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Historical reissue proves the facts - 88%

gasmask_colostomy, December 15th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2017, 12" vinyl, Relapse Records (Remastered, Limited edition)

When people mention important doom metal acts of the 1980s, the name of The Obsessed often comes up, yet they never publicly released anything but a lonely single during that era. Instead, mastermind Scott “Wino” Weinrich spent time with Saint Vitus, eventually releasing this album in 1990. However, as the generous limited, remastered edition Relapse Records reissue shows, The Obsessed truly were one of the best bands of the era, whether or not they were the most prominent. The previously unreleased Concrete Cancer demo from 1984 (also available separately) and Live at the Bayou performance from Washington D.C. in 1985 exhibit a three-piece with much of this debut album already written, while the remastered sound of the original release cannot disguise the timeless quality of the Marylanders’ pool of influences.

For those who have never listened to The Obsessed, little has changed in their unpredictable doom compositions from this beginning to the recent comeback Sacred. A healthy dose of thunderous blues informs songs like ‘Tombstone Highway’, Wino mixing wistful lead guitar into the more spacious ‘Forever Midnight’, while the ballsy guitar tone and stomping rhythms of ‘The Way She Fly’ and ‘Ground Out’ prove that this was never about nostalgia but also about slugging an emotional gut punch. Punk influences rear their head on the shorter songs (three of which pack out at around two minutes), though the dense ball of heaviness and ragged wisdom shows the band were already the whole package at their inception. Since my purpose here is to give details of the reissue, I won't bang on about all the songs, but rest assured that anyone who claims to be a classic doom fan and doesn't know that 'River of Soul' contains the best use of sitar licks in the genre is a heathen and a liar.

The real excitement for long-term fans must be the extra disc of material though. Concrete Cancer is here lovingly restored with a warm booming guitar sound and, despite their brevity, the songs all carry something refreshingly simple about their swinging heaviness. ‘Hiding Masque’ is of particular note, appearing in similar form on 1991’s Lunar Womb, though this original version possesses a more definite thump and immediate quality. The live set is more valuable as a piece of history, the bootleg sound of the recording making the crowd a heavy presence, while the drums are quiet compared to the guitars. Then again, to hear Wino talk the talk and bash through 12 songs (some exclusively found here) in under 40 minutes is quite an experience, what with all the exuberance of a creative young blues/punk/doom band. Definitely an essential purchase for fans of early doom and a necessary re-purchase for established fans.

Originally written (in slightly edited form) for Metalegion #3 -

Inner Tinfoil - 90%

SweetLeaf95, September 3rd, 2017

Well, this came as something of a surprise upon first listening. When reading up on a band that has a history with Saint Vitus, labeled as doom, and just skimming some of the imagery, one can assume that it's gonna be a dark and devious beast. Amazingly, that's not entirely what The Obsessed is cracked up to be. One thing's for sure, what you see isn't what you get, because there's a fair amount of warm sounding riffs.

What seems to be the case here is a group of dudes that took the doom metal approach, but allowed the '80s glam scene to influence their output. Oddly enough, it's also pretty back and fourth with the straight doom tracks and the warm, melodic friendlier tracks. "Tombstone Highway" and "Forever Midnight" take the latter approach, pumping out melodic riffs and really smooth vocals, lacking hard drum beats. But the heavier tracks keep the record from sticking to one sound, ultimately keeping it even more interesting throughout. Especially, the instrumental track "Fear Child". This is nothing less than an iron filled solo with a much harder drum beat and a thicker bass sound. One of the biggest standouts is "Freedom", how it basically combines all of these atoms into one massive molecule, clocking in at about six minutes.

Another thing that can't be missed is the hint of blues that is present. Most metal of this style can be traced back to that anyway, but the first things that came to mind were early Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac, and the On Parole days of Motorhead. The production is crystal clear, no white noise, which helps add to the "not-so-dark" feeling that is given off. Bottom line, it has a little bit of everything that early metal is about, without stepping foot into anything extreme-metal related, especially vocal-wise.

True, honest and beautiful - 100%

Doominance, January 19th, 2016

There is no doubt that Scott "Wino" Weinrich has done his part in the development and maintenance of the American underground hard rock and metal scene; doom metal in particular. The sporadic musician has featured on records many consider landmarks of underground metal music; the most notable one being Saint Vitus' 'Born Too Late'. Other projects of his such as as Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand and indeed his solo-work have also been praised. But before all of this, there was The Obsessed - Wino's first serious project.

The Obsessed recorded material for their self-titled debut album in 1985; a year prior to Wino's recruitment to Saint Vitus. The album wasn't released until Wino's first stint as frontman for Vitus was over in 1990, or thereabouts, as he wanted to resurrect The Obsessed and focus on his very own music. Wino has a very distinctive style; both vocally and guitar-wise. The Obsessed's music is vastly different from what he's been doing with Saint Vitus; mainly because Dave Chandler is and always has been the main songwriter of Vitus. But you can always tell, when Wino's had a part in the songwriting process. For instance, "Bitter Truth" of the 'Mournful Cries' album and "Angry Man" of 'V' have an obvious "Wino-feel". Lyrically and musically.

