly unique, in my opinion. That is why it is such a joyful record to listen to.
Rob Durrant (KEMAKIL): Highly.
Ronnie Vanderwey (DEAD HEAD): That is difficult. Around that time there were a lot of albums coming out that later on proved to be real classics. At the same time, I experienced the sort of arms race that was going on back then. Bands were trying to set a higher level with every release. In terms of speed, brutality, aggressiveness and sound, there was really something going on. In the case of Possessed we must determine that there were no blast beats involved.
But OK, 1986 brought us Kreator's Pleasure to Kill, Slayer's Reign in Blood, Sacrifice's Torment in Fire, Destruction's Eternal Devastation, Dark Angel's Darkness Descends, Détente's Recognize No Authority, Slaughter's Strappado, and there must be a few I have not mentioned. A year earlier S.O.D.'s Speak English or Die was released, which also was a very important release in terms of extremity.
I find it difficult to rank BtG among these releases. It is not the fastest or the record with the heaviest sound but concerning the riffs and originality I must rank it very high. And I also found that it is an album I have played pretty regularly over the years. For me that is a proof that the songwriting and playing is at an extremely high level.
Helregni (FILII NIGRANTIUM INFERNALIUM): It's hard to imagine these days what the eighties were in heavy metal. Not so many bands released albums, and they had their own sound. The boundaries of metal were still being explored, and you could be even faster, heavier, more brutal, more distorted, more shocking. I don't really rank the great releases of 1986. It's like a big family of monumental albums for me, pillars of the metallic faith that had a very deep impact on me back then and still does today. How can I decide between albums like Obsessed by Cruelty, Reign in Blood, Eternal Devastation, The Final Separation, Pleasure to Kill, Malicious Intent, Possessed by Fire, The Force or even The Singles 80-86, which to me is kind of an album too, and a fucking great one! Beyond the Gates certainly belongs in that bunch as well!
Dee Dee Altar (BUNKER 66): 1986 is an extremely tough year for making a top 5 or top 10 list hehe... but if we consider just the extreme nasty shit of that year, I guess it will definitely make it on my top 10.
Alvaro Fernandes (DEMENTIA 13): Definitely on my Top 10 but it's a very hard task to rate all the masterpieces that were released in 1986; Whiplash's Power and Pain, Flotsam and Jetsam's Doomsday for the Deceiver, Dark Angel's Darkness Descends, Slayer's Reign in Blood, Metallica's Master of Puppets, Sodom's Obsessed by Cruelty, Sepultura's Morbid Visions, Onslaught's The Force, Exumer's Possessed by Fire are my favorites. But Beyond the Gates definitely belongs to my 1986 Top 10 list, too.
Sadistik Fornicator (NECROMANIAC): This is indeed a very tough question for me to answer, so in order to try and excuse myself from just ranking this album against other releases from the same year, I'd try to put things into perspective with the hope that people can understand where I'm coming from. I'm pretty confident all fanatics will agree with me when I say that 1986 was undoubtedly one of the most important years in the history and development of black and death metal. Therefore, it is utterly imperative to not just talk about albums from that particular year but to also mention demos, EPs, rehearsal tapes, and even not officially released recordings, as those were as highly influential for the bands of the next few decades to come as any albums from that year, if not even more so in some cases (Abominations of Desolation anyone?) We must remember that back in those days all the underground metal maniacs in the tape trading circles were spreading all the newest releases they could get their filthy hands on all across the globe almost as fast as the black fucking plague! And this, in turn, obviously influenced a lot of young musicians in the underground to form new bands of their own and try to make music that was even more extreme than that of the bands that previously inspired them to pick up