After twenty-odd years of fandom, it has just now occurred to me that it is unwise to expect any sort of stability from Scott “Wino” Weinrich. The past decade has seen Wino release a couple, solo albums, collaborate with Conny Ochs, participate in the super-group Shrinebuilder, form and record with the short-lived, but excellent band Premonition 13, rejoin Saint Vitus, only to be expelled over a drug bust, reform Spirit Caravan, and finally, reform The Obsessed and record the album that is the subject of this review, Sacred. Oh, but the fun hasn’t stopped, as Wino is on his third line-up of The Obsessed since recording Sacred, and, as of this writing, the album has yet to be released. Perhaps Wino thrives on chaos, because whatever the man’s career has lacked in stability, he has produced good music with consistency, and Sacred is no exception.
What I find surprising about Sacred is that though it was essentially recorded by the last Spirit Caravan lineup, Hank Sherman on bass, and Brian Constantino on drums, and for all that it’s been over twenty-odd years since Wino has used the name, this record sounds like an Obsessed album. Where Spirit Caravan was steeped in Aztec mysticism and The Hidden Hand was quasi-progressive and political, The Obsessed was always gritty doom with a helping each of hard and punk rock, and that holds true for Sacred. Of course starting the record with a rerecording of “Sodden Jackal,” a 34 year-old song from the band’s first single, certainly helps to set the mood.
The first new song, “Punk Crusher,” is a definite highlight. The track contrasts airy, melodic, vocal-driven verses with bursts of some of the fastest, most aggressive riffing to ever a appear on a Wino record, and it is made all the more potent by Canstantino’s pummeling double-bass drums. Sacred’s other standout is “Stranger Things,” which has seemingly nothing to do with the Netflix series other than being, perhaps, a little haunting in a good way. A combination of bold-swagger and simmering groove, the song deftly builds to a chorus that is simple, but sublime, and bound to stick in your head.
If the brooding doom of The Church Within is what you’re looking for, the title track will likely scratch that itch, being full of Wino’s angular guitar lines, and big fuzzy riffs. “My Daughter, My Son” strikes a similar chord, though the somber music belies a more uplifting message. On the whole, however, Sacred leans more toward relatively up-tempo, rocking tracks. A cover of Mountian’s “Crossroader Blues,” which closes the album, really drives that point home. The record is still full of classic Wino-isms, plenty of thick riffs, squirrelly leads and, of course, the man’s iconic voice, but the affair is decidedly less grim, musically-speaking, than the band’s previous records. It’s by no means a dramatic departure in style, but rather a shift in emphasis.
Sacred’s greatest flaw is exemplified by the nine-minute track, “On So Long.” The album as a whole is a bit overlong at nearly an hour in run time. A few less than stellar tracks, some instrumentals, and the aforementioned “On So Long” leave Sacred feeling a little bloated.
Sacred isn’t a world-beater, but it’s definitely a worthy entry into The Obsessed’s discography. How long it lasts is anybody’s guess, but, for now, it’s good to have The Obsessed back, it’s good to hear Wino’s voice again and it’s great to hear him play guitar again.