This is something that becomes more clear when listening to The Obsessed. The music isn't as creepy as Saint Vitus' frosty riffs and the lyrics aren't as dark, but more spiritual than the ones Vitus have. Wino's songwriting is simple enough, but excellent at the same time. There are very few that manage to make music as honest as Wino and you can feel it in his voice and riffs.

The Obsessed is associated with doom metal, but in reality, it's extremely difficult to place the band within a single genre or two. There are moments of Black Sabbath worship (surprise, surprise), but also moments of the slower, bluesier side of Motörhead. The music is too "lively and light" to be considered pure doom, but also too heavy to be considered rock only. Either way, the music is of high-quality and the album is consistently good with just enough variation to make it a very cohesive and comfortable listen.

The general atmosphere and mood of the album goes a bit back and forth. The more aggressive / angrier songs "The Way She Fly", "Ground Out", "Red Disaster" and "Inner Turmoil" are pretty straight-forward heavy rockers. "Freedom" is fast and kind of aggressive; and works as a continuation of the instrumental track "Fear Child", but isn't as dark and menacing as the other songs mentioned. The best parts of the album, though, are the slower, dreamier tracks: "Tombstone Highway", "Forever Midnight" and "River of Soul". These songs ooze passion, melancholy and beauty, and they truly expose Wino's versatility.

The Obsessed is all about Wino. It can pretty much be considered a solo-project of his as the main focus is his voice and his guitar. The amount of beautiful and versatile riffs this man churns out, on this album alone, is astonishing. He really knows how to create a special atmosphere, be it with his voice, guitar or lyrics, and I can only say that The Obsessed deserves more recognition and should be held in high-regard, as it's literally the face of Wino and his origins.

'If your spirit gains, it's worth the price' - 91%

Acrobat, October 5th, 2009

Don’t let the date fool you on this one -- this, The Obsessed’s debut, pre-dated Wino’s tenure in Saint Vitus, and indeed, its strength was what led a certain Scott Reagers (angry wizard extraordinaire) to recommend Wino to his band-mates as a worthy replacement. The fact that this nifty little release scored Wino his place with the said doom metal legends should be reason enough for you to want to check this out (if you have more than a passing interest in doom, that is); but, in the name of clarity, I’ll continue to stress why The Obsessed is something very special, and indeed, a record of more importance than you may have guessed.

Though I’ve stressed this elsewhere, let’s make sure absolutely nothing slips through for those of you who are afflicted with such ailments as ‘deaf-blind’ or ‘dumb-wonky’: don’t come in expecting the utterly morose take on doom that bands like the aforementioned Saint Vitus and Pentagram happily (terrible word choice: yes) peddle. This is The Obsessed -- Wino’s stoic vision; undiluted, merely aided, by other players; it is his band and he is at his best in it. Why? Because it’s the complete Wino entity: vocals and guitar without one you’re missing out something (not that era of Saint Vitus was at all bad, on the contrary!). Don’t expect a downtrodden vibe to be what’s immersing you; yes, it’s slow and emotionally heavy -- it might well be stuck in a rut, but it’s not dwelling on it. Hell, to avoid conflicts and whines we could even label this as ‘doom rock’ for the duration (and noticeably not stoner rock, as there’s still more common ground shared with Saint Vitus than Monster Magnet here). Yes, don’t expect Liebling’s madness or Chandler’s despair -- it would be silly to do so. In fact you might as well hope for some of Messiah Marcolin’s warbling while you’re at it… you’ll be hopelessly disappointed. Oh, how very ‘doom’ of you. If anything, you could reason that if The Obsessed do deal with despair or personal conflict they do it in a more roundabout manner than a lot of their contemporaries would – ‘The Way She Fly’ is a song based around alcoholism and forlorn love (and the closest, sonically, to Saint Vitus that you’ll find here), but is always dealt with in a more fanciful manner. Wino-istic could well be its only true definition!