an instrument and give it a go themselves. With every action there's a reaction, right? Well, what happened in the underground Metal scene of the mid-'80s was a global overreaction, and a lot of these obscure bands that had not released an album yet were certainly the ones pushing the boundaries of metal to extreme levels of wickedness which in many cases had never been explored before and which on some rare occasions I'd dare to say haven't even been surpassed since! Also, let's not forget that in certain cases, some of these extreme acts were so far ahead of their time that record labels did not understand nor want to take the risk of signing them, so a lot of them split up before releasing an album due to lack of label interest (Repulsion anyone?) Timeless classics all recorded and/or released in 1986 include masterpieces of gargantuan proportions such as Slayer's Reign in Blood, Dark Angel's Darkness Descends, Sepultura's Morbid Visions, Destruction's Eternal Devastation, Sodom's Obsessed by Cruelty, Kreator's Pleasure to Kill and Flag of Hate, Sacrifice's Torment in Fire, Funeral Bitch's Demo 1, Morbid Angel's Abominations of Desolation, Bleed for the Devil and Total Hideous Death, Mefisto's Megalomania and The Puzzle, Kat's 666, Bulldozer's The Final Separation, Vulcano's Bloody Vengeance, King Diamond's Fatal Portrait, Celtic Frost's Tragic Serenades, Exorcist's Nightmare Theatre, Flames' Merciless Slaughter, Messiah's Hymn to Abramelin, Obscurity's Ovations to Death, Razor's Malicious Intent, Sarcófago's The Black Vomit and Satanic Lust demos, Schizo's Total Schizophrenia demo, Death's Mutilation demo, Slaughter Lord's Taste of Blood demo, Onslaught's The Force, Exumer's Possessed by Fire, Turbo's Kawaleria Szatana, Sadus' Death to Posers demo, Holy Moses' Queen of Siam, Deathrow's Riders of Doom, Coroner's Death Cult demo, Nuclear Death's Wake Me When I'm Dead demo, Voivod's Rrröööaaarrr, Candlemass' Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Poison's (Germany) Awakening of the Dead and Into the Abyss... demos, Slaughter's (Canada) Nocturnal Hell, Infernäl Mäjesty's S/T demo, Pentagram's (Chile) Rehearsal Tape, Imperator's Endless Sacrifice demo, Protector's Protector of Death demo, Repulsion's Slaughter of the Innocent (aka Horrified) and the Warfare Noise I compilation from Cogumelo Records featuring Sarcófago, Holocausto, Chakal and Mutilator. Possessed's Beyond the Gates surely ranks very high on this list of dark mandatory classics all from 1986, but even if you had asked me to compile a Top 10, I'd find it almost impossible to decide any "best to worst" order as there are just too many amazing, mandatory, and highly influential releases to choose from!
Jon Reider (ASCENDED DEAD): Many albums from 1986 left a huge impression on me, even though I wasn't around to experience it at the time. Darkness Descends, Reign in Blood, Morbid Visions, Antes do Fim, Pleasure to Kill, Bloody Vengeance, even demos of Death, Sarcófago, Nuclear Death and Morbid Angel. I dislike ranking different works of art, but I believe Beyond the Gates is right up there with any of those albums.
John Grim (ECTOPLASMA): If zero equals the worst album and ten is a masterpiece album, we would score Beyond... 8.5. We are giving this value to this great album amongst other albums of this era simply for one reason: We are talking about the almighty Possessed here!
Has your opinion about the album changed over the years, for better or worse?
Qojau (IMPERIAL): Yes, without a doubt I can still listen to this album without getting bored, and that's what I'm doing...
When I saw Jeff playing these songs in a concert in 2013 (in the south of France), it was amazing!! These songs have not aged!! Hearing them playing the songs was such a slap in the face!! Everything Possessed have created is pure genius!!
S.A. Destroyer (NOCTURNAL BREED): It is still the same album to me. Of course, being much older I hear more stuff in it now, but the album generates the same feeling as it did all those years ago. It is still raw and a bit untamed. I still love the (a bit banal) lyrics and the production still oozes of old-school thrash metal for me.
