When talking about the world’s most influential bands of the extreme genre that shaped the genre itself and today are considered the pioneers of the following we are part of today, a few names pop into mind. Possessed is definitely one of them. Cited by many as the fathers of Death Metal, due to their use of ultra – fast guitaring, merciless pounding of drums and ripping vocals, Possessed have managed to create an undeniably strong bond with the enthusiasts of the extreme music. Why don’t we dive into the details of Possessed’s existence and warm ourselves up for the gigs in Thessaloniki and Athens? Let’s take things from the start.

Originating from San Francisco Bay Area, Possessed were originally formed in 1983, by Mike Torrao (guitar) – who also thought of th band’s name – and Mike Sus (drums). They started as a garage band with vocalist Barry Fisk and bassist Jeff Andrews. Due to an unexpected turn of events, Fisk committed suicide by gunshot in front of his girlfriend’s house in Tara Hills. Subsequently, Andrews decided not to participate in the band from this point forth, despite the fact that the group had already written music. Around that time, a band called Blizzard, influenced by Exodus’ and Metallica’s early works, was formed with Jeff Becerra on vocals, Larry LaLonde and Danny Boland on guitars and Michael Miner on drums, all of whom were high school students in the same graduating class. Jeff Becerra was approached by Mike Torrao and Mike Sus at his High School and asked him if he wanted to join up with them. Becerra left Blizzard and replaced Possessed’s Andrews on bass, and also took over vocal duties. Beccera managed to learn 7 songs in one day in order to get in the band. Furthermore, Brian Montana was recruited on guitar. With these changes in lineup, Possessed’s new era was about to begin.


The first year of their existence, Possessed were practicing and working in their studio, while simultaneously they performed some gigs at local venues. Eventually, they released their first demo ‘Death Metal’, which featured three tracks and is considered by some to be amongst the list with the first death metal demos ever recorded. ‘Death Metal’, ‘Evil Warriors’ and ‘Burning In Hell’ were the tracks featured. ‘Fallen Angel’ was recorded during the same session, but the song did not make the official demo; it was a one-take track, done quickly at the end of the recording session. “Death Metal” was written by Becerra during an English class while he was still in High School. In his own words: “{…} I remember it like it was yesterday. My instructor had extremely hairy legs so I really had no interest in what she was saying. So I started penning the heaviest shit I could think of (of course in proper English… lol). I think that it was her hairy-ass legs that inspired such a brutally ugly song. Yes, ‘Black Metal’ was already taken so we decided to call it Death Metal.” Even though all that seem fascinating for us the fans, the reality was harsh on the band. Possessed had financial issues, preventing them from recording properly their demo. As Becerra stated in an interview: “Actually we all just pitched in for the studio costs and went in and did it. It went of really smooth and we did it in an extremely short amount of time. We had no idea what the fuck we were doing so it turned out perfect (no overproducing etc.).” It only took 10 hours for the band to record the whole thing, due to the aforementioned lack of money. A re-recorded version of this demo with Larry Lalonde playing lead guitar instead of Brian Montana was briefly released in 1984 with the same cover and track listing. The original version with Brian on guitar is distinguished by Jeff saying “Scream out in fright” right before the track ‘Evil Warriors’.

Listen to “Death Metal” demo here:

A second demo was released in 1985, including ‘Fallen Angel’, ‘Swing of The Axe’ and ‘Death Metal’.

Listen here:

That same year, after shows with Metallica and Exodus, the latter group brought the band’s demo recording to the attention of Brian Slagel, head of Metal Blade Records. Slagel showed interest in the band and offered to put one of their songs on an upcoming compilation, Metal Massacre VI (which featured Nasty Savage, Hallow’s Eve, Hirax, Dark Angel and Steel Assassin, among others). The track included in this compilation was “Swing of the Axe”. Following the release of the compilation, guitarist Brian Montana left the band due to creative differences with Torrao and was replaced by Blizzard guitarist Larry Lalonde. Although Metal Blade did not offer to sign the band, the compilation drew the attention of Combat Records.

Possessed signed with the label and released the album “Seven Churches” in 1985, with Roadrunner Records handling European distribution. {Fun fact, on Combat Record’s first pressing, “Churches” is misspelled on the album’s spine.}. “Seven Churches” were supposed to come out with a different cover. The cover featured a Satanic Church on the front with pentagram windows and upside-down crosses. There was a nun hanging from a tree by a chain with this wicked owl holding it. In the front of the church were grave stones that were to bear the names of the band. Unfortunately for us, the band went with a different version, as they thought that the first one was provocative, while the other would made more impact. Possessed wanted to be heavier and more satanic than any other band out there. This mentality created fears to the band members and second thoughts about their effort, thinking that Possessed would be the only Death Metal band in the world back then. As Becerra once said about those fears and generally the whole talk about Possessed creating the Death metal genre: “Whenever we first started playing a lot of people laughed at us and didn’t understand what we were doing. But eventually more and more people caught on and what we were doing became popular. With the low-growl vocals and the super fast drum beats. Back then nobody but Possessed had done this exclusively. And eventually the term “Death Metal” which was meant to explain and separate Possessed from the other “Thrash/Black/Speed” acts out there, became an actual genre of music.”

