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Obligatory Classic Review - 98%

tidalforce79, December 22nd, 2017

Every once in a while an album comes along, in which the world is ill prepared. Such albums touch on aspects of metal that one formally thought impossible. Previously established boundaries are eroded away, leaving behind expectations that are often left unfulfilled by future generations of classics. Like an astronaut who has ventured to the moon, we are left asking: “what can possibly be next?” Seven Churches defines the concept.

In the glorious nineteen eighties, the line between death metal and thrash was skewed. Future generations would term such a musical style “death thrash,” but at the time, the world was ill prepared to describe the genre defying albums that would later become essentials. Albums like “Pleasure to Kill,” or “Ritually Abused” can be considered thrash, yet something was “different” about the sonic experience. Thrash metal was taken to the outer extremes-definitions required further analysis. While Seven Churches does travel into the realm of genre bending, there are some aspects of the album described by others, that might be seen as misnomers under close examination.

The question of brutality must be addressed. Is Seven Churches brutal? Yes; however, it is not brutal to the point many people make it out to be. There is nothing exceptionally brutal that sets the album apart from contemporary albums. “Torment in Fire” or “Hell Awaits” match Seven Churches is ferocity, and “Bonded by Blood” hits nearly as hard. What makes Seven Churches special is the ever-present sense of melody, found on the verge of total anarchy. At the same time the listener is appreciating the almost catchy song structure, they are left pondering the point in which barely controlled chaos will fall victim to complete disarray.

The first track “The Exorcist” is the prime example. Despite being perhaps the weakest song on the album, it perfectly captures the concept of chaotic melody. After a rather disturbing rendition of the classic tune found in the song’s movie namesake, the track explodes with the fury of an atom bomb. The classic thrash metal drum pattern relentlessly pounds alongside a barrage of riffs that signify the unveiling of hell. Abrasive, gurgling vocals leave even the keenest ear unable to distinguish the lyrics. All the while, however, an underlying melody keeps the listener engaged, enthralled and hypnotized by the fact such chaos tickles the same senses as a catchy jingle found on daytime TV. The main riff on “Pentagram” induces a state of rhythmic head banging, before slamming into full gear.

It must be noted that there is no lack of straightforward, thrash metal bliss. “Death Metal” hits like a sonic wave of euphoric pain. The neck-snapping thrash break that is found within the song “Burning in Hell” leaves no doubt to whether Seven Churches satisfies the same crowd that worships a band like Sodom or Dark Angel. Despite the inherent, aggressive force displayed by any track on the album, Possessed never lost sight of effective song craft. Seven Churches transcends more than the boundaries between thrash and death metal. Instead, the album can be considered the missing link between thrash metal and radio rock, though you will find no mainstream anthems-worry not. Seven Churches much be explored, not simply heard.

The musicianship on the album is anywhere from passable to moderate. Jeff’s vocals are fitting to the music-both torturous and vicious, though it is hard to distinguish the bass. Of the two guitar players, LaLonde is the better player. In terms of solos, LaLonde displays greater technical skill. Mike Sus sounds as if he is slightly out of his league; however and always seems to be just on the edge of screwing the pooch. None of these aspects matter in the big picture, for Possessed simply wrote great songs.

Perhaps the most intriguing factor about Seven Churches is the unique quality the album holds. Nothing that I have ever heard sounds close. The chainsaw guitar tone has never quite been replicated, though Infernal Majesty’s “None Shall Defy” is in the same realm. People often compare Seven Churches to “Show No Mercy”-which is somewhat apt; but again, not exact. Seven Churches may not be death metal in the modern sense, but it certainly helped lay the foundation. Likewise, the album proved that heavy could also be melodic.