The Obsessed


I was born in ’82, so while I was learning my ABCs Wino was already crafting a canon of masterpieces that still stand the test of time today.  The man has absolutely nothing to prove; reinventing himself from a hard livin’, outlaw doom rock n’ roll demon to a solo bluesman while exploring every avenue in between.  I was introduced to The Obsessed and St. Vitus in the 90s and I never looked back.  The spiraling depression, odes to drug/drink fueled madness and dashes of redemption (penned by not only Wino himself but the maniacal Dave Chandler and Scott Reagers) resonated to who I already was and what I would ultimately become.  After the brilliant Premonition 13 LP and the rock-solid Vitus pounder Lillie: F-65, the world was long overdue for some new electric Wino output.  What started out as a reunion of classic rockin’, psychedelic heavy riff masters Spirit Caravan morphed into a twin-guitar version of The Obsessed (with Wino alum Bruce Falkinburg of The Hidden Hand returning to bass and vocals, respectively) with the trajectory finally settling back to the trio of Dave Sherman on bass (Spirit Caravan, Earthride, Weed is Weed, Wretched, etc.) and Brian Constantino on drums.  They cut Sacred as a lean trio and the band is active again on the live front with the godly Reid Raley (Deadbird, Rwake, etc.) replacing Sherm on bass.  Before I get into the meat of this review I want to touch on some insights, highlights, issues and qualms.

First up, the new line-up of The Obsessed SMOKES live; tearing through the clouds louder than Olympus’ lightning and thundercracks on the cave-crawling “Sodden Jackal,” decimating the punks at their own game on new tune “Punk Crusher,” bringing the molten relentless lurching groove to the penultimate head in the sky masterpiece “The Way she Fly” and allowing the rhythm section to keep “Hiding Mask” in the pink as Wino hunted down another guitar from playing so hard he snapped a string…the power was THERE on that stage.  Honestly, if Wino walked out of a bar with a seeing-eye dog and a bum drunk on bag wine and decided to call it The Obsessed…the man’s got the right.  It’s getting old hearing people crying about what the man can and can’t do.  When Sacred is on, it’s REALLY on; yet a few awkward choices strangely balance out some absolutely powerhouse songwriting with weird choices that just don’t quite work as well as they should.

One big qualm that I have which is less to do with the record and more to do with reviews I’ve dropped in on is that “It’s only Money” and “Crossroader” from the deluxe edition are Wino originals according to everyone out there pushing pens (or keys).  “It’s only Money” is from Thin Lizzy’s Nightlife and “Crossroader’s” origin stems from Mountain’s underappreciated Flowers of Evil.  Thanks to a once mighty record collection I already knew these things (seriously, I’m not telling you this for cred, just telling you the truth) and was a huge fan of both songs, but in this age of the Internet where knowledge is just a click away, I’m having a hard time swallowing that not one review I’ve read mentions this.  There’s a good chance I’m coming off like a cocky asshole but put a little research in.  The Lizzy cover is one of the record’s biggest missteps.  It feels choppy and unsure of its direction, the guitar tone is too heavy and processed without the bending shucks n’ soulful blues of the source material and Wino just isn’t hitting that soulful baritone which Lynott used to make the original one of Nightlife’s pure winners.  Honestly, I hate bagging on it but it doesn’t fit and I skip it every play through.  On the other hand “Crossroader” feels totally natural; the riff harder and punched up with Wino’s signature leads and a much more powerful vocal presence than Felix Pappalardi could muster on the Mountain version.  It would have made more sense to swap this for a main album track and delegate “It’s only Money” to the bonus section (or drop it totally).  Subtle organ accompaniment fills this one out nicely, along with Brian’s throttling snare fills and rushing cymbal flurries as Sherm buries the bass in an early grave.

Kicking off the album proper is an ultra-heavy, ultra-produced redux of “Sodden Jackal.”  This tune was always the sound of Wino as a beast in a darkened lair chewing on human flesh for breakfast.  The original’s desperate desolation and murkier tones fit the proceedings better but no amount of time or studio magic can take the piss out of this lumbering beast and the rhythm section smashes the shit out of Scott’s every riff change (with his leads, licks and solos sounding better than ever, alongside a committed, convicted vocal performance).  I far prefer the the old version but this ain’t no slouch, either.  “Punk Crusher” piles on the Lemmy vibes in addition to the more punked-up, hopeful damnation of Spirit Caravan (think “Lifer City” or “Kill Ugly Naked”).  Open, ringing chords sing the charms of Wino’s very being and his gruff melodies got heart and mournful hope to spare.  Solos whip through your hair like a top down ride on the highway while Constantino throbs his way across cutthroat double-bass patterns that especially takeover during the pissed-off, crust-punk informed gang shout attack during the track’s climax.  The title jam is an instant standout and one of the record’s best offerings.  A crumbling, tom-heavy tribal beat goes into winding bass grooves and Wino’s warped riff/lead mutations.  Subtle keys compliment the giant killing riff at the 1:01 mark, cementing the song as a lost classic worthy of any Spirit Caravan record.  Mystical lyrics drip with pagan sentiments summoned straight from a brain-melted shroom revelation storming onward to a plateau of hellish soloing that still has that ability to teach the pretenders more than a few tricks.

