Some legendary bands are unpredictable and that plays into their mythos. Others are legendary precisely because the thunder they bring is such their own that the consistency with which they produce it is a marvel unto itself. The Obsessed are one of those latter bands. Oft-cited and highly influential, Wino and company have been bringing their brand of sludgy doom metal to eardrums for nearly 40 years. If there is an “American Motorhead” they would be it albeit less prodigious in terms of actual output.
This time they pound out of the gates with a new album, Sacred, lead off in rust shaking fashion on “Sodden Jackal”. After 20 years away barring that minor appearance with Dave Grohl for Probot this is a nice reintroduction to the sturm und drang that is the Obsessed. It’s nice for a warm-up but ultimately not as satisfying as other songs.
The second track on the album, “Punk Crusher”, is one that runs listeners through pretty much the entire repertoire of the Obsessed and it doesn’t disappoint. This is the band doing what they do best. All of it. Crammed into one track.
And only a band with tons of confidence and swagger can, midway through the very title track on their album, morph a Slayer riff into a shambling monolith of a stoner doom song. For folks needing to scratch their Black Sabbath itch look no further than “Sacred”.
The trio of songs, “Haywire”, “Razor Wire”, and “Crossroader Blues” are the kind of rollicking roadhouse type rock not typically heard often these days but clearly displays the band’s roots. The first of the three seems ready set to wind up on the next Tony Hawk game, if there ever is one. The trouble with hearing this style in 2017 is that it takes something very special to break away from Thin Lizzy cover band hell. The first and third tracks escape that fate. The second? Not so much.
“Perseverance” exhibits the kind of slithering guitar lines that earned Wino his reputation. His vocals on this track show where Mastodon got much of their vocal approach. This is, arguably, quintessential Obsessed for the uninitiated.
“It’s Only Money” and “Cold Blood” both nod to Motorhead’s tradition of having some tongue-in-cheek songs evoking outlaw imagery and generally badassery. Not to do all the placement for this band but in whatever universe Sons of Anarchy is still a thing in this song could be the soundtrack.
Okay, let’s bust out the acoustic guitar and flange! Wait, nope, more fuzz! “Stranger Things” is rooted back more in their low key, almost sneaky sludge. The chorus winds up being anthemic in a way that generally works only for this band. The mid-section around the 3:50 mark comes across as random descending into something almost jam rock-ish. Bailing it out with a chorus then doing the same descent into stoned jamming for another two minutes may not have been the best use of the 6:22 runtime on the track.
“My Daughter My Son” might be the most positive thing Wino has ever produced. It’s very much written in that anthemic style of Accept or again, Sabbath. To call it reflective or inspirational might be a slight stretch but it does find Weinrich in more contemplative territory than usual.
“Be the Night”’s punk and Judas Priest roots show here. The thought this track leaves me with, though, is “I wonder what an album with Wino and Lemmy would’ve sounded like?” It’s too bad we’ll never know but tracks like this might give us an inkling.
There are echoes of Crack the Skye throughout “On So Long”. The song is aptly titled as well as it plods along for just over 9 minutes. The extended solo at around the 4:00 mark that leads into an undulating riff keep this track chugging reigniting interest in it. This is the kind of extending jamming that the band have made their bones with for years and it’s good to hear it nearing the album’s denouement.
Overall, it’s nice to welcome Wino and the Obsessed back into our lives with this new album. The band aren’t at a point in their career where they’ll be making any seismic shifts in approach or sound and that’s just fine. Sacred is a release for fans and stalwarts of the Obsessed and their genre-spanning stoner-doom-bar-rock.
THE OBSESSED – Sacred releases Friday, April 7th 2017 on Relapse.