Anyway, yes, about that -- right from the beginning (if several years after the band’s inception can be seen as a beginning), The Obsessed are Wino’s project and the bastard child of some of his own musical influences. See, I’ve always thought that you’re greatly missing the point if you just view doom in terms of a bunch of guys borrowing rather heavily from Tony Iommi’s grand old riff chronicles. Sure, it would be ridiculous to deny or understate the importance of Black Sabbath in the development of metal’s various forms (especially doom) but to say that’s the only, be-all and end-all, ingrediant to doom metal’s pot is very short-sighted. You’ll hear Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention in Pagan Altar, Hawkwind in Electric Wizard, Blue Cheer in Pentagram (duh), and in The Obsessed, well, there’s a fairly heavy dose of seventies punk. Though it may not be so apparent in initial listens, and it didn’t strike me until listening to an interview with Wino himself in which he named Ross “The Boss” Friedman as a big influence. Now, you’re almost certainly familiar with his Manowar output (lest you be pulling up your trousers, scratching your head and leaving somewhere very shortly) but this goes back to Ross’s work in The Dictators. Listen to The Dictators’s first and third albums (Go Girl Crazy and Blood Brothers), and then this. Pay close attention to the guitars, now, or this comparison might be in vain! The lead tone and playing is inescapably close. See, Wino -- in what we can now easily label part of his genius -- simply wanted to marry two of his favourite styles with The Obsessed: the traditional heavy Sabbath sound with a more overtly energetic punk in the form of, say, The Dictators or The Saints (Eternally Yours is one of Wino’s favourite albums, I think you should give it a listen, too). There are more out-and-out punk-inspired tracks from the band’s earlier days (you can hunt them down on the Incarnate compilation, too) but the blend here is much more refined and more appealing overall. Perhaps it’s more of a blend of aesthetics than an absolute musical clash.

From then on it becomes easy to see why The Obsessed were an important band for the hardcore punk scene. Early 80s hardcore hot couple, Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins (apparently Henry was terrified of Wino in the early 80s until he spotted his Motörhead patch, and then had a talking point) were certainly into this in its original tape form way back in the 80s. The Obsessed had long hair but there was something very easy to relate to with the music and its message, this is certainly closer to Black Flag than Motley Crue. Metal that punks can relate to: worth noting. There’s something impossibly earnest about The Obsessed’s music -- it’s both very spiritual and personal, in a manner that never even veers towards being dramatic or showy, and surely that fits in with some doom metal traditions, right? Sure, Ozzy’s caterwauling on Sabotage and Lee Dorian’s dramatic delivery fit their bands perfectly but I can’t imagine for the life of me Wino using anything other than his salt-of-the-earth, commanding style. It’s one of many things I find so appealing about The Obsessed; their music is just Wino’s vibe and personality translated into music: nothing more and nothing less. In many respects they’re one of the most introspective and ‘personal’ bands I’ve heard, and though I wouldn’t call the band’s sound “at ease” or “comfortable” (if band names count for anything, and I’m sure they do, then we surely can not deem Obsessive types wholly sound-of-mind) it does set the listener --well, yours truly, at least -- in an introspective mood, but not a depressive one (again, I don’t listen to music to feel small or insignificant, and can’t see any real reason to do so). Maybe this is how other people feel when they listen to their “Sounds from the Ocean” CDs?

But don’t let this fool you, I’d be a filthy liar if I could dare say this is background music -- The Obsessed’s debut certainly captures my imagination for the entirety of its ever-so-brief playing length. With a song like ‘Tombstone Highway’ it’d be hard not to; it’s second on my list of “greatest metal songs that sound a bit like ZZ Top” (Motörhead’s ‘Another Perfect Day’ happens to be the best, and that’s certainly no slur on the said ‘Tombstone…’) -- the main riff apes ZZ Top’s ‘I Thank You’ but in less of a cocksure manner and more an “deserts are warm and big” sort of way. It passes through seamlessly -- but whilst still retaining the necessary edge -- and sets the tone for what I could effectively call a relaxing metal record; but whilst not being “in one ear, out the other” but rather letting the record take you places. I can’t quite call it escapism, either; one must simply fall back on idle, unemployable descriptions like “hard to describe”. In essence, The Obsessed has created something that’s near impossible to do but with such class that you can’t question its effects: a metal album that’s simultaneously relaxing yet exciting. Choke on that, you whimsical black-metal-goes-neo-folk outfits!

Though ‘River of Soul’ has a title that sounds like a third-rate Jim Morrison rip-off (‘Soul Kitchen’, ‘Spirit Diner’, Spirit Caravan [?!]) it turns out to be something quite different; all ethereal and captivating. There’s some shockingly good stuff going on here guitar-wise; I don’t think that’s actually a sitar on the record but rather an effect-laden guitar, but its recurrent use really gives the song a certain charm that’s somewhat otherworldly, or rather alien; something perfectly formed – completely and utterly psychedelic without the heavy odor of cheap incense and a lava lamp providing your only light.

This is very excellent stuff; as honest music as you’re likely to find (especially if you like to divert from your normal listening patterns to “laugh at the disabled children”, as it were), and though I’d probably recommend Lunar Womb as the starting point for those interested in The Obsessed (as its more muscular tendencies are probably a little more accessible), this is certainly an album worth anyone’s time, and I’d really hate to see The Obsessed become an overlooked band, now, wouldn’t I?

“That’s it!”