The schism of extreme metal
|5 (2 votes):|
Well folks, a classic album that tons/many people have reviewed, a corner stone, an untouchable milestone in the history of extreme metal that few dares to criticize and many prefer praising. Controversial schisms have been witnessed on heavy metal and extreme metal. For instance, Ozzy or Dio, Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth and a more recent one; Krzystof’s Batushka or Bart’s Batushka. Stupid discussions that lead nowhere but a pointless argument.
Possessed “Seven Churches” seem to fall into the same abyss of this dichotomy where one group of people acclaimed it as the best metal album ever, the first “death” metal album, the sacred cow of extreme metal. On the other side, the naysayers, the ones who claim the album is overrated, is just thrash metal on steroids. At the end, nobody is right, yes face it! This album is heavy as fuck, is an untamed beast that was kind of ahead of its time but in my opinion did not invent death metal per se. I perceive the band as an igniting force, the primordial precursor of something that later bands perfected into something that now we call death metal.
Seven Churches is packed with the best of both worlds, the most primitive and raw features of thrash and the barbaric aggression of early death acts. For instance, vocal wise, the album can be seen as a thrasher; Jeff‘s vocals are just placed on a higher range for your average classical thrash metal band. His screams incorporate a certain rawness that surpasses singers like Hetfield, Mustaine and Belladonna. The vocals on the album are some of the reasons why people label Seven Churches as a death metal record. Not quite in my opinion, vocals are aggressive and stuff but lack the cavernous and deep guttural approach that later will become trademark of the sub-genre.
Ok, let’s move to the structure of this banger. The record itself is relentless as fuck, no place for ballads or slow songs or mid-tempo. The foot of Mike Sus is on the full gas throughout the album, there are some intros in the songs like “The Exorcist” (Tubular bells, very ad hoc, I have to say), “Fallen Angel” (Evil key-boards to set the mood) and demonic spoken words before the track “Pentagram” begins. Apart from the very short intros mentioned, there is no place to hide during the whole experience, I must say the album is all killer no filler. Back on percussions, the kit is literally destroyed by Sus; my only complaint is that the drumming is very repetitive and follows a predictable formula of the tupa tupa kind that was also very common back on the day. However, a bunch of bands still replicate and homage this old school type of drumming calling themselves retro or even summoning a sub-genre called thrash/death metal.
Let’s move to the guitar department in charge of Mike Torrao and Larry Lalonde. At this point, we are standing in front of a riff machine, the shredding demonstration is flawless jet clueless at some times. I mean, no doubt we are witnessing one of the finest guitar players on metal history but at the same time I got the feeling of confusion and a sort of organized chaos that falls in the middle between thrash and death metal guitar trademark style. The shredding screams thrash metal but the ominous intent of the riffing plants the first seeds on the morbid soil that will later germinate the rotting corpses of death metal. No mystery that coming bands will drink from this fountain of primitive brutality to create their own shit. The guitar duo demonstrates in every song how to shred the strings to the point of making the guitar cry.
The concept of Seven Churches is blurry yet pioneers and detaches thrash metal from its political/environmental criticism. Possessed is loyal to its name and adopts an ad hoc concept for this record, darkness, hell, Satan, blasphemy and all things that are evil. In this case, the record approaches the realm of early death metal in a more specific way. The band logo, the name of the record, the minimalist artwork and the track titles pioneered the many clichés yet to come in the future. I have to say that these guys were quite young when recording Seven Churches, so, that’s why lyrics are not my cup of tea due to their narrowness and lack of perspective that will be shaped better by bands like Death and Morbid Angel.
All in all, no matter what your opinion is, love it or hate it, you can’t ignore the greatness of the record and how influential has been in the extreme metal scene. Ahead of its time and associated only with similar brutal records of the time like Dark Angel‘s “Darkness Descend”, Slayer‘s “Hell Awaits” and Death‘s “Scream Bloody Gore”; Seven Churches is a jewel lost in the useless schism of whether it is the first “death” metal album ever or it is just extreme thrash metal. The fact that a song in this record was named “death metal” doesn’t mean it is death metal. It is the same as saying that Venom is black metal because they named their second album black metal or they have a song with the same name. This argument is very weak and does not contribute to the discussion. Possessed ignited the fire of curiosity and set the bar high for other bands to play heavier songs and also pushed the boundaries of genre classification. We can argue whether it was the first one but I think is better to hold this classic piece as a precursor of extreme music.
Release date: October 16th, 1985
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