Possessed, the most respected and first true American death metal band
from the legendary Bay Area, San Francisco, gained a real huge cult status
following in the short life time. They have influenced a number of other
death/thrash and black bands around the globe during two decades, in the
80’s and 90’s. They basically set new standards and created the whole
death metal concept with the brutal flesh ripping and tormenting grunt
vocals by Jeff Becerra, insane thunderous drumming by Mike Sus and nasty
vicious guitars by Mike Torrao and Larry Lalonde.
But where and how everything started out in the first place and what
they gained and why Possessed ceased to exist and what’s up nowadays ?!
Let’s take a glance at the historical point of Possessed first of all…
The existence of this legendary combo started out in 1983 as a local
garage band formed by young high school kids Mike Torrao and Mike sus and
the vocalist of that time named Barry Fisk who then decided to make his
own solution by committing suicide. When Jeff Becerra stepped in to sing,
the band began to find its own identity and the name was chosen Possessed.
Before teaming up with Possessed Jeff Becerra used to play in a local
metal called Blizzard which was heavily influenced and inspirited by the
Black Sabbath stuff and in general the stuff of the 70’s and the 60’s
as well as a few heavy metal tunes like Jeff Becerra has cited. Blizzard
even once opened for Mercyful Fate in the early 80’s.
The band started rehearsing a lot and recorded their first three track
demo in 1984 and even once bonus track called “Fallen Angel” in the
same session which never made to the demo, but instead got spread out by
tape traders. The tape ended up to Brain Slagel’s hand from Metal Blade
who showed his interest in the band asking for Swing Of The Axe for the
Metal Massacre Vol 6 comp album, which ended there as a renewed recorded
version. The track has been said to be one of the highlights of that
compilation and has been included on the best of “Metal Massacre”
After getting the demo out the band found one weak link in the line up
being Brian Montana who was sacked from the band. Afterwards in several
interviews both Mike Torrao and Jeff Becerra have unveiled about the real
reasons for that departure was because of Montana’s attitude and
dedication to the image what Possessed stood for didn’t represent the
same thing and his playing skills have also been criticized. At that time
there used to be a bunch of rumours floating around about Kerry King
joining Possessed because of endless fights with Tom Araya, but as usual
rumours are always rumours and the needed replacement was found and picked
up from Jeff Becerra’s old Blizzard a guy called Larry Lalonde.
The band used to do a lot of gigs in the SF area a lot mainly with
their good friends from Exodus. Both the bands gained the real extreme
reputation of being the most violent, aggressive and dangerous live acts
in the local scene.
Despite a track for Metal Massacre and Brian Slagel’s interest toward
Possessed and Exodus’ label Torid offered a suitable deal, but the band
instead accepted a deal with Combat which had picked up several thrash
metal bands from the area of San Francisco and Los Angeles like Dark
Angel, Megadeth. On Easter 1985 the band entered the Prairie Sun studio to
record the debut album with Randy Burns behind the desk producing. Four
drunk metal heads’ only aim was to make a bunch of noise and a want to
have more distorted kinds of noisy sounds. Seven Churches was born !!! The
true death metal classic in every aspect, no need to start to explain what
The band spent the whole year touring and gigging all around with
several bands. One of the most memorable tours and gigs for Possessed was
with Slayer and above all their idols Venom. Especially the gig with Venom
and Slayer in a club called Kabuki in their hometown, San Francisco, has
been described the most memorable and unbelievable show ever by several
old death metal heads of the 80’s. It has been said the band put a lot
of energy and passion into that show. In general Possessed’s gigs were
nothing, but chaotic metal mayhem.
In 1986 (On Halloween by the way) the second output Beyond The Gates
was unleashed. The album was criticized for its weak production done by a
person called Carl Cannedy who had played in a band called The Rods and
also worked with Exciter and Anthrax before. Despite the weak production
approach the album however includes a lot of killer death metal classics
like Seance, Tribulation, Phantasm.
They set off for the three and half week Euro tour with Voivod and
Deathrow. The tour got problems in Bochum, Germany where all hell broke on
loose literally as the crowd started rioting and the club owner had called
the riot police to calm down the situation. Mike Torrao was asked to clam
the audience down and he was booted off from the stage, but however after
the short break they continued to finish the gig.
After the European tour the band went out with the LA thrashers Dark
Angel for the US tour “Gates of Darkness “ in the early 1987, but on
the tour the conflicts between the band’s members were getting to have
more and more aggressive and violent tendencies as they had literally
several merciless fist fights. Afterwards Mike Torrao has told the
whole tour in general was really awful besides fights, the band had got
problems with their manager Debbie Abono.
Even though the chemistry within the band was already heavily inflamed and
they entered to record the last output being the mini lp called “Eyes of
the Horror” with Larry Lalonde’s guitar teacher Joe Satriani doing the
production job. Despite negative responds and criticism what the album
received, but however the band has stand behind the album until nowadays
and said it turned great in every aspect. The lyrics on the mlp was more
based on Jeff Becerra’s personal experience with drugs and had a lot of
issues dealing with insanity and had less obvious references to satanism.
Possessed still did two gigs with Megadeth and then split up forever. Jeff
Becerra left the band due to his personal problems and so did other two
Mike Torrao decided to put the band on hiatus, until in the beginning
of the 90’s and started searching potential members to join Possessed.
The line up went through several changes until it settled down. Torrao
recruited three new faces to the rank who had been friends of the band
during the whole 80’s; Bob Yost (bass, ex-Desecration member), Walter
Ryan (drums, later has been in Machine Head and Madball) and Mark
Strausberg (guitar). That line-up recorded one demo tape in 91, but the
result was quite catastrophic to be honest. They did three gigs all in all
and one of them was with Machine Head. Once again the line up underwent
some changes when Bob Yost was dismissed. In '93 the Possessed pt. II, as it was
called, did another tape featuring three new tracks. The stuff
was much more the typical brutal growling US death metal and definitely
not match to the old material by any manners.
After the demise of Possessed, Larry Lalonde teamed up with Les
Claypool’s Blind Illusion and did one album called “The Sane Asylum”.
But later Lalonde and Claypool became extremely well known and gained the
successful reputation in Primus (suxx ass!!). In several interviews when
it was inquired about Lalonde’s past in Possessed, but he usually
refused the whole existence of Possessed obviously in order to protect his
reputation in front of eyes of the Primus fans and managed to obtain a
plenty of enemies for that. Primus have done a bunch of albums, but it is
really obvious there is NO need to start talking about them, because PRIMUS
Mike Sus returned back to school and graduated as a psychologist and
the last time from what I have been informed nowadays he would be teaching
and helping injured people to live on their own in normal everyday
routines and also helps drug addicted. He is pretty much out of the music