They are the torch bearers, the pioneers, the mother fucking gods of death metal. Possessed are the band that started it all, that kicked off the death metal movement with their landmark album Seven Churches, a movement that has mutated and morphed into a tangled web of sub-genres, all with a sinister edge.
Frontman Jeff Becerra caught up with Metal Injection for his take on all things death metal.
On Trailblazing the Death Metal Sound:
Possessed has always been pretty controversial. With death metal, I’m not sure the world was ready for death metal. They denied even using the term death metal and insisted in calling us thrash and calling us Slayer, even though we wrote Seven Churches before we even heard Slayer. We didn’t even know who Slayer were, but Show No Mercy beat us to the press and had tremendous success. Maybe it would have been a lot easier to ride on that thrash wave, but we wanted to do our own thing. A lot of people didn’t understand us, despised us, talked shit, turned their back on us, laughed at us, ridiculed, scorned. You can’t do this, you have to be thrash! You can’t just make up something! That was a struggle in and of itself. After 17 and a half years I come back and death metal is widespread recognized as a genre. Not only a genre, but now you have everything from folk death metal to technical death metal. There are so many different ways, shapes and forms that instead of being pigeonholed into simple rules and logic, it is becoming what I think is comparable to the 40s and 50s jazz era, where it’s exciting, ever expanding and colourful. It’s one of, or the most exciting musical genre out right now, because death metal is becoming so much more. There are so many great death metal bands out there and representing themselves as death metal.
On His Definitive List of Death Metal Greats:
It was years that we were the only one, until Death. I really dug what Chuck did. If you look at people that really get the core of what true death metal is about, you’re going to look at bands like Obituary, Morbid Angel. Of course there’s Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation. I dig Napalm Death, Amon Amarth, Immolation, Incantation.
A lot of earlier Morbid Angel. I remember them sending me their demos back in the day and just being blown away. Sepultura was really pivotal in bringing that tribal sound. It’s hard to say, because if you go too Floridian their going to think death metal is one thing and if you go too Californian than it’s another thing. I think it’s important to explore all death metal bands. I think death metal today, people are starting to understand that it’s not a set of button holes and rules and regulations. There’s kind of a spiritual freedom and there’s nothing that can’t be done. If a band identifies as death metal I think they’re death metal.
On the Evolution of Death Metal:
Back when we were the first we tried to make each album and each release as different as possible so we wouldn’t get pigeonholed. Now it makes it so much easier because there are so many wonderful and colourful death metal bands out there, and it just makes it exciting. Whose to say what we can and can’t do? My logic and the reason that we even made death metal in the first place, is we didn’t want anyone to tell us what to do. We wanted to play whatever the fuck we wanted to play, whenever we wanted and however the fuck we wanted to do it. We went through that transition where people said no, it had to be this, this and this and now people are realizing that death metal is kind of a spiritual freedom and artistic form. In my opinion if a band calls themselves death metal they’re fucking death metal.
On Comparable Heavy Sounds of that Era:
There was nobody fast like that, maybe some punk bands. Definitely some hardcore punk bands had that fast beat. Honestly I think black metal was the closest thing and extreme underground punk. There were thrash bands that were fast but not that fast and that dark. There was always that imaginary line. Thrash guys cut their bangs and feathered their hair and had clean white sneakers. They looked good, and we were just fucking dirty and grungy. Looking back, we did have our good hair days, but generally Possessed were like fuck it. We didn’t give a shit.
On Representing the Death Metal Lifestyle:
With death metal, you can’t buy people. You have to get people that are truly into it. There’s not that golden ticket of you can get rich and have a yacht and shit. You have to be into it for 666 per cent of the music, and for the artisanship and craftsmanship of the music. You have to be a huge fan.
Stay tuned to Metal Injection for our full interview with Jeff Becerra on Possessed's new album Revelations of Oblivion.