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POSSESSED – Maniac Possession
Dave Reynolds
Metal Forces, Issue 16 (1986)

Possessed (l-r): Mike Torrao, Jeff Becerra (bottom), Mike Sus and
Larry LaLonde

There are many of you who just couldn’t wait for the debut Possessed album, Seven Churches, to appear in the stores. There was a buzz about this band that had filtered its way through the metal underground system, saying that San Francisco’s Possessed were about to take the thrash world by storm. And when the album did make it out, via Combat in the United States and Roadrunner in Europe, then all the reports about this quartet proved to be true. Possessed instantly became the new gods of thrash, and even an old sceptic like myself was bowled over by them.

It would be pointless to try hoodwinking you into believing that I’ve always been a thrash fan at heart. No, my musical tastes are more in tune with the flash direction than thrash, but I am interested in thrash when it’s played well, so that means I get a kick outta Metallica, Living Death, Iron Angel and a host of others. Well, Possessed are the heroes of this piece and they certainly can play thrash metal well.

“It was Venom and Exodus who first got us into thrash metal,” says Possessed guitarist Larry LaLonde. “They’re the only bands for us. We’re really good friends with Exodus, as you know.”

The quartet, completed by Jeff Becerra (vocals / bass), Mike Torrao (guitar) and Mike Sus (drums), first came to the attention of many people thanks to the band’s contribution to the Metal Massacre VI compilation album, with the infamous ‘Swing The Axe’. They then landed a contract with New York’s Combat Records, and also a spot on the Metal Forces compiled Speed Kills album as a taster for the Seven Churches album. The main thing that struck me about the album is that the band actually achieve something musically, and it’s not just noise like, say, Sodom. The musicianship is a strong point in Possessed’s favour. “Yeah, I think so too,” says Larry. “We just wanted to make a record without just making pure noise and we tried to get the production (by Randy Burns) just how we wanted it.”

Can you fulfill the potential shown on the album in a live situation? “Yeah, I think we can, even if we aren’t able to use our own equipment we’ll still be able to get that sound.”

Is there a problem getting gigs? I’ve been hearing stories of thrash bands being banned from playing in clubs. “No, not really. I haven’t really heard that much. Some clubs have banned shows, but those are the small clubs that don’t usually deal with metal bands and can’t take in the number of people that metal bands attract.”

Are there any plans for Possessed to tour in the near future? “Yeah, as soon as we can get some dates set up. We’ll be just doing some small tours here and there.”

What about Europe? You’ve obviously heard how well Exodus were received? “Oh yeah, it looks like we’ll be over in Europe – especially Germany – in the summer. We really wanna come over there but it’s difficult at the moment because me and Jeff are still at school, so we’re gonna have to wait a while.”

I’m sure once Possessed do make it over to Europe everyone is gonna go nuts over ’em, just like they did when Slayer and Exodus came over last year. But does it bother the band that a lot of people who buy the record really take the Satanic imagery seriously? “Not really. I don’t think they take it seriously at all, they see that it’s just part of the show and they all come and have a good time.”

Well I hope so, but I’m still not convinced, especially after reading some of the Penbanger ads in this very magazine. I think 1986 will see a serious backlash against bands who sing about Satan, whether for real or just show. The Americans are a sensitive nation when it comes to messin’ with evil, possibly all to do with their God fearing pilgrim roots. Remember when the comic book capers of Kiss first made a name for themselves? They were branded as being Knights in Satan’s Service and Gene Simmons was accused of actually being the Devil incarnate. Or how about in the 60s, when John Lennon was misquoted in a magazine when talking about religion and ruined a tour of America for The Beatles? And now with the possibility of this P.M.R.C. bill coming into effect we’ll have to see what happens in 1986.

In the meantime, Satanic imagery or not, Possessed plan on furthering their undoubted potential in 1986. “I’m not exactly sure as to when we’ll be doing another album,” says Larry. “But we should be recording an EP or something in February because we’ve been working on some new songs recently.”

Something that should, hopefully, see the band seriously threaten the big league ’cos they’ve got the youth on their side, and what they may lack in experience they more than compensate for in their ability to play excellent heavy metal with the required dosage of enthusiasm that only deserves to see them do well.

As far as the show itself is concerned it’s just a “straight ahead show, no bombs or anything”, but who knows? Once they develop into an act that merits heavy financial backing then, well, they could have maybe something on the lines of Venom. The only difference being that people tend to laugh at the tongue-in-cheek element of the Cronos charade (don’t get me wrong, I like Venom, being what you might call an original fan of theirs), but it’ll be an entirely different story with Possessed. Wait and see.

Interview taken from Metal Forces, Issue 16 (1986)

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