POSSESSED — Seven Churches

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POSSESSED - Seven Churches cover
4.21 | 26 ratings | 8 reviews
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Album · 1985

Filed under Death Metal


1. The Exorcist (4:52)
2. Pentagram (3:34)
3. Burning in Hell (3:10)
4. Evil Warriors (3:44)
5. Seven Churches (3:15)
6. Satan's Curse (4:15)
7. Holy Hell (4:12)
8. Twisted Minds (5:10)
9. Fallen Angel (3:58)
10. Death Metal (3:14)

Total Time: 39:27


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

About this release

Relativity/Combat (US) Roadrunner (Europe), October 15, 1985.

Thanks to Phonebook Eater, The Angry Scotsman, Unitron for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

The missing link between thrash and death metal... there are all sorts of elements that fans of those two genres will recognize: riffs that wouldn't be out of place on Death Angel's The Ultraviolence, vocals that are almost growled and certainly heavier than any thrash metal band at the time (barring perhaps Celtic Frost, another genre-defying band), tremolo picking galore, but also Exodus-style guitar dueling solos. Most Primus fans probably have no clue Ler Lalonde used to rip like this. Mostly recommended for fans of early Slayer, Death and Morbid Angel. Also a very consistent album (no filler tracks) with great production value for being a bunch of teenagers in 1985.

Hard to sit still or turn it down once this album starts playing!
siLLy puPPy
Riding in the wake of Venom’s monumental extreme metal debut “Welcome To Hell,” several bands jumped into the earliest extreme metal mosh pits and churned out some of the most brutal and ugliest music to hit the early 80s metal scene. Just as the NWOBHM was taking off, so too was a far nastier underground relative. One of the first extreme metal sub-genera to take off was the burgeoning thrash scene with bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer at the forefront adding increased tempos, more obnoxious lyrical deliveries, gorier subject matter and an ever increasing decibel war for more heavy duty head banging action. Out of these Slayer was the most extreme with a highly aggressive musical style and lyrical topics that included murder, necrophilia, Satanism, torture and hate crimes. With the popularity of their 1983 debut album “Show No Mercy,” it wouldn’t take much time for new bands to take things to the next level of intensity.

Having been highly influenced by bands like Venom, Motorhead, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, POSSESSED formed out of a group of Bay Area miscreants in the Pinole and El Sobrante suburbs which found a new group of energetic youth ready to join the ranks of the most extreme noisemakers in the underground 80s metal scene. Living the extreme metal life style before they ever really got started, it all began when guitarist Mike Torrao and drummer Mike Sus got together with vocalist Barry Fisk and bassist Jeff Andrews to create some of the fastest galloping riffs laced with extreme aggressive bombast with enough distortion to raise the dead. Soon after formation, Fisk would commit suicide and Andrews jumped ship because it was just all too goddamn freaky! After stealing guitarist Larry LaLonde and vocalist Jeff Becerra from another local band named Blizzard, the classic POSSESSED lineup was in existence and the world would never be the same.

After a couple years of paying their dues in the local scenes, POSSESSED finally caught the attention of Combat Records and in 1985 they would drop their metal bomb SEVEN CHURCHES upon an unsuspecting planet. With a title taken from the “Seven Churches Of Asia” snatched from the Bible in Book Of Revelation,” POSSESSED proved to be a bigger, badder, faster and louder musical entity than the band’s initial influences and although they claim not to have been influenced by Slayer in the songwriting process, it’s hard to believe that after hearing such classics as “Show No Mercy” that it wasn’t like a lightning bolt of energy to take the band to the next level of extremity. With the release of SEVEN CHURCHES, the band would find themselves playing with some of the classic bands like Celtic Frost, Destruction, Voivod and Nasty Savage and gaining a new army of followers with each performance with their unrelenting speed, over the top aggression and no nonsense lyrical gore. A new generation of extreme metal was born.

SEVEN CHURCHES also has the distinct honor as being considered by some as the very first death metal album. After all, many of the characteristics that Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel would develop were directly borrowed from the blueprint laid out on POSSESSED monumental debut release. However, the 80s was a time of extreme metal nascency when half cooked broths simmered in semi-coagulated stews and all the proper ingredients hadn’t quite been added to consider it a full member of the death metal club that would gestate in a mere two years after Chuck Schuldiner released what many as well as myself consider to be the first true death metal album, “Scream Bloody Gore” by Death. SEVEN CHURCHES has been analyzed to “death” by metal historians far and wide and is now considered that essential album that connected the dots between thrash and death metal. Much like Venom’s lauded debut album that hosted the track titled “Black Metal,” (Welcome To Hell” was not really a black metal album per se but prognosticated a world in which it would exist), so too did SEVEN CHURCHES clairvoyantly predict another metal strain with the closing track “Death Metal.”

