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How I wish many of the so called extreme metal bands of today would look back at this album and realize what heritage it is they're pissing on. If there is such a thing as "true death metal", Possessed's masterpiece Seven Churches is by far the best.
I have been looking for the origin of death metal's identity for a long time, and now I have most definitely found it. Seven Churches is as evil, raw, and qualitative as death metal will ever be in my opinion. Let me tell you why my love for this album is so God damned strong!
First of all, this album contains what many modern extreme acts lack: a strong, well written structure that accompanies the sheer rawness of the sound. While many other extreme bands out there emphases the extreme part way to much, they tend to forget what is most important while making music: the song itself. This is what makes Seven Churches my very favorite death metal album, if not my very favorite metal album altogether. The sound is fast, extreme and raw yes, but behind all that reverb, distortion and speed you find some seriously good music, with chord progressions and vocals that create that very evil sound we all love!
I hear people complaining about the extreme amount of reverb. Perhaps you do not know the history behind this album. It was written and recorded during a spring break! Jeff, Larry, Mike and the rest of the guys had neither time nor funds to create the most polished album out there. And thank God for that! This album was never intent to sooth you. It's not easy listening. This is pure fucking death metal! Hadn't it been for it's raw charm, I, and many many others, wouldn't have loved it just as much as we do. The reverb is painful at high volumes yes, but that is the way it's supposed to be. As the French Foreign Legion says: You haven't trained hard unless you puke afterwards. Well, you haven't really listened to Seven Churches unless you have a weird tone in your ears afterwards.
Now for the musicians! Mike Sus is truly a good drummer. If I had to explain his drumming, and the overall structure of the album, with one word, it would be "unpredictable". You never know when the tempo will change in the middle of a song. You think you just got into the tempo of a song, and suddenly a far more complex version of the tempo starts of, usually with Mike marking the change. What is amazing is that none of the young musicians ever get lost in the tempo changes.
Some find this hard to adapt to, I say it's a matter of getting used to it. Like i previously said, this is not an easy listening album. This is for die hard metalheads who love complexity.
Larry LaLonde created the death metal way of playing with his guitar work. Think Venom and Exodus on speed! Complicated riffing and perfect chord progressions set the tone of the album. Although the sound is raw, you always hear Larry and Mike Torrao's guitars bringing you closer and closer to the chaos of hell as the album keeps going.
Jeff Berecca's inhuman proto-growling is very fitting. Since most of the lyrics is about how you will end up in hell for doing evil things, they really need a voice that tells you "this is not a joke, you really will burn in hell". Even though Possessed never really were "real" satanists, you can understand why many people feared this album back in the 80's.
The lyrics, vocals, low production value and imagery (consisting of inverted crosses, studs and blood) really created something special back in the days. I can only hope this album will forever be remembered by the generations of metalheads to come.
Seven Churches will always be the album I compare other extreme albums to.
This is as good as it gets.