The biggest disappointment for me was the re-recording of “Haywire” which made its debut on Victor Griffin’s Late for an Early Grave.  It absolutely pains me to say this version isn’t up to snuff; the recording feels sterile and it’s desperately missing the skyward lick trades between Vic and Wino on the demo version.  Brian’s drumming powers the engine just fine, though it would be nice to hear Dave’s bass mixed up higher.  There was a weird slowed-down, half-stop to the pacing of the original’s chorus and it’s nowhere to be found here.  The vocal subtlety is also missed as Wino practically yells his way from front to back cover here.  I don’t hate it but for the song I was the most excited to hear souped-up with new parts under the hood it was a hard bolt to chew on.  “Perseverance of Futility” fares much better with its tarpit swimming mid-tempo riffage, Hammond organ hum, charging speed bursts backed by double-bass and positively vintage Wino riff hammers.  The solos are right where they should be and speak without words; the way the man’s best abilities are always communicated.

“Cold Blood” intros with an almighty riff crashing into a mountainside of unmistakable Maryland melody but something about it feels unfinished…like it’s lacking a crucial change-up, hook or groove that never allows it to define itself.  Of all the tunes on the record “Stranger Things” seems to take the most shit and it’s an experiment that works from start to finish.  Back when real radio stations existed that still occasionally played some ballsy rock n’ roll, this would have been a midnight staple.  Wino’s bluesy acoustic sojourn comes into play with a haunting, ethereal lead-in unplugged riff soon crashing into a stop/start beat and riffs bleeding an eternity of uplifting glory.  The vocal progressions in the verses have great lyrics but are delivered in a way that ALMOST doesn’t work alongside a muted riff/rhythm progression that’s oddly Tool-esque.  I’ve heard it has no place on an Obsessed record yet it’s a good song with an anthem of a chorus towering higher than God’s dick.  If I heard it behind a BOC tune on old school rock radio I wouldn’t have batted an eye.  Nobody overplays here, yet nobody underplays for a pocket jam that goes into an eye of the hurricane, psychedelic solo complimented by bashing tom-tom shuffles and chunky bass lines.  An acoustic finale ends the song just as it began, returning it to the primordial ether from whence it emerged.

Hard rockin’, riff-packed and groovy, “Razor Wire” sadly misses the mark with an undercooked chorus, unmemorable verses and southern-boogie swing that’s almost too laidback for its own good.  It’s better live but on record it just doesn’t pan out…it feels far too standard and just kind of “there.”  The real showstopper on Sacred is “My Daughter, My Sons;” a love-letter to Scott’s children with positive lyrics and advice to live by (“Be honest and kind, always speak your mind”).  Despite the delicacy of the content the avalanche of monstrous doom grooves are perfectly worthy of a place on Jug Fulla Sun as Constantino careens across his kit in fluid rolls and anti-matter doom beats.  This is also Wino’s best vocal performance on the record.  When the pace kicks up a dustcloud of moonshine blind solos the tune is completed to supreme perfection.  “Be the Night” is the fun, Lemmy-hewn rocker “Razor Wire” should have been even if it’s a spiritual retread of “Streamlined.”  The arrangement, songwriting and guitar-work are super tough n’ taut though, so this is a recycling that hits the spot and manages to add some new flavors.  Closing out the main segment of the record with a 27 second riff interlude was a bit of a misnomer which leaves the 9+ minute extra cut “On so Long” to hopefully end things with a proper sprawl.  Unfortunately this is not one of Weinrich’s better knuckle-drag dirges.  Sure, repetition is a must on any Wino record worth its salt but this one is constantly travelling for a hook that it never finds with uneasy vocal patterns that neither stick nor inspire.  There is an immortal, crushing doom drop near the end but it equates to too little too late to save this one.

Don’t get me wrong, Sacred is still worth a purchase for the Wino faithful and when it’s good, it’s fucking unbeatable.  There are some stalwart moments to be found as well as a handful of absolute Midas mined gems.  Sadly, several stumbles bring the overall score down and I’m still teeth-grindin’ over what “Haywire,” “Cold Blood” and a couple of the other tunes could have become if more care was taken.  It’s not gonna shove the Self-Titled, Lunar Womb, The Church Within, Jug Fulla Sun or Born too Late out of my rotation anytime soon but there’s enough here that it won’t collect dust either.  7.5/10 if you want me to play the numbers game.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
July 19th, 2017


  1. Commented by: Glenn Whitehead

    A really well written recorded Doom/Rock pleasure. I am not a fan of old Wino or Spirit Caravan but this, i really like. It’s groovy and sounds fresh and has attitude. Nice review! Really enjoy this record.

  2. Commented by: Jay

    Glad you dig this Glenn and cool that it was the one that you grabbed onto. There’s great stuff on here. A couple songs have some of the most kick-ass guitar parts in his catalog. Thanks man!

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