Maryland's The Obsessed would be a legendary band in doom metal circles just on the merits of Scott "Wino" Weinrich's tenure alone, but by putting out classic albums like Lunar Womb and The Church Within during the early-to-mid 90's – a period when there weren't even many shitty doom albums in the old school style coming out, let alone great ones – cemented their legacy, even as they soon afterward broke up in 1995 so Wino could rejoin St. Vitus.
Yeah, about that. A little history lesson may be in order for those who haven't been too inside-baseball on The Obsessed up until now. Formed in 1980, the band recorded a handful of demos and the "Sodden Jackal" single, toiling away for the first half of the 80's before they scraped together the money to record their debut album on their own collective dime in 1985. Despite one of the songs from that album, "Concrete Cancer", appearing on the Metal Massacre VI compilation, the label itself (Metal Blade, of course) declined to sign the band and release their in-the-can LP.
No doubt feeling a bit star-crossed at that point, Wino jumped at the chance to replace the departing Scott Reagers as lead singer of St. Vitus, a like-minded old school doom band across the country in LA who had already released two well-received albums on legendary punk label, SST Records (then and now run by Black Flag's own Greg Ginn). Wino had a good run with St. Vitus, recording three studio LPs and a live album; however, in 1990, Hellhound Records – perhaps spurred by the success of Wino's new band – licensed and released the dusty 1985 Obsessed tapes as a self-titled album, a renewal of recognition that encouraged Wino to leave St. Vitus and reform his old band with new backing members (including bassist Scott Reeder, who would go on to find fame with Kyuss).
Restless as ever, Wino broke up The Obsessed again in 1995 and founded a new band that went on to become Spirit Caravan. The latter didn't last much longer, breaking up in 2002 after releasing only two albums, and Scott "Wino" Weinrich's career has been a busy if fluctuating syllabus to stay on top ever since. Finally, The Obsessed have reformed for a second time – albeit the first in over two decades, and with another new lineup – and the way Wino is talking in interviews, this time the reunion is intended to be permanent… full time. Yeah, we'll see.
Either way, Sacred is here and the first thing you notice out of the gate (on a cover of the band's very first single, "Sodden Jackal") is that the guitar tone has been beefed up immensely, mimicking through fuzz and brass balls the necessarily lo-fi tone of the original budget recording while improving immeasurably on its listenability. Wino's vocals are also clearer, more powerful, in the mix, probably owing to an additional two decades in the trenches with countless scores of producers and engineers, each contributing layers of sonic empowerment to Wino's experience.
"Punk Crusher" is so NWOBHM-beholden as to almost smite its title, assuming it was about the musical genre rather than a prison bitch, but the way the lyrics read if its the latter it must be of the interstellar convict variety. Dork rock at its catchiest and most inspired. "Sacred" has elements of Wino's prior projects St. Vitus and Spirit Caravan, which is not unexpected considering this incarnation of the The Obsessed is essentially another new Wino solo project under a familiar name, and with new hired guns. It also sums up the strengths of two decades worth of prolific, fuzzed out productivity, and as such is one of the finer moments on the album. The instrumental "Cold Blood" further emphasizes the 70's jam-oriented fixation of the original Obsessed, a fact which underscores that this is actually not just another Wino solo project, but rather a recommitment to a particular sound. "Stranger Things", and a cover of Thin Lizzy's "It's Only Money" also lay down the effortless boogie in a manner that few outside of modern Clutch or old The Sword are able to match.
Though the album is not a perfect home run – "Haywire" is a fairly lukewarm number that might have been better served on the back half of the album, "Razor Wire" gets a little too ZZ Top for its own good, and "My Daughters My Sons" has a listless pace ill befitting of the album as a whole – but Sacred definitely engages in a consistent, often laudatory way that Wino's recent reunion efforts with St. Vitus never quite lived up to. If The Obsessed does indeed turn out to be Wino's exclusive gig for the foreseeable future, he could have definitely picked a worse way to live out his golden years.