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The Obsessed Makes Triumphant Return With New Lineup And Material

Photo of Karma To Burn

Band Photo: Karma To Burn (?)

The Obsessed came to Austin to play the Dirty Dog Bar after over a twenty-year hiatus. The group last released “The Church Within” in 1994, but their fans haven’t forgotten the band. Even without the exposure, their singer/guitarist, Scott “Wino” Weinrich has made numerous treks through Texas and his hailed as one of the true greats in the doom field. He is one of the most active and talented musicians in the doom scene and has played Austin with several other bands including his solo project, doom icons Saint Vitus, and most recently with Spirit Caravan, a group that he spawned out of The Obsessed. Now, two-thirds of The Obsessed consist of Spirit Caravan members.

Wino dedicated their set to the band’s friend, Kenny Wagner, who passed away a few months ago. Wagner played in the opening act, Austin’s Crimson Devils. Dixie Witch’s Curt Christenson plays bass for the band. He will be reuniting with the Witch to play a benefit show in Wagner’s honor at this year’s biker-themed ROT Rally. Crimson Devils kicked off the show in an energetic fashion, playing up-tempo, alcohol-fueled heavy rock. The group is pure Texas in its swagger and attitude. Although the crowd was still filtering in at this time, the group helped get the party going right!

Monte Luna doesn’t have the storied members of Crimson Devils nor the experience, but the group played like pros and their psychedelic sound certainly fit the bill well. The rhythm section sucked you into a black hole with your only connection to humanity coming from the distant words of James CI’s voice. Chris’s bass playing often provided the transition to more trodden rhythms. Phil Hook’s complex time signatures behind the skin kit were certainly a highlight of their set. Expect this band to become a fixture in the Central Texas stoner/doom scene.

Sierra represented the first touring band of the night. The Atomic Bitchwax appeared on the flyer, but a few dates into the tour one of their members suffered an injury that forced the band to drop off the tour. Sierra was also the lone representative from above the borders of the U.S. The Toronto, Ontario band played the usual bluesy riffs expected from the stoner/doom ilk, but were the most progressive band of the night. However, the band seemed less progressive in that Robbie Carvalho devoted all his time to the bass and didn’t tap a single piano note. Jason Taylor sang with smooth precision and the band was another good fit, but it was a bit disappointing not seeing them fill in for The Atomic Bitchwax. Kudos goes out to the band for their devotion to the road, filling in on an insect’s ass of a notice.

Karma To Burn has proven itself to be one of the more important bands in the stoner rock scene of the last twenty years. It’s easy to see why they’ve experienced such popularity based on the night’s hard-hitting performance. Karma To Burn’s big grooves and up-tempo rhythms are catchy enough that the band doesn’t even utilize vocals. Although their jammed-out instrumentals definitely underline their sound as “desert rock” these boys hail far from the Palm Desert of Kyuss fame. They don’t quite present the Joshua-Tree fuzziness of Kyuss, but are kindred spirits of sludgy sounds. In fact, their home base of Morgantown, West Virginia brought to mind the monumental bulk of mountains, something guitarist Will Mecum called to attention to on a gritty number from the band’s latest release, “Mountain Czar.”

While all the opening bands made for a strong package, the empting of stools proved the majority of the crowd came out to see The Obsessed. Doom and stoner rock barely had a foothold back in the early nineties, but has grown exponentially in popularity over the last few years, especially in Texas. This meant that many in attendance stood in anticipation of seeing The Obsessed for the first time. For those that caught a glimpse of the band in the 90s, this presented a chance to see them with a whole new lineup. Now consisting of Spirit Caravan members Dave Sherman, who like Wino plays in several vaunted bands, and drummer Brian Costantino. Even though Ed Gulli played on The Obsessed self-titled debut and was part of the touring faction with Spirit Caravan back in the fall, Costantino proved a better fit. His energy recharged the band with a vigor that hasn’t been felt in a long, long time. Sherman, one of the most heralded bassists in the genre, also instilled a bundle of energy into the band’s set.

The Obsessed were just on this night. The group played with a tight chemistry that shows great promise for their upcoming studio album. The band played into the crowd’s expectations of new material with two tracks from the forthcoming album, “Sacred” and “Be The Night.” “Be The Night” appears online as a demo for Relapse Records, which the group recently inked a deal with. The new material lived up to its expectations, definitely recalling the grooves of their past. “Be The Night” even resembles songs from the band’s earliest, self-titled record.

Even though hearing new material was a treat, the best part of their set was swaying to the tromping riffs and singing along to classic material. Wino creates undeniably crushing riffs and his voice is so smooth and emotional with tones that fall somewhere between Lemmy and Ozzy. The group played a set culled from throughout their career and included songs such as “Sea Legs” and “Lost Sun Dance (LSD)” from Spirit Caravan. “The Church Within” album seemed to dominate their set, though, and it’s hard to argue that decision considering the power of such material. Before the band played a three-song encore, they brought out the big guns from “The Church Within.” First they played the quick and deadly, punk-addled “World Apart” with its angry chant of “fuck this world” before launching into one of their gloomiest, most lumbering tracks “Neatz Brigade.”

The Obsessed showed the years between albums have been kind to the band. They showed no sign of rust, and presented what may be the band’s best lineup. Twenty-one years ago, major imprint Columbia Records tried to force their hand on The Obsessed and turn them into a commercial-friendly entity. The group said “fuck that!” and didn’t compromise. Now, with two decades behind them and a much greater interest in the type of music they create, the band stands a chance to make it big. Sherman told me he wanted to make it big like their friends in Clutch. That may just happen if they continue down the same path!

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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1 Comment on "The Obsessed Makes Triumphant Return"

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1. I'm not Jesus Christ writes:

I'm waiting for them to come back to California. The only time I ever saw The Obsessed live was 1994 when they were on tour with White Zombie and Prong.

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