Too bad it seems it's hard for them to find this sound again. The latest Possessed album I'm sure is good, but the über-modern digi-production has removed every ounce of old school feel from their sound. They should listen a bit to this maybe, and go back a few steps. ;)
Witchhammer (WITCHTRAP): I still spin it as much as some other classic metal albums. It is a part of my daily playlist. Even when I go out to a local metal bar here in Medellín-Colomba, I always ask the DJ to spin "No Will to Live" or "Seance" for me. I enjoy those songs the same way I did when I was 14 years old, with a fucking beer in my hand and singing all those infamous chorus parts at the top of my lungs. I think when something is good, it is good forever and nothing can change the feeling you felt as a kid, even if it happened many, many years ago. It makes me feel very nostalgic when I am spinning stuff like this on my turntable. All hails to the mighty Possessed!!
Carlos Villegas (HEXORCIST): Beyond the Gates is one of those albums you can listen to a million times and it never gets old. I still get goosebumps when Jeff screams "Lucifer! Master!" at the end of "No Will to Live."
Wannes Gubbels (PENTACLE): Next to At War with Satan (Venom), Apocalyptic Raids (Hellhammer), Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion (both Celtic Frost), Possessed's second album has been in my personal top five of extreme metal records for many, many years now. I still spin the record on a regular basis, and it brings back cool memories of a younger me, exploring the scene with all its ups and downs. The album has stood the test of time for me. I loved it when I heard it for the first time, and I still do. It doesn't feel obsolete at all and is still relevant to me. After all these years, I still feel somewhat disappointed I didn't go out to see the 1986 Possessed/VoiVod/Deathrow tour when they performed in a city near to Bladel. I do have the live tape and the concert/tour poster, but not the actual experience of seeing the original Possessed line up live. I really enjoy the 2015 vinyl edition from High Roller Records which offers a different mastering. I know, this can be "a hit or a miss," but they put a lot of effort in clearing up the original mastering with a definite improvement as result (at least for me). There's more room for details without altering the overall sound too much. It's respectful to the original soundscape yet offers a more "open" (hard to describe...) sound. Recommendable for the diehards!
Evilkrusher (DEATHLY SCYTHE): To be honest, I listen to this album often, mainly because it brings back so many amazing memories of when I started to walk the evil metal path! This album for sure gave me a lot of inspiration and strength to start to sing! And no, my opinion will not change at all! Many people say that this album is weak and too thrashy and shit. Fuck them! For me, it's for sure the second Possessed album!
Erik Kristhammar (INSANE): I would say I like it more every time I spin it. There are a lot of cool details that make the album fresh every time I put it on. To be honest, I may play The Eyes of Horror a few times more in general, but BtG will always be the album that hooked me on Possessed and for that I will be forever thankful!
Rob Durrant (KEMAKIL): I still think it is what it is, and I enjoy it.
Ronnie Vanderwey (DEAD HEAD): I have the album on CD (the version with The Eyes of Horror on it) and I have two copies of the vinyl. Another thing is the artwork which really stands out from the rest of what metal bands released. It is a bit spacy, Sci-Fi-looking that gives the music a different twist and atmosphere. As I said in the previous question, I certainly play BtG from time to time and I still love it as I did before. It seems that this record is a perfect combination of good riffing, a unique voice, outstanding guitar players who could also do a technical solo, and a total unorthodox approach to songwriting and harmonics. Most important thing, the songs stick in your head/system permanently.
Sent to defile, from Belial! Revelation unorthodox, atheistic is so mystic...
Helregni (FILII NIGRANTIUM INFERNALIUM): It would be ridiculous for me to write things like "Oh, with a present-day production these songs would sound better" or something like that. That's bullshit. When I listen to the album these days (and I often go back to the classic albums of this golden age) I am transported into that long-gone decade and after all this time my ears are the same as that kid who was playing air guitar in his room. The drumming sounds better than in Seven Churches (the weak spot on that album for me) but above all, that eerie feeling when I hear "Join hands to summon up the dead... Hear them singing inside your head" or "Blackened earth is all around... Below I hear a burning sound" is still there! As is the sheer enjoyment of the killer riffs, the razor-sharp guitars and Becerra's amazing vocals. Some things don't change, like my bond to metal and, by extension, my bond to these albums. For some of us there was never any option other than not breaking the oath!
