The band originated in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1983, when San Pablo and El Sobrante residents Mike Torrao (guitar) and Mike Sus (drums) started a garage band with vocalist Barry Fisk and bassist Jeff Andrews under the name Possessed. While the quartet had written some music together, the line-up would be cut short when Fisk committed suicide by gunshot in front of his girlfriend’s house in Tara Hills, San Pablo, CA, and Andrews subsequently opted not to participate in the group any longer.
At about the same time, a band called Blizzard had formed in the neighboring city of Pinole. This band had Jeff Becerra on vocals, Larry LaLonde and Danny Boland on guitars and Michael Miner on drums, all of whom were high school students in the same graduating class. Blizzard was influenced by the early work of Metallica and Exodus, both of whom were gaining a stronghold in the local heavy metal scene and amassing a following abroad. Becerra would leave Blizzard and replace Possessed’s Andrews (who had played on Exodus’ 1982 Demo) on bass, and also took over vocal duties; Brian Montana was recruited on guitar, and the second incarnation of Possessed was created.
The 1983-1984 year was spent practicing and working on their sound by performing at local venues and eventually releasing the 3-song demo, “Death Metal“. After live shows with Metallica and Exodus, the latter group brought the band’s demo recording to the attention of Brian Slagel, head of Metal Blade Records. Slagel showed interest in the band and offered to put one of their songs on an upcoming compilation, Metal Massacre 6. The track included was titled “Swing of the Axe.” Following the release of the compilation, guitarist Brian Montana left the band due to creative differences with Torrao and was replaced by Blizzard guitarist Larry Lalonde. Although Metal Blade did not offer to sign the band, the compilation drew the attention of Combat Records. Possessed signed with the label and released the album Seven Churches in 1985, with Roadrunner Records handling European distribution. Mechanics Bank heiress Debbie Abono (nee Downer), mother of LaLonde’s then-girlfriend, Gina, would manage the band.
In November of the same year, the band flew to Montreal, Canada, for the WWIII Weekend Festival in support of the Seven Churches release, playing alongside Celtic Frost, Destruction, Voivod and Nasty Savage; the concert was Possessed’s first and largest arena appearance, with nearly 7,000 in attendance.
Possessed followed the release with a supporting tour which included a performance with Slayer and Venom at San Francisco‘s Kabuki in 1986. On Halloween, 1986, Possessed released their second album, Beyond the Gates. The following May, the band issued a five-song EP titled The Eyes of Horror which marked a change in direction for the band. The Satanic themes they had become noted for were almost completely absent, and the songs had more of a thrash metal style than their earlier death metal. The EP was produced by guitarist Joe Satriani, and Storm in My Mind was written by Lalonde, the rest by Torrao who had written most of the band’s earlier material too with Becerra writing most of the lyrics only.
Disbandings, reformations and new-line-ups
Shortly after the release of the Eyes of Horror EP, the band disbanded. In 1990, Jeff Becerra was paralyzed from the waist down following a shooting in a robbery.
Mike Torrao reformed Possessed in 1990 with new line-ups consisting of former members of Machine Head and Pro-Pain. They recorded two demos before dissolving in 1993. Mike Torrao has said he felt it was not Possessed, but merely playing under the Possessed name.
In 2007, it was announced Jeff Becerra would be performing under the “Possessed” name at the Wacken Open Air festival and would be backed by all members of Sadistic Intent, one of the bands featured on the Possessed tribute, and would also headline the Gathering of the Bestial Legions III festival in Los Angeles. This same lineup also performed at Maryland Deathfest VIII in May 2010. After a U.S. tour with Danzig and Marduk, Rick and Bay Cortez along with Ernesto Bueno left the band.