Another reunion album. But with a much longer gap than the Unearthly Trance one.
A pivotal influence (alongside Saint Vitus, Candlemass and Trouble) on the doom genre, The Obsessed have been going in some shape or form since the late 70’s.
Releasing one 7′ in 1983, they quickly became a favourite of tape traders (especially when singer/guitarist Wino replaced Scott Reagers in Saint Vitus, leading to a volatile relationship which continues today).
The self titled debut album from The Obsessed finally emerged in 1990 (it was initially recorded for Metal Blade, but languished on the shelf save for one song from the sessions making an appearance on the ‘Metal Massacre VI’ compilation), just as bands like Cathedral were making their mark on the underground, transforming them from Wino acolytes to peers in the metal world.
I think we can all agree that ‘The Obsessed’ is a masterclass in doom songwriting. And while the production might be a bit lacking at times, it gives the album an “otherworldly”, out of time feel. In short, it kicks arse.
1991’s ‘Lunar Womb’ saw a much fuller production, and more kick arse songs, while 1994’s ‘The Church Within’ saw them jump onto a major label. Although now regarded as a 90’s classic, and one that certainly has it’s moments, I always found it a bit flat compared to what had come before.
A split the year later saw Wino go off the rails, but always keeping his hand in music with the likes of Spirit Caravan, Shrinebuilder, The Hidden Hand and a guest spot on Dave Grohl’s ‘Probot’ record, amongst others.
A highly successful Saint Vitus album also followed, although a question mark looms over Wino’s future in the band, due to being deported from Norway a few years ago.
So, it would seem that rebranding Spirit Caravan as The Obsessed is a sure-fire way for him to earn a pay check. And while no one would begrudge Wino his day in the sun, it does smack of being a cash grab.
So, I must admit, I approached ‘Sacred’ with some trepidation.
A re-recorded version of ‘Sodden Jackal’ (appearing on their first 7′) as the opening track is a clear statement of intent. A straight recreation, it has a glossier production and sufficient weight behind the riff to make it just that bit better than the original.
Of course, the real test will be the new songs. How do they fare?
‘Punk Crusher’ sports a riff that bears more than a passing resemblance to ‘Medicine’ by Monster Magnet, but replaces the latter’s psych rock freak out with a thundering drum section and a very typical Wino solo. Not bad. Let it pass.
The title track has an excellent, soaring riff given extra depth thanks to a tom-tom workout. ‘Haywire’ is a neat 70’s punk style throwback and is worth it for the line about how Wino “ain’t got no dollar sign tattooed on me” in the chorus (ironic, considering the circumstances I’ve outlined above).
‘Perseverance of Futility’, by contrast, feels like a Deep Purple outtake (thanks to the organ underpinning the song). No bad thing, of course , and gives the song a swagger that makes it one of the stand out songs here.
Thin Lizzy cover ‘It’s Only Money’ speeds up the tempo, but Wino’s voice is simply no match for Phil Lynott’s, whose soulful, assured and knowing voice can never be replicated by anyone.
From here on, the quality dips somewhat. ‘Cold Blood’ is a neat riff, but doesn’t really go anywhere. ‘Stranger Things’ feels more like a Spirit Caravan left over than a proper Obsessed song, and ‘Be The Night’ comes and goes without leaving much of an impression.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad songs by any stretch of the imagination. They just lack the memorability factor of the earlier songs.
Simply put, if we divorce the album from the historical context, it’s clear that ‘Sacred’ is a highly enjoyable slab of doom played by people who know what they’re doing. As an Obsessed album, it’s along the same lines as ‘The Church Within’: some great songs interspaced with some ok ones.
Maybe the next album will see this version of the band find their feet but, for now, this justifies the use of the name ‘The Obsessed.’
Let’s hope we’re not waiting as long for another one.
3 / 5 – Christopher Owens ::: 17/04/17