The nitpicking of metal sub-genera can seem arbitrary. I mean, why wouldn’t this be death metal? Becerra’s grunted vocals are obnoxious as hell like a pit of vipers being grilled alive. The LaLonde / Torrao dual guitar attack is filled with pummeling earache inducing riffs, scorching squealing guitar solos and the most death metal trait of all - tremolo picking. Pounding percussive drives of the drums and bass despite Sus’ obvious enervating ability to keep up with the guitar frenzies. However a careful analysis will find that POSSESSED lacked a few traits that made death metal, well complete. First of all are those very lazy drumming patterns that failed to (mostly) match the intensity of the guitar fury. While death metal would deviate compositionally from thrash, POSSESSED seemed to be in the process of divorcing itself from thrash metal but the riffs still come off as thrash metal on speed. Compositionally speaking, most of the tracks have a rather Motorhead sort of NWOBHM underpinning which allows a more familiar traditional metal feel to bleed through unlike the future disregard for such constructs. POSSESSED were well on their way and if they had stayed on target most likely would have created the first true death metal album as a sophomore release.

However, that wasn’t meant to be as the band devolved back into their thrash leaning on their second album “Beyond The Gates” before disbanding in 1987. Despite the short shelf life of the band’s actual existence, POSSESSED has nevertheless proven to be one of THE most influential bands in the metal world’s history by virtually creating the blueprints for the death metal world to expand upon. While personal tragedy would effect many of the members such as Jeff Becerra’s paralysis from a gunshot wound in an armed robbery gone wrong, the band nevertheless lived a full life in a few short years having played with Slayer and Venom and unleashing their pivotal musical gem that spawned a completely distinct branch off of the parent metal tree. Now that’s no easy task, folks. As historians continuously comb the ashes of the rubble from the past, time and time again it emerges that SEVEN CHURCHES comes out near the top as one of the most celebrated moments in extreme metal history. While the band may have had a short shelf life the first time around, this sole album has only continued to attract new generations of devout followers not only for its prescience in extreme metal trends but as a primo listening experience in its own right. Good job, guys! I’m a fan.
I was in my front yard, pulling up weeds and plugged into my Walkman when my girlfriend came up and leapt upon my back, snatched the headphones off my heads and clapped them over her own. She began banging her head in mocked exaggeration, saying, “Oh, yeah, heavy metal!” Little did either of us know that the music on the cassette would later be regarded by many as the first death metal album.

Back in 1985, Possessed were just another thrash metal band on the Banzai label in Canada. The speed was there as it was to be expected. In fact, Possessed seemed more hell bent for speed than most other bands. At least Metallica and Slayer and the likes could slow down for some monsters riffs. Possessed only did that twice on the album. Jeff Becerra’s vocals were darker and more evil, suitable for a band named Possessed, but after hearing Tom Warrior’s barbarian bellow, Quorthon’s sinister Popeye croak, and Tom Araya’s demonic howling, this was just another crayon colour in the box.

Possessed were about being fast, Satanic, and frightening. Few songs expressed much technically and there was no subtlety outside of the opening guitar reproduction of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” piano theme. To many, this is just a thrash album that pointed in the direction of death metal to come. To others, the unpredictable guitar solos are too wild and unformatted to be true thrash. The fact that there’s a song called “Death Metal” might also be reason to call this album the first of the subgenre. In a YouTube video tracing the musical roots of death metal back from 1990, the 10-minute journey winds up with “Fallen Angel” from this album. But as the liner notes to the re-issue suggest, “death metal” or “black metal” (the distinction had not yet been made clear) could be heard in the music of Hellhammer, Bathory, Kreator, Destruction, Death, Sodom, and Slayer. It was the primordial soup of extreme metal that would produce not one but two sub-genres with “Seven Churches” emerging as a death metal sign post.

Though the production often gets criticized, this is one of those albums that lets you forget about the sound quality as you listen. The guitars attempt speeds so fast that drummer Mike Sus cannot manage more than a standard thrash metal, fast snare beat. Some kick drumming is going on there at times but not like what we’d hear soon. The song writing is pretty typical of the time: shout “666!” a few times and roar evilly about Satan and Hell. Well, it's possible there were deeper lyrics as someone in the band was big on reading if I recall an old interview correctly. Nevertheless, as a historically significant album and a look back on thrash metal and extreme metal in the mid-eighties, this is a little gem to have.
Back in the mists of time, in the 80’s, I had my first introduction to extreme metal with the thrash metal movement and quickly became a big fan of many bands of the genre my favourites being Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Celtic Frost and Exodus. At the time the true significance of Possessed never really hit home with me and I thought of them as simply another thrash metal band, albeit one at the more extreme end of the genre. Inspired by Venom and Exodus in particular, in retrospect it was clear that if any band had a claim on being the first death metal band then they could be it. Their first demo had even been called death metal!

