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The Obsessed - Incarnate Award winner

The Obsessed
Incarnate
by Chris Hawkins at 16 November 2020, 2:47 PM

So, this particular review can best be described as bittersweet.  That should not be taken as a criticism of the band; certainly, THE OBSESSED is one of the most prolific Doom bands and are absolutely legendary.  Rather, “Incarnate” is a remaster of an album that I actually reviewed for another outlet when it first came out – twenty years ago.  Alas, there is no point lamenting the passage of time no matter how old I feel!  Suffice to say, this is an album I’m extremely familiar with and that two-decade old promo I received from Southern Lord back in the day has served as my go-to for satiating the craving for the band’s material.  Essentially, it is a compilation of rare and unreleased material and contains some deep cuts that are just as vital as those featured throughout the band’s official discography.

THE OBSESSED really is a band needing no introduction; however, I’ll touch on some highlights for those who may not be in the loop for whatever reason.  The band was formed back in 1980 (actually rebranded after first being named WARHORSE and coming together in ‘76) centered around the monolithic, soulful, ‘70s-inspired riffs and signature vocal style of one Scott “Wino” Weinrich.  While their sound fit comfortably in the mix in Metal’s first decade, it would be a huge hurdle, if not an uphill battle, to try and stake a claim in the following decade which was dominated by more commercial Metal/Hard Rock on the radio and MTV and Speed Metal, Thrash, and Hardcore in the underground.  That being said, the band first split up in 1986 as Wino became lead singer of another legendary band, SAINT VITUS.  The roots of THE OBSESSED indeed run deep with various members over the years popping up in other genre-leading groups such as KYUSS, THE MELVINS, and GOATSNAKE not to mention the plethora of projects Wino has been involved with including SPIRIT CARAVAN, PLACE OF SKULLS, and THE HIDDEN HAND.

If I were asked to compose a list of Doom royalty, Wino would be near the king, Iommi himself.  Sure, guys like Matt Pike, Mike Scheidt, and Stephen O’ Malley garner a lot of attention, but Wino really paved the way for their subsequent success.  Those frustrations from going against the grain and toiling in the underground established a precedent, one of spiritual hymns full of consciousness-expanding lyrics, meaty riffs, and tone…tone for days!

Incarnate” has a monstrous twenty-one tracks and thus, in pursuit of brevity, I’ll touch on highlights, the songs absolutely not to be missed.  “Yen Sleep” kicks things off with its deeply meditative vibe tinged with the expansive color palette of psychedelia.  It is impossible not to become entranced with the sound, a menagerie of riffs that flow effortlessly through the skilled hands of Wino.  “Peckerwood Stomp,” the third track, is a perennial favorite live track.  In fact, the band played it last year when I was able to catch them live for the first time as they opened for C.O.C.  Coincidentally, their gig co-headlining with TODAY IS THE DAY back at the beginning of this March was the last show I attended and after the pandemic and turmoil that has constrained this year, it seems like ages ago now.

The production on “Incarnate” is a vivid snapshot of the band’s live sound.  Play this loud!  Wino has one of the most unique guitar tones, thick like homemade molasses and bristling with remarkable harmonic overtones.  The sound could be categorized as catering to the connoisseur of tone, one who can ably appreciate his highly inventive spirit.  It is like a sultry, seductive hybrid of Iommi’s sheer power and noble veracity as realized in the Ozzy years (even SABBATH was vastly different in the ‘80s!) combined with the bluesy expressionism of Hendrix.  Granted, those are big words, but the proof is in the tape!  As a three-piece, the band mandates a tight, effective rhythm sections, and no matter the lineup, as several are reflected on this album, the bass and drums effectively hold things down while Wino solos.  Throughout, there is a distinct live feel, a heady mix that is simply blistering.

Yet another highlight of the album is the fourth track, a cover of “Inside Looking Out,” originally written and recorded by THE ANIMALSTHE OBSESSED version, though, leans more in favor of the version of the song as later covered by GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, along with the token lyric changes from “rebirth” to “reefer”.  It is nothing less than a militant call to arms for those who value their inalienable rights to smoke whatever grows from God’s green Earth.  Furthermore, the band covers the SKYNYRD anthem, “On the Hunt,” a track that emphasizes the key influence of the Florida trailblazers with its combination of momentous riffs and solid grooves.  A live version of “Endless Circles” along with “Spirit Caravan” and the final two tracks, “Fears Machine” and “Field of Hours” round out some of the key tracks.  The final two songs are unique to this remaster.

Were Wino anyone else, he may have hung up his career in the face of the troubles he has faced.  The man is a true lifer, though.  I can’t help but be reminded of an interview I read some years ago with Pepper Keenan (C.O.C./DOWN) who was making the point that bands like THE ALLMAN BROTHERS and LYNYRD SKYNYRD were the original punks evidenced by their close-knit fandom, freer-than-free lifestyle, and against the grain attitude.  As touted by Henry Rollins, Wino is that intersection between biker attitude, Heavy Metal machismo, and expressive Southern Rock and Blues influenced guitar solos all wrapped up in an authentically anti-authoritarian spirit.  He is an approachable guy too, more than willing to chat with fans and have his brain picked about gear and road stories by yours truly.  Anyone with even the most remote interest in Doom will find this album to be a compelling look at the career of a true counter-culture icon, an anti-hero, if you will, purveyor of finely crafted riffs, and gifted songwriter and lyricist.  Essential!

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 9


 

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Yen Sleep
2. Concrete Cancer
3. Peckerwood Stomp
4. Inside Looking Out
5. Mental Kingdom
6. Sodden Jackal
7. Iron & Stone
8. Indestroy
9. Mourning
10. Spirit Caravan
11. Skybone
12. On the Hunt
13. No Blame
14. Neatz Brigade
15. Hiding Mask
16. Endless Circles (live)
17. Streetside
18. Climate of Despair
19. Decimation
20. Fears Machine
21. Field of Hours
Lineup:
Scott “Wino” Weinrich - Guitars, Vocals
Scott Reeder – Bass
Guy Pinhas - Bass
Greg Rogers – Drums
Mark Laue – Bass
Dale Crover – Drums, Backing Vocals
Ed Gulli - Drums
Record Label: Blues Funeral Recordings
     


Rating

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Edited 05 December 2020
 

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