Anyone old enough to remember the late night/early morning TV show Noisy Mothers may well remember what was my introduction to both The Obsessed and the strange confusion of street grit, conspiracies, spiritual musing and “seen it, done it, got the scars” musical force of nature that is Wino. ‘Streetside’ was the song, The Church Within the album. Just the look of the guy, grizzled biker dude even that long ago, with a voice full of gravel and raw soul and a guitar style like the voices in his head was so powerful it changed things for me.
After his sadly necessary departure from Saint Vitus, and the brutally honest apology he gave to fans and band, it still came as no surprise when he did not just walk quietly into the dusk. But refocussing himself with The Obsessed revival and recording an album rather than sticking to the festival circuit? No I didn’t see that coming.
I always think that The Obsessed sit at the focus of Wino, musically; equidistant from the classic doom of Vitus, the more jamming haze of Spirit Caravan and the punk influenced eclecticism of The Hidden Hand, The Obsessed were, and makes no mistake still are, a street level, clear eyed heavy rock and doom entity with just that taint of punk attitude and rolling stoner guitar flights.
Yeah the album starts slow, steady and wary with ‘Sodden Jackal’ (sorry, no lyric sheet) but this is immediately unmistakably The Obsessed with its bare bones riffing and rhythmic but driven shuffle, that gnarled, world weary yet utterly engaged voice and the incisive guitar breaks. The rhythm section of Reid Riley (bass) and Brian Constantino (drums) sound warm, flexible but keeping the maverick grounded. Oh it’s fine, so fine but then the guitar for ‘Punk Crusher’ starts and if you have anywhere you’d rather be than listening to that glorious sound, the voice wrenching every bit of heart from the melody, the stunning hard driven riff and the melancholy melody then fuck off there and don’t come back. This is.. This. Just this. Beauty. Sheer beauty.
The title track slows but again it sends shivers through me. Pure Obsessed, that rich Church Within melody like black blood and bourbon; smoky sweetness and burning throat. There is just that classic heavy rock feel to this entire fourteen track album; not seventies, timeless. It sends tendrils into those other bands I mentioned at times ‘Haywire’ or ‘It’s Only Money’ maybe sidling a little closer to The Hidden Hand, the warm water nod of ‘Perseverance Of Futility’ lapping at the edges of Spirit Caravan in places. It’s remarkable. After everything, all the drugs, all the road crash crises, the man can come back with an album that is not only good but I believe in time will be regarded as surpassing the classic The Church Within. It seems the more miles on his bike, the deeper this river runs.
It’s a cliché but there really are so many highlights here and genuinely not a single misstep that this review could go on forever. I must mention ‘Stranger Things’, just a brilliant song and showing even more of how great Wino’s voice is, the variety and range he can wring from an instrument that at first hearing should break and buckle. But like it’s container it just rises. You also need to listen to how the man works with words, regardless of the subject matter from addiction to relationships to other worldly flights he has a way, a rhythm that makes you want to listen.
And if that isn’t all enough then the bonus track ‘Crossroader’ is just a brilliant slice of electric blues that I think Rory Gallagher and Lemmy would have been proud of.
Sacred is magnificent. Utterly. It is perfectly Obsessed; hard, real, melancholy, emotional and esoteric all flowing from the same impossible stream. Blues, metal, doom with a thread if stoner and just that feel if not the sound of a punk spirit somewhere. But mostly it just calls. Like a fine, neat bourbon in a shot glass; hard, smoky, warm and with that twist of sweetness beneath that exposes more character the longer it lingers. The sound and taste of the perennial underdogs who know more than the rest of the world and sing their soul without filters.
Just amazing. Truly. I’ve only had this album a week so the score is me hedging bets. It could be higher year end. Whatever, this is why we listen to music.