Possessed - Seven Churches
Combat
Death Metal
10 songs (39:24)
Release year: 1985
Possessed
Reviewed by Goat

The year of my birth was an important one not just for the obvious reason, but also for the release of the first Death Metal album, ever, beating Death by a couple of years. Many argue that Seven Churches is not, in fact, Death Metal, but is instead Thrash Metal with harsh vocals, which is kind of missing the point. All the way back then, there were no Brutal Deaths, Melodeaths, Prog-Deaths or any of the other subgenres that have since crawled onto the musical landscape from the primordial soup. There was simply this strange, blasphemous little thing, a complete opposite to the 80s mainstream in every way imaginable. From that was formed the beast we know today.

Looking at Seven Churches now, over a quarter of a century later, it’s amazing how well it holds up. Fine, compared to the likes of Slayer’s early albums you can see where the influence comes from, yet it’s such a potent mix of killer Thrash Metal riffs, loose yet far from untechnical drumming and what for once can honestly be called sick vocals that it’s impossible to deny its value. You have to be in a certain mindset to appreciate albums like this, the rough diamonds of the early Extreme Metal ‘genre’ – my first listens to this were accompanied by yawns and head-scratching rather than yelps and headbanging – but if you ‘get’ it, then it’s hard to stop singing (or screaming) Seven Churches’ praises. In addition to the expected Thrashy madness, there’s a subtle sense of melody that pops up in very unexpected moments, the Mike Oldfield-opening to The Exorcist and the bells in Fallen Angels just two examples.

It’s worth examining the Possessed players in all their glory. Frontman and bassist Jeff Becerra, his aforementioned sick screams and his more than competent basswork, sadly later to be paralysed from the chest down, guitarist Larry LaLonde, only 17 at the time and later to be a part of Funk Metal experimentalists Primus, and the two Mikes, Torrao and Sus, on guitar and drums, one now a landscaper and the other a drug councillor. Their playing throughout Seven Churches is hard to fault, as sloppy as it might initially seem. And I have to mention the production; the 80s is rightly infamous for its polished soullessness, yet Seven Churches’ producer Randy Burns did an amazing job. The guitars are big and menacing, the bass audible, the vocals not too loud... a stellar piece of work, that makes the album timeless as well as a product of its time.

The songs themselves are exhilarating, simple and silly at first but with further listens amazingly deep and memorable constructions. I could write for hours, but especially worthy is the unhinged beauty of The Exorcist, widdly guitars and blasting drums forming a flotilla of surprisingly catchy destruction, the melodious Pentagram, the spiralling solos and Slayeresque riffs of the title track... more than anything, though, Seven Churches possesses a strange sense of intensity missing from most of today’s Death Metal. Back then, Becerra and crew can’t have even imagined that a decade or so later Death Metal would become as big as it did. In 1985, Possessed were playing this music simply for love of the music, and the result is an album that every Death Metalhead should own. This is what the word ‘classic’ was invented for.

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Goat quoted CLASSIC
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