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Few bands have done more to push the boundaries of extreme metal than the legendary Possessed. Even fewer can create a unique style which continues to set them apart from all others in a genre they laid the foundation for.
Mike Torrao (guitar), Mike Sus (drums) and Barry Fisk (vocals) got their start playing covers of bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. After Fisk’s unfortunate suicide, Torrao and Sus recruited singer/bassist Jeff Becerra from local metal band Blizzard to form a new band- Possessed- whose name would eventually be known by heavy music fanatics worldwide.
Possessed took San Francisco’s metal scene by storm, playing with fellow Bay Area thrashers and friends Exodus, and other bands- many now long gone. In 1982-1983, they recorded a four song demo. One of the demo tracks, “Swing of the Axe” ended up on the Metal Massacre 6 compilation and later on “The Best of Metal Massacre.” While starting to make waves in the metal community, Possessed replaced guitarist Brian Montana, whose dedication to the band had waned. To fill the void left by Montana, Jeff Becerra recruited friend and Blizzard band mate Larry LaLonde. LaLonde’s passion for guitar and home-grown style fit Possessed perfectly; roughly six months after LaLonde joined Possessed, they signed to Combat Records.
Released in October 1985 on Combat Records, Seven Churches set a new standard for extreme music. Combining Torraro and LaLonde’s lighting fast riffs, Becerra’s raspy trademark growl and speedy bass playing, Sus’s pummeling drums and Randy Burns’ production, Seven Churches created a whole new genre of music- death metal. Written primarily by Torrao and Becerra, Seven Churches went on to be one of Combat Records’ best-selling albums. Not bad for a quartet of high school kids! Torrao and Becerra teamed up with LaLonde to write Beyond the Gates. Released on Halloween in 1986, this album was especially well-received in Europe where they toured at the end of the year. The album that changed the landscape of heavy metal, Seven Churches is the bar by which death metal albums are still measured.
After that tour, Possessed recorded and released Eyes of Horror, a five song EP produced by Joe Satriani. Musically and lyrically advanced, the album touched on dark themes such as sin, drugs and violence. Not long after the release of the EP, LaLonde joined up with Les Claypool and Primus. Soon after, Sus left to continue his studies at SFSU and Torrao decided he no longer wanted to play in a band. Becerra continued to play and joined some side projects, but mostly took time to pursue his goals in life. At one point, Torrao attempted to re-create Possessed, but this attempt was short lived.
In 2004, Becerra joined with Sadistic Intent to record “The Exorcist” for a Possessed tribute album. Becerra and Sadistic Intent decided to do a few live shows to satisfy fans who had been clamoring for shows for decades. With such a positive response, Becerra and Sadistic Intent continued to play a number of successful shows, including Wacken 2007, Maryland Deathfest 2009, and 2010’s Blackest of the Black Tour. This lineup breathed life into Sadistic Intent and Becerra, and the two parties split amicably to play their own styles of metal, with drummer Emilio Marquez staying with Becerra and Possessed.
In 2011, Becerra and Marquez (Asesino, Coffin Texts, ex-Brujeria) found new blood in bassist Tony Campos (Ministry, Asesino, Soulfly, Prong) and guitarists Kelly McLauchlin (Pessimist, Diabolic, Unholy Ghost) and Daniel Gonzalez (Nailshitter).
After making several live appearances, including Hellfest 2011, this lineup has established Possessed for a new era. Possessed’s legacy has been highly influential in the realm of extreme metal, changing the genre forever. Ready to take it further, Possessed is planning several tour dates and writing new material that will change the face of death metal once more.