POSSESSED were formed in 1983 by Barry Fisk, Brian Montana, Mike Torrao and Mike Sus. During composing their first tracks, Barry Fisk committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. In 1984, POSSESSED signed a contract with Combat Records Label and a year later they were in Prairie Sun Studios located in Cotati, California in order to record their debut, ‘Seven Churches’.
According to David Konow, this album was recorded during the Spring Break of 1985 when, juniors then at Pinole Valley High School, Jeff Becera (who took over after Fisk’s death) and Larry LaLonde (who replaced Montana) had more free time in order to dedicate it to studio production time.
Until the album release, it is said that the band was practicing at the manager Debbie Adono’s house in Pinole despite the fact that they were formed in El Sobrante/San Pablo where Mike Torrao’s and Mike Sus’ other band was located.
From the mid-80s, a new style of bands arrived called “death metal” (some say it was named after the song from “Seven Churches”). Pioneering band DEATH formed in Florida in ’83, but didn’t issue their debut (i.e. “Scream Bloody Gore”) until four years later. MORBID ANGEL were the first pure death metal band to form but they didn’t release an album until 1989 either. Other bands of the same importance of that era are CELTIC FROST, HELLHAMMER, KING DIAMOND, ANNIHILATOR and many more.
In 1985, many other fledgling bands were releasing their debut albums as well and metal music kept emerging. Releases such as MEGADETH’s “Killing Is My Business” and Exodus’ “Bonded By Blood” were challenging the limits and barriers of metal music at the time. Out of all these memorable releases, the most legendary one, the one that is claimed to have revolutionized metal, was the most neglected, POSSESSED’s “Seven Churches”.
In November of the same year, POSSESSED flew to Montreal for the WWIII Weekend Festival in order to promote their debut along with bands CELTIC FROST, DESTRUCTION and VOIVOD being their first and most sizable appearance.
By many, “Seven Churches” is considered to be the creation of death metal genre – it has all the characteristics of a solid death metal band, which includes aggressive guitar riffs, chaotic guitar solos, furiously fast drumming, and demonic vocal parts. Each and every tune appeared as a meticulously scheduled outburst.
Despite the negative messages of the lyrics, the complete debut seemed to be recorded with a lack of difficulty. “Seven Churches” impressed with its undisturbed sequence and it was always a great challenge to press the stop button before the glorious closing track “Death Metal” has ceased.
The title of the album refers to the Seven Churches of Asia mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The opening track “The Exorcist” starts with a version of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” as arranged and executed in the same-titled 1973 legendary horror film “The Exorcist” which we all remember. This album misled the audience at first glance; there is a track called “Death Metal”, while on the other side, the logo, album title and song titles such as “Pentagram” or “Holy Hell” gave an indication of a black metal origin. The music itself seemed to originate from the doctrine of Exodus or Slayer due to the torturous, penetrating riffing.
POSSESSED skyrocketed at the time, a fact which was aided by “Pentagram” being included on the first part of the well-known “Speed Kills” compilation; “The new gods – total thrash mayhem – INTENSE” were the words describing their sound on the back cover of the album. This may have contributed to “Seven Churches” having influenced and signified this entire scene so much.
The tempo ranges throughout the entirety of the album from fast and furious (although never overdoing it) to mid-tempo pace, with some moments even incorporating an element of groove, in their distorted manner; track such as “Pentagram” and “Holy Hell” are instantly captivating due to their vigor accompanied by Jeff Becerra‘s exemplary throat-shredding vocals.
In general, “Seven Churches” marks (or, is said by many to mark) the beginning and to have set the foundations of death metal. Whatever the case, this album is definitely of value and substantial status to the death metal genre and deserves a place in the ‘classics’ section.
On the 21st of December in Thessaloniki and on the 22nd of December in Athens, POSSESSED are going to perform for the first time in Greece; a live performance that will commemorate the whole history of this band and will constitute definitely a memorable ones for those who will witness it.