Possessed - Seven Churches

Possessed - Seven Churches

(1985, Combat Records)

The granddaddy of Death Metal? I’d vote for it. Here we have the – maybe – most influential album for the birth and primal development of the whole Death Metal genre. It was year 1983 in the San Francisco Bay Area when Mike Torrao and Mike Sus formed POSSESSED; little did they know back then about the impact of the debut album they were going to release two years later...

Imagine the mid-80s in San Fransisco. Thrash was the main deal for bands and fans over there, with tons of sweating outfits ready to attack and see their name on top of the bill. And then, not willing to just sit and play Thrash, this satanized quartet took the mania of SLAYER’s debut album or “Hell Awaits”, dressed it with the VENOM malevolence and what their “Death Metal” 1984 demo warned for would be a real chaos one year later. More than twenty five years have passed since then, the so-called extreme Metal field has seen multiple vicious bands and albums raising hell but I doubt – even now – how many have surpassed the evil atmosphere and obscure pathos of these ten pieces of satanic force.

The intro on “The Exorcist” is a remake of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” (performed by then producer Randy Burns, notable for later works with MEGADETH, KREATOR, DEATH, NUCLEAR ASSAULT, DARK ANGEL etc) and drives through the gates of hell in its eerie sound. What is then unleashed is the beastial and demonical attack of four schizos greeting you to eternal damnation. The sound is so infernal you’ll have a tough time determining even the rhythm section parts. Still, the result is so satisfying and to-the-point you’ll barely complain for the lack of musicianship discipline; cause if you take a closer look you’ll find out all the band’s members were fine musicians just pointing out what the vibe of the songs should be.

Guitars, bass and drums turn the hell on, with chaotic rhythm parts and fierce leads (we do not need to remind you of what axeman Larry Lalonde did afterwards in his career) but voice remains the perfect instrument, hence it’s – above all – the voice of Jeff Becerra that can send shivers down your spine; with a guttural throat – the first one officially marked as ‘Death Metal’? - sounding as straight from the pits of Hades as it can be, Becerra shows the way for extreme Metal singing from now on. If you just dare listening to the album with the lights out you’ll remember the first times your pants were wet in your childhood. It’s the lyrics parts, though, that make the difference too. Just look at the songs’ names and recall 1985 in Metal music; the generic praise of the unholy was included it ten numbers and just 40 minutes of evilized music.

An impressive thing seen after listening to “Seven Churches” seriously is that – added to the musicianship of the band members – the music itself shows an attitude of unconformity, with enough tempo changes, non-easy leads and out-of-mind drumming sequence; you may even consider some parts did end like this out of luck. I still doubt this did actually happen; looking for the perfect term to describe the formulas in the songs? Maybe ‘organized chaos’ can do.

I do not know how the CD version sounds like, but the production in the original LP release is huge and breathtaking, malicious and unearthly, morbid and grotesque, fast and furious. It’s no wonder the only American Thrash album I can think of bearing a similar glitter is DARK ANGEL’s peccant “Darkness Descents” second album; not even the commercial champions of extreme Metal (yeap, that’s SLAYER) did not meet such disgust. And - to carry on - DEATH’s “Scream Bloody Gore” debut may be the Holy Grail of primal Death Metal but it just (that’s a lucky guess?) carries the demoniacal torch lit by POSSESSED two years ago.

If we have to ‘blame’ BLACK SABBATH for the existence of the whole Heavy Metal scene, then it’s POSSESSED and the “Seven Churches” masterpiece we have to impeach for Death Metal music’s vitality. Needless to say, too, tons of extreme Metal bands have covers songs from this legendary release, including CANNIBAL CORPSE, DEATH, ANGELCORPSE, VADER, SADIST, SADISTIC INTENT and EXHUMED. That simple...


01. The Exorcist
02. Pentagram
03. Burning In Hell
04. Evil Warriors
05. Seven Churches
06. Satan’s Curse
07. Holy Hell
08. Twisted Minds
09. Fallen Angel
10. Death Metal


Jeff Becerra - Vocals, Bass
Larry Lalonde - Guitar
Mike Torrao - Guitar
Mike Sus - Drums