Dee Dee Altar (BUNKER 66): Nowadays I maybe listen to it more than Seven Churches because as the years go passing by, I grew fonder of weird productions and strange riffs and Beyond... surely has them!
If you don't feel the need to bang your head to tracks like "March to Die," "Phantasm" and "No Will to Live" I think you should call your rock 'n' roll doctor hehe!
The legacy of this album will surely live on in the decades to come. Just listen to Antichrist's album Sinful Birth... it surely has lots of crazy/frantic riffs that have strong Beyond the Gates vibes, alright!
Alvaro Fernandes (DEMENTIA 13): Yes, for better! Both Possessed albums (as well as The Eyes of Horror EP) have stood the test of time and nowadays I love them all even more. It's true that Beyond the Gates is more straightforward, catchier and has a better production but that only shows the band evolved after Seven Churches, which is not a negative thing to say, because in this case they kept the same aggression, the same attitude and you can still listen so many things that inspired bands and albums that came out after that. I see Possessed as a band ahead of their time, no question about it. I will not get into the debate of them being the creators of death metal but it's a fact that their kind of extreme metal was a major influence not only on death and black metal but on millions of thrash metal bands coming out after the release of it. And Possessed are definitely an inspiration for several generations of musicians and bands all across the globe, not only back then but nowadays as well. And that is a legacy no one can deny!
Sadistik Fornicator (NECROMANIAC): My opinion has definitely changed, and I have grown to appreciate this album a lot more than perhaps I did when I first heard it and kept comparing it to Seven Churches. These days I actually spin Beyond the Gates more often than I spin its predecessor, due to the fact that I overplayed that one way too much over the years. But nevertheless, it is undeniable that this sophomore album has many great songs full of catchy riffs, amazing solos, an overall dark and eerie atmosphere, and tons of killer headbanging moments. Again, I find it almost impossible to choose any favorite tracks as this is definitely one of those "all killer, no filler" albums with no weak songs whatsoever! Whether it is "The Heretic," "Beyond the Gates," "Tribulation," "The Beasts of the Apocalypse," "Restless Dead," "Seance," "No Will to Live," "Phantasm," "March to Die" or even "Dog Fight" no one can deny that all of these songs are without a shadow of a doubt certified death metal classics in their own right. Ownership of this album an absolutely mandatory part of history which must be included in the record collections of every single self-respecting death metal maniac from past, present, and future generations to come!
Jon Reider (ASCENDED DEAD): Beyond the Gates is an album I come back to, even though I've heard it enough times to subconsciously remember it in its entirety. Seven Churches had a lot of atmosphere. Beyond the Gates, in spite of its production, has a very EVIL sound. Musically it has the chaotic riffs, shreddy solos, unique jazzy drums with fills all over the place, and the vocals which sound more isolated than its predecessor and add to the unique feel of this record. After reading interviews by the band from around the time, it's easy to see that in the days of more polished thrash and hair metal, they got a lot of shit for Seven Churches being "noise" and as such they "corrected" it with cleaner production on Beyond the Gates. I used to want a version of it with Seven Churches production, but after hearing it enough times, it works perfectly with these songs. There is no other album like it. Highlights for me include the tapping solo section of "Tribulation," "Phantasm," the epic "No Will to Live," the keyboard section of "Beyond the Gates," "Seance," and of course, "Restless Dead," the song that influenced the naming of our band, Ascended Dead.
John Grim (ECTOPLASMA): No, we are not going to change your opinion on this album because we love it as much as we listened to it for the very first time.
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