POSSESSED - Seven Churches (COMBAT Records - LP 1985)
Recently I’ve listened to many absolutely killer new death metal bands, which try to resurrect the traditional, classic sound and style of this music – and many really did succeed in this, recording absolutely crushing demos and albums. But once in a while I just feel a strong need to go back to some cult and original releases, of the forefathers of the genre… and why not do this today with Possessed’s classic release “Seven Churches”? Definitely this album is a great introduction to the thrashing death metal for everyone who wants to check where the origins of this music are, because as much as Venom and Bathory have been creating what we think black metal is, Possessed did the same with death metal. All in all “Seven Churches” does include the song titled “Death Metal” and this is also the title of their debut demo from 1984, right? This San Francisco based outfit, formed back in 1983 by guitarist Mike Torrao and drummer Mike Sus, who soon were joined by legendary guitarist / vocalist Jeff Becerra, are surely pioneers of death metal and they took something what bands like Slayer and Dark Angel did into even more evil, dark, obscure and aggressive territories.
Of course I doubt people, who listened to “Seven Churches” back in 1985 or 87 were calling it death metal though… for them it was more aggressive thrash metal band and when I listen to “Seven Churches” nowadays I can understand why and to be honest if I was bothering to give it any tags then it would probably just be a thrash / death metal, as clearly “Seven Churches” is not as raw, obscure and brutal as the first pure death metal LP “Scream Bloody Gore” and music wise Possessed was leaning into the technical thrash metal quite much. There’s a clear “slayerism” noticeable in many parts of the album, but not just that, luckily, as I feel like Possessed had also quite much in common with their Teutonic rivals Kreator. When you’ll listen to the opening song “The Exorcist” then you may get quite putted off at first by its almost chaotic and messy character, especially if you listen to the drum parts, then the vocals, which are almost out of tune at few times… it is pure madness what happens in this track and clearly Possessed must have been possessed (haha) when composing it! After something like this, “Pentagram” may seem much easier to listen to, with catchier main riff and with the overall more straight forward attitude. Ha, this is thrash / death metal in its perfection – eerie atmosphere, dark and satanic! “Burning in Hell” starts like good, old Sodom, but I definitely don’t mind that, as it is a real headbanger… I especially like that part, which follows the guitar solos, it is just killer stuff. But then “Evil Warriors” comes in and I must consider this track as one of the weakest parts of “Seven Churches”. The riffing in it is quite boring, to be honest, its “Show No Mercy” influence is very audible here, but really “Evil Warriors” is not as classy. The title song is way better, with really awesome main riff and generally killer feeling, one which could even be close to not only Slayer, but also to “Kill’em All”, only Possessed made it way more cruel and violent, plus it shreds with many chaotic, cacophonic guitar solos, which are equally fast as they were a mad race on the scales.
Side B of the vinyl definitely is more killer for me, as it included a couple of my favourite tracks from Possessed. First one is the cult “Death Metal” of corpse – and I cannot imagine a better way for culmination of such a great record. It is a real bombardment of thundering drums and razor sharp riffs, plus very memorable choruses, etc. That main riff belongs to those riffs, which have its place in the metal history, among the most perfect accords ever putted together by a man and the beast (as obviously dark forces must have helped Possessed creating something like this). “Death Metal” is absolutely amazing song, I do consider it to be one of my favourite tracks from the 80’s along with… eeeehhh, no, too many to mention hehe. But if you don’t know this song, then you must learn your metal history, man! “Satan’s Curse” is so wonderfully fast, so relentless that it just makes me bang my head all the time through and I can hardly stop doing so; really good song indeed. And finally another highly esteemed song is “Fallen Angel”. Just listen to the opening theme of it; that slow, epic riff and bells that accompany it – what a great result and something what will stick with you for ages. Afterwards this song turns into quite fast and merciless motherfucker, quite chaotic at few moments again, but this is just pure death / thrashing metal slaughter. I’m afraid though that again a couple of tracks from side B may seem nowadays to be more of the fillers, than something what can stand on the same level of excitement and thrashing death extravaganza as those, which I just mentioned. I mean song like “Twisted Minds” is just hmm… dull? I’m not saying it is terribly bad or whatever, I like few parts from it, mainly this riff, which accompanies the guitar solos and as overall it basically is a classic thrash metal song, but just not as utterly aggressive and memorable as one would expect from an album, which supposedly opened the gates of hell for a new genre called death metal.
Standout tracks: “Death Metal”, “Fallen Angel”, “Pentagram”, “Satan’s Curse”
Final rate: 85/100