For more than 30 years, death metal fans have been pulverizing each other in mosh pits and intellectually bludgeoning each other over the age-old debate: What is the first death metal album?
The nod frequently goes to Death’s Scream Bloody Gore, the 1987 masterwork that elevated metal to all-new extreme heights with Chuck Schuldiner’s blood-curdling screams and dizzying riffs. But others argue in favor of Possessed’s 1985 debut Seven Churches, a blistering thrash-death metal hybrid that predates Death’s own debut by two years (and whose final track is literally titled “Death Metal”).
Now, another death metal veteran has offered his two cents on the subgenre’s first proper release. In a new interview with Underground Florida, Cannibal Corpse drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz gave his pick.
“That’s always the one up for debate. It is a tough one. I would probably have to go with Scream Bloody Gore,” Mazurkiewicz said. “I think that was just a little bit more death metal in the vocals and in the music. Seven Churches, it had maybe a little bit more thrash elements still happening. Scream Bloody Gore was not thrash at all.”
Mazurkiewicz cited Possessed singer and bassist Jeff Becerra’s vocals as an important point of distinction. “Becerra still had an evil voice, kind of like [Slayer’s] Tom Araya,” he said. “It’s a great voice. Is it considered death metal? You can’t consider Tom death metal at all.”
The drummer, who has played with Cannibal Corpse since their inception in 1988, praised both albums effusively. “Like I said, nothing against [Possessed]. Seven Churches [was] amazing. What a great band. And I loved Scream Bloody Gore — my favorite Death record, of course. And it was so influential for us.”
Schuldiner, who died of a brain tumor in 2001, cited Possessed as an influence on Death; the 2016 reissue of Scream Bloody Gore even includes a cover of “Death Metal.”
Death went on to release several more classics within the genre, including the 1991 opus Human, which had a huge influence on the burgeoning technical death metal movement. Possessed, meanwhile, released one more album, 1986’s Beyond the Gates, before breaking up in 1987. They have since reformed and released a third studio album, Revelations of Oblivion, in 2019, with Becerra as the sole original member.