Seven Churches is their debut album and with song titles like The Exorcist, Pentagram and Burning In Hell their image was more Satanic than most bands around at the time. The music still stands strong today with great playing, especially in the guitar department and is complex, relentlessly fast, brutal and incredibly heavy aided by a thick organic production. The riffs ooze evil and does vocalist Jeff Becerra’s high end growl which sits between what would later come to regarded as the standard for death growls and black metal ‘s harsher rasp. Best of all the quality of the material barely dips.

The band clearly had a big influence on the death metal genre when it kicked in fully as can be heard in the likes of Death, Morbid Angel and Deicide. Even if that were the only reason Seven Churches deserves its place in history. The fact that it’s also one hell of a great album only adds to its importance.
This famously inspirational album for the death metal movement might not be the best example of early death metal out there, but it's still pretty damn good. Playing so fast they practically trip over themselves trying to get the songs out, the high school hell-raisers of Possessed created a strikingly original debut whose influence can clearly be heard in early works by the likes of Death, Morbid Angel and Deicide, giving them the strongest claim of anyone to being the inventors of the subgenre. But whether or not they came up with the idea doesn't change the fact that the album is also a good listen, with grunted vocals not quite at the cartoonish extremes later bands would reach and some killer guitar work.
Phonebook Eater
We have here one of the most important and influential album of Death Metal, an album that should be respected for it's huge contribute to giving birth this genre. Even though many times it's considered just a mediocre Trash Metal album, I prefer defining it DM.

Too bad I'm not a huge fan of this genre, so this album never appealed to me much: the production is horrible, very bad quality, and It doesn't really match perfectly with the songs. However, a lot of songs are quite good, with some occasional but interesting experimentation parts, "The Exorcist" and "Fallen Angel", which also happen to be my two favorite ones.

Some songs though are easily forgettable, and not really worth the listen.

I don't think this is an overrated piece of music, I just am not a big fan of genre, like I said earlier. 3.5 stars.

Members reviews

By name dropping the genre in the album’s closing track, Possessed invented Death Metal just as Venom invented Black Metal. The only difference was Possessed actually were Death Metal, through and through.

Naturally, this album is a bit messy, and the production isn’t the best. There are quite a few mistakes from the musicians you can pretty easily pick up on, and many instances where Becerra can’t get the words out in time and just screams nonsense. They were amateurs. But their vision and their passion was incredible, and yes, they created a full-fledged Death Metal album on their first try.

Those buzzsaw guitars were shredding out some seriously deranged, dissonant riffs, and the drums were just smashing everything as hard and fast as they could. It wasn’t that fast, and one might even say midtempo compared to today’s metal, but certainly Becerra’s screaming growl drove all that home and shook any doubts that this was indeed the heaviest music on Earth at the time. Lyrics focused exclusively on Satan, and though they weren’t well written or often intelligible, they never surrendered an inch to worshiping the great evil so necessary to Metal.
I've been a metal fan for about 6 years now, and a death metal fan for 5 years, so I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the origins and history of death metal. WRONG! I did not fully understand how Slayer's Reign in Blood led to Death's Scream Bloody Gore until I gave this album a spin in my 25-disc CD player. Once I heard Seven Churches I understood, like a holy man finally coming to understand the links between his religion and all others, except I'm a staunch atheist. This album may not be the most musically accomplished, best-sounding, or the most sophisticated metal album, but it sure as hell is motherfucking important in the evolution of metal. If you have even the remotest interest in metal beyond the Big 4 of thrash (and if you're on this site, you should know which bands that phrase refers to), this is essential. It is an important transitional document in metal's history. SO MANY BANDS simply would not exist if not for this album. Listen, and appreciate what other bands would do with the sound that Possessed established on this landmark record.

Ratings only

  • gvra3
  • sploosh
  • Psydye
  • Train_Food
  • Purple Haze
  • Vim Fuego
  • MetalMachineMusic
  • Unitron
  • Necrotica
  • H-K
  • jahkhula
  • Immortalis
  • Anster
  • Wilytank
  • Saturn
  • luanpedi
  • Pablo
  • slow man

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