Live Review: The Obsessed – Manchester

Live Review: The Obsessed - Rebellion, Manchester
4th October 2023
Support: Alunah, Grand Elder
Words: Dan Barnes
Photos: Tim Finch

I think we can all agree that Scott Weinrich is a living legend. Maybe not as immediate as some of his contemporaries, but when Wino sings, everyone listens. The Stoner/ Doom scene may be enjoying an extended period of popularity – thanks, in no small part, to Wino’s work – but the big man has been a leading light in the worship of Black Sabbath since back in the Seventies. Perhaps most widely know for his tenure at St Vitus’ microphone between 1986 and 2015, it’s with his first band, then called Warhorse, only to become The Obsessed in 1980, that Wino’s star started to ascend.

The band’s on / off history means a visit of The Obsessed to these shores is a rare treat indeed, and this mini tour sees them making stops in London, Manchester and Bristol before heading off to Germany to play a show with EyeHateGod.

It’s eerily quiet in Manchester for a Wednesday. Possibly because the Tory Party Conference is in town, or because the railways are on strike (maybe connected, who knows?). The crowd is rather sparse as Accrington band, Grand Elder take to the stage with an intro that sounds like something from an Argento movie. When they do drop into their tunes, they give us some of the heaviest sludge this side of NOLA (the place, not the record). Dirty riffs plod, accompanied by crashing cymbals and the occasional Orange Goblin gallop; singer, Chris, tells of the short notice the band got for the show, and surmises it’s the best time to road-test a brand-new song. The Hollow shows a band whose songwriting abilities have improved even in the short time since the release of their debut EP, Landslide.

Swigging from a beer bottle, Chris introduces the final song of the set as a “long one” and we get the band’s eponymous tune from the EP. Clocking in at a smidge shy of ten minutes, Grand Elder (the song) is a multi-layered epic rumble of a track, awash with groove and grit and there’s the distinct whiff of… what should be the Devil’s lettuce (don’t do drugs) but is blackberry vape, such is the world in which we live. If riffs and beards are your thing, these lads are well worth checking out.

A rose between two thorns on this night, Alunah represent a more subtle approach to the genre with the interplay of solid rhythm and cleaner guitar alongside Siân Greenaway’s haunting vocals. Theirs is a sound more rooted as much in Classic Rock as in the heavy stoner vibes of their touring companions; with The Razor’s Edge contributor, Matt’s guitar adopting a Seventies Occult Rock tone at times, fitting, considering Siân’s purple stage attire. The cover of Alice Cooper’s I’m Eighteen is raucous when compared to the psychedelic soundscapes elsewhere in the show. Middle eastern motifs sit comfortably with catchy rock vibes and, with some of the company the band have been keeping over the years, there was always going to be a grimy riff creeping in here and there.

Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography

The Obsessed take the stage with little to no fanfare. In fact, Wino is seen changing a head before the set begins. Sodden Jackyl is slow and sludgy, yet Punk Crusher and Be the Night both have a biker-rock feel to them.

Although this iteration of the band has not been together much more than twelve months, they sound as though they have been playing together for years. Oldest serving member, Brian Costantino holds it all together with some devastating percussion, while Chris on bass and second guitar, Jason, ably support Wino at the front of the stage.

The Church Within’s To Protect and to Serve, Blind Lightning and Climate of Despair are the most Sabbath-y of The Obsessed tunes, and that’s taking into account The Way She Fly and Tombstone Highway from the self-titled debut. There are moments when Wino and Jason play off each other

like Thin Lizzy and others when the band’s blues influences come to the fore, showing the depth of the song writing talent on display tonight.

The show isn’t a sell-out, which is a shame, but more so for those who didn’t make it to the Rebellion Bar tonight. It’s been five years since The Obsessed last played Manchester, and who knows how long it will be until next time? As ever, thank you Mr Weinrich, for always doing it your way.

Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography

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