If you have THE OBSESSED‘s self-titled album from 1990 in any format prior to this year, you have a treasure. It, like its successor, “Lunar Womb”, was damned hard to snag until YouTube came along. Those releases, together—along with the band’s one-and-only major label release, “The Church Within”—represent a bold parcel of metal history, which took longer than it should’ve to attract listeners.
Of course, doom wasn’t exactly fashionable in the mid-80s when Scott “Wino” Weinrich was in SAINT VITUS, which found a strange home amongst the punk sanction, and trying to score THE OBSESSED any kind of action. Resurrecting the doom-stoner legend this year with the spectacular ““Sacred” album, Wino reflects upon the history of THE OBSESSED‘s debut recording, which sees light for the first time in ages. Originally, THE OBSESSED attempted to break in through Metal Blade Records, which released the single “Concrete Cancer” on the 1985 compilation “Metal Massacre VI”. Surrounded by thrash, death and power metal acts on the rise such as DARK ANGEL, HADES, POSSESSED, NASTY SAVAGE, HIRAX, STEEL ASSASSIN and HALLOW’S EVE, the unhurried “Concrete Cancer” stood out like a pus oozing sore. Thus, Metal Blade reportedly declined to release any further music from THE OBSESSED, leading Wino, Mark Laue and Ed Gulli to an impromptu deal with the short-lived but mighty German imprint Hellhound Records.
Also known as “The Purple Album”, due to its stark violet overcoat, THE OBSESSED‘s self-titled album was long recorded before its Hellhound release—and prior to Wino joining SAINT VITUS. Subsequently, THE OBSESSED‘s fan-favorite, “Lunar Womb”, was whipped up in a frenzy right as the self-titled album hit the global heavy metal market in a limited print run. We can only hope Relapse Records has similar plans for “Lunar Womb”, but for today, the label has brought “The Purple Album” back to life, hallelujah. This remastered edition comes with the four-track “Concrete Cancer” demo as well as a 1985 performance at The Bayou in Washington, DC, long-closed, but, in its time, a prominent rock club.
From the start with “Tombstone Highway”, THE OBSESSED proved it wasn’t going to be a typical BLACK SABBATH acolyte. Pushing doom into more swinging terrain became the band’s hallmark. Thus, “Tombstone Highway”‘s sliding chords, drop-tuned key and trippy bridge instrumentation were set to a chucking groove. Bravely, there was just as much blues and country spilled into “Tombstone Highway” as heavy business, making it a remarkable experiment of its time.
Speaking of heavy, “The Way She Fly” is one of THE OBSESSED‘s heaviest numbers ever (along with “Ground Out”, “Red Disaster” and the grand, two-minute instrumental, “Fear Child”) with its nasty, fuzz-tickling riffs and bass-blotted grit. The shambling beat is what keeps “The Way She Fly” ticking, and it’s a shame it was initially lost on an unreceptive audience. It muscles up with anything of its era, regardless of speed or sinister intentions. Best of it all, it skids to an unexpected halt, leaving the listener howling for more.
“Forever Midnight” proved there was room for agreeable harmony, borrowing more from Ozzy Osbourne‘s solo work of the early ‘80s than BLACK SABBATH outright. “Wino”‘s vocals are endearing as he peels off a few twitches borrowed from Ozzy. If you were there the first time, it was an unanticipated shot of catchiness. If you’re newer to THE OBSESSED, it still has the power to catch you off guard in a pleasing way. Either or, the yummy melody to “Forever Midnight” sticks around hours after consumption.
To a degree, “Freedom” surprises with its straight-moving rock glide. Only its sprawling chords keep it from becoming a crossover shocker. That, and the song checking in at six minutes with a prolonged jam leading to a heaving pant for Wino to yowl and shred over. “Inner Turmoil” has more punk than anything going for it, and it’s a snorting, heaving animal leaving a gristly clomp or two in its wake.
The true doom savant will fall under “Red Disaster”‘s slow and gory trance, and for anyone’s tastes in heavy music, “River of Soul” is a damned perfect march through gullies of distortion. Each hefts its thunderous chords with enough guitar intensity to give Loki pause at the borders of Midgard.
With the 1984 “Concrete Cancer” tracks being the main attraction to this edition of THE OBSESSED‘s debut full-length, they give a sense of how hard Scott “Wino” Weinrich had to fight for an audience. The title track, certainly tight enough in this demo version, is baleful yet vivacious. Settling into barely mid-tempo against the faster competition he, Laue and Gulli were about to face, it’s no surprise that it took the precursory death of heavy metal in the United States for THE OBSESSED to finally reach an underground audience. It’s a shame “Feelingz” was missed altogether, since the punk-driven jam would’ve sat perfectly behind TSOL on the “Return of the Living Dead” soundtrack.
Previously released, the 1985 Bayou set is raw and at times audibly unappetizing, but considering the 32 years in transition, it’s a marvel to have this document of THE OBSESSED before the group ever got to Metal Blade, much less Hellhound. Thus, “The Purple Album” rides like the originating bookend to a set of tomes that may or may not end with “Sacred”. One thing’s for sure, Scott “Wino” Weinrich bringing THE OBSESSED back is assurance that what was sparked inside of him with another in-and-out round with SAINT VITUS was no fluke. It started with “The Purple Album” and has carried through SPIRIT CARAVAN, PLACE OF SKULLS and THE HIDDEN HAND, all spiraling back to THE OBSESSED. This doom troubadour is made of iron and stone, and there’s no quit inside of him.