In November of the same year, the band flew to Montreal, Canada, for the WWIII Weekend Festival in support of the “Seven Churches” release, playing alongside Celtic Frost, Destruction, Voivod and Nasty Savage; the concert was Possessed’s first and largest arena appearance, with nearly 7,000 in attendance. A supporting tour for the promotion of the album followed, with Slayer and Venom included in a performance in San Francisco’s Kabuki in 1986.

Listen to “Seven Churches” here:

Possessed’s second full length album “Beyond the Gates” was released on October 31st, purely coincidental on Halloween, 1986.

Listen to “Beyond The Gates” here:

The following May, the band issued a five-song EP titled ‘The Eyes of Horror’ which marked a change in direction for the band. Their sound moved closer to the Thrash structures of the era than the Death Metal approach that the band was previously / initially attached to. The EP was produced by guitarist Joe Satriani, and ‘Storm in My Mind’ was written by Lalonde, the rest by Torrao who had written most of the band’s earlier material too with Becerra writing most of the lyrics only. The song ”Tribulation” is credited to Larry LaLonde but the song was actually written by original second guitarist Brian Montana. In support of “Beyond The Gates” the band finally got the opportunity to tour Europe for three and a half weeks with Deathrow and Voivod.

Listen to “The Eyes Of Horror” here:

You can watch Mike Torrao and Jeff Becerra talk about Possessed of that era in the following extract of an interview on MusicBox 1986 (UK) just before their European tour with Voivod in the fall of 1986.

Shortly after the release of the ‘Eyes of Horror’ EP, the band disbanded.
A tragedy in 1989 prevented the band to form again. Jeff Becerra was paralyzed from the waist down following a shooting. To this day, we still don’t know what exactly took place that fateful day, since the amount of variations of this story are numerous. Probably the truest version of the story is, that Becerra got robbed and shot by two drug addicts on his way home from work which left him paralyzed from the waist down ever since. Based on what Becerra once stated, he was shot two times and almost got shot in the head. More specifically: “The first bullet went into my chest about six inches above the nipple, went through the lung and stuck on the inside of my spine. I put my hand up as I was going down, and the second bullet clipped the top of my ring finger off. But at least it didn’t hit me in the head. So I was on the ground, and the first guy put the gun to my head and pulled the trigger, and the gun jammed — luckily for me, some criminals don’t know how to clean their automatic weapons.” This incident had grave consequences in Becerra’s life. According to his statement: “For about 4 years I partied really super hard… just trying to kill the pain. I was on the brink of death for a while from too much booze and massive drugs. But eventually a friend of mine named Lloyd Albright came around and he was also in recovery (X dope head) and convinced me to go back to college and grow the fuck up. From there on everything has been great. […].”

Mike Torrao reformed Possessed in 1990 with new line-ups consisting of former members of Machine Head and Pro-Pain. They recorded two demos (“Demo 1991” containing the tracks “The Martyr’s Wake” and “The Seventh Sign” and “Demo 1993”, which included “The Seventh Sign”, “Last Ritual” and “Human Extermination”). Between the release of those two Demos, the band released on September 15th 1992, a compilation via Combat Records, which featured tracks from the band’s two full lengths and “The Eyes of Horror” EP. The band dissolved in 1993. Mike Torrao once said he felt it was not Possessed, but merely playing under the Possessed name.

In 2007, it was announced Jeff Becerra would be performing under the “Possessed” name at the Wacken Open Air festival and would be backed by all members of Sadistic Intent, one of the bands featured on the Possessed tribute, and would also headline the Gathering of the Bestial Legions III festival in Los Angeles. This same lineup also performed at Maryland Deathfest VIII in May 2010. After a U.S. tour with Danzig and Marduk, Rick and Bay Cortez along with Ernesto Bueno left the band.

Possessed performing “Confessions” at Waken Open Air Festival, in 2007:

Possessed is currently writing new material for their first full-length studio album since 1986’s “Beyond the Gates”. Little do we know about it. The only sure thing is that the band started working on it during August / September and some tracks will be premiered during their current tour. Fingers crossed!

Possessed will be visiting Greece for a couple of gigs in Thessaloniki and Athens, thanks to Made of Stone Productions and 3P Lab.

Thessaloniki, Wednesday 21st of December, Eightball Club.
Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/831853216951599/

Athens, Thursday 22nd of December, Kyttaro Club
Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/687841611373460/