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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 -