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American death metal pioneers Possessed are often referred to as the godfathers of the genre, having established themselves as such in 1983 with the creation of a three-song demo simply called Death Metal. Distancing themselves from the crowded Bay Area thrash scene with sheer savagery and the distinct, guttural howl of frontman Jeff Becerra, the band blazed a fiery trail for future death metal enthusiasts with the influential LPs Seven Churches (1985) and Beyond the Gates (1986) before disbanding in 1987. They re-formed in the 2010s and eventually returned to the studio and released their long-awaited third full-length effort, Revelations of Oblivion, in 2019.
True to their name, San Francisco’s Possessed seemed cursed by dark and evil forces throughout their troubled career. Formed by guitarist Mike Torrao and drummer Mike Sus in 1983, the group would lose first singer Barry Fisk to suicide before even graduating from garage band status. They persisted, though, and after recruiting vocalist/bassist Jeff Becerra and guitarist Brian Montana, the band was offered a slot on Brian Slagel’s Metal Massacre, Vol. 6 compilation. Possessed’s savage sound immediately stood out from the competition and drew the attention of Combat Records, with which they signed in 1985 after replacing Montana with guitarist Larry LaLonde. Issued later that year, the unwaveringly brutal Seven Churches was arguably the first true death metal album and set the stage for the genre’s breakaway from thrash. Their second effort, Beyond the Gates, was released, fittingly enough, on Halloween 1986. After recording the five-track EP The Eyes of Horror the following year (produced by LaLonde’s guitar teacher Joe Satriani), the band decided to call it quits. Two years later, frontman Becerra was shot during a mugging and left paralyzed from the waist down. He re-formed Possessed in 2007 and played that year’s Wacken Open Air festival backed by members of Sadistic Intent. LaLonde would go on to a long career with bassist Les Claypool’s bizarro funk-metal trio Primus.
In 2017 Becerra put together a new Possessed lineup and inked a three-album deal with Nuclear Blast. Revelations of Oblivion, the legendary group’s first collection of new music in decades, arrived in 2019. ~ James Christopher Monger