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Possessed Frontman Jeff Becerra Discusses Death Metal, New Album, "Revelations Of Oblivion" And More

Death metal is now one of metal's most famous sub genres. It's such an integral part in fact that some non metal fans erroneously believe heavy metal itself is death metal, arrogantly dismissing the music as "that shouting stuff" or in the case of The Simpsons, even labeling Judas Priest as death metal, (don't worry, Bart apologised for this on the chalkboard a week later.) But where does the genre come from? While it may be a matter of debate for some people, all roads lead to a band from the Bay Area, who amongst the emerging thrash metal scene, wanted a tag of their own, much like Venom had done with black metal, and so decided to call their first demo, "Death Metal" in 1983. That band was Possessed and last month they unleashed, "Revelations Of Oblivion," their first album in thirty three years, the relentless energy of which proving any doubters wrong.

This past week, the band, still led fiercely by vocalist Jeff Becerra, embarked on a headlining tour of Europe, beginning appropriately enough on June 6th in London. Before the show started, I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff to discuss the new album, his intentions and visions for death metal, his courageous journey after twice being shot and the awesome new video, "Graven," featuring renowned character actor Peter Stormare. You can check out the interview in full below, while an excerpt reads as follows:

Diamond Oz: Obviously what everyone's talking about right now is the new album, "Revelations Of Oblivion." It's a relentless album, like a mugging.

Jeff Becerra: Yeah, that was us holding back!

Oz: It's a Possessed record and I think that's all anyone wanted. It might seem like a silly question but how do you see the album and how proud of it are you?

Jeff: Well I'm really proud of it. I got to write a lot of the songs and really show what my role in Possessed is and of course it's an honour working with Daniel Gonzalez, Emilio Marquez and just a fantastic bunch of guys.

Oz: Cool. One thing which is really striking about it is the artwork, who drew it?

Jeff: You know what, I know I'm going to pronounce his name wrong but it was Zbigniew Bielak, but every time I got near Poland or the Eastern Bloc, he'd come out and bring out these works and I had no idea who he was. But I loved his stuff, the structure of it. I knew I wanted to do a church because the original "Seven Churches" album cover was declined, it's really hard to do churches without making them cheesy so it was important to find somebody that was able to do that and Z is just a fantastic artist.

He's done work for Ghost and loads of other phenomenal stuff, I think he did Kreator... But that was a project in and of itself and I almost had to let him go towards the end because it wasn't finished and so we made a second one from the guy that did the Slayer cover, but Z said "Give me one more week" and two weeks later he came back with the finished product, so we've shelved the other one for later. He was really keen on seeing the lyrics in the song ahead of time and incorporating the lyrical structures and the hidden meanings into the structure of the church, which I thought was really cool, it's kind of like a Satanic "Where's Waldo?" so it's kind of fun. I think it's a masterpiece.

Oz: I think so too. It's interesting you mentioned the cover for "Seven Churches." I was in HMV recently and I noticed that instead of having the actual artwork, it had a slip cover over it which was basically the "Seven Churches" design, so has there been some sort of issue with censorship?

Jeff: No. I really wanted to get into our roots, our sounds. Possessed is very Possessed and I think we have a recognisable sound and that's kind of an iconic cover and so it's kind of an extra treat, you know? It looks like one thing but then it's another. And of course that's a Nuclear Blast thing, they're like the kings of packaging and I'm sure it's going to be repackaged in several different ways.

Oz: Obviously Possessed is rightly credited as the first death metal band, like you said you had the 1983 demo, "Death Metal." When you coined that term, was it just to describe yourself or did you see it becoming a genre?

Jeff: We wanted to set ourselves apart from the beginning so we called ourselves death metal. We knew that Venom had black metal. We loved how they used that as a valuable commodity, it told everyone that it's different. We weren't thrash, we were something very different and unique. I thought Possessed would be the only death metal band, naively, but it's a hard sell. I wouldn't say it was kind of a joke but the underground really kind of latched on to it and got it and then more and more bands started calling themselves, death metal and it steadily became a genre.

Oz: Of course, Possessed came back quite a while ago, you were playing festivals as well as shows in the States. So, what took so long to finally come round to releasing a new album?

Jeff: Well, of course I got shot twice. I wanted to get Possessed back together immediately after the first guys quit on me but unfortunately I got shot, I got robbed so that kind of fucked me up pretty good. I really kind of lost my shit for about five years and then I went to college. I figured, "If I'm going to be in a chair and I don't know if the band's ever going to come back, then I can't be defenceless against the world, I need something to fall back on." Also it gave me some of my self esteem back, I started making As and it pieced me back together little by little and it did wonders. I'm really lucky that I found my way.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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