Album Review: The Obsessed – Gilded Sorrow

Album Review: The Obsessed - Gilded Sorrow
Reviewed by Sam Jones

The Obsessed, though enjoying a modern resurgence, date back far further than many may immediately think. Formed, originally under the name of Warhorse, in 1976 out of Maryland, United States, the band changed themselves to The Obsessed by 1980 where they released a number of Demos before breaking up in 1986 and, cutting to 1990, the band reunite to release their first, self-titled album. In this time of activity, 1991 would bring Lunar Womb and 1994 would see The Church Within yet, the band still break up again by 1996. At attempted reunion in 2011 came to little avail so it was only in 2016 the band finally had enough steam to get going again, and now in their longest period of activity ever. Their 2017 album, Sacred, was a massive release and is my favourite by the band so, imagine my delight when I saw The Obsessed were looking to release their next record, Gilded Sorrow, for a February 16th release date via Ripple Music. I was more than ready to experience the band’s first album in seven years and so, was ready to dive in.

Throughout the years, in spite of better production technology crafting a stronger sound out of riffs and drums etc, it’s almost reassuring to note how Wino’s vocals have remained, for the most part, unchanged. You could listen to his earliest work with Saint Vitus, cut across to Gilded Sorrow, and observe very little change in his delivery. I think the fact that his performance isn’t one that requires too much effort is what has enabled him to preserve the crux of his vocal strength as he’s not having to exert himself too greatly to project his iconic voice. I do think his vocals are just a little overpowered by the riffs, which hamper his ability to demonstrate just how fresh his vocal work still is, but they aren’t so utterly drowned out we can’t enjoy what he has on display. Now I personally would have tweaked things just a touch to let Wino be heard with less difficulty, but we can still experience his rough timbre all the same. His vocals still possess a clear spot at the forefront of the band.

This is doom metal without the colossal fuzz or tone, without the cacophonous soundscapes. It’s truly old school doom metal in the vein of Black Sabbath, Trouble etc and therefore Gilded Sorrow is a record that anyone, new or old to metal alike, could stick on and fervently enjoy. It doesn’t require you to be used to any particular sound, it’s really inviting and doesn’t attempt to continuously press on your senses. The guitar work doesn’t slam into you as much as it tries to walk alongside you; it’s as if the band discovered you on a jog and decided to join you only they’re not looking to race. It’s a nice and healthy sprint from track to track as the end of one perfectly puts you at ease and prepares you for the next. With that said, whilst the riffs are far from commanding and aren’t looking to exert any form of domination they clearly hold a stronger presence within the mix. They’re far from overtly loud but they’re definitely thrown in our faces just a tad more than the rest of the band. It’s not by much, but the music speaks for itself.

Album Review: The Obsessed - Gilded Sorrow

We’ve touched upon how the band aren’t looking to race from start to finish, but even when the band seemingly pick up the tempo it’s far from anything that would get our senses racing. The overwhelming majority of Gilded Sorrow is written as this methodically steady force that isn’t looking to break out into any unexpected intensity and is therefore a record you could put on anytime, even at home when you’re looking to chill out. Even admits old school doom metal, this record is exceptionally relaxed, as even the earliest Black Sabbath or Saint Vitus had a severity to them that would get our adrenaline going. The Obsessed do so here too but they’ve seen to it that speed isn’t relied on to keep their audiences engaged; when you listen to them okay, there’s a certain atmosphere applied to their songwriting that makes their sombre, trudging performance so captivating. Granted, speed was never going to be the primary focus of such a band but it’s the way The Obsessed have turned an unchanging, steady tempo into such an enthralling, entrancing record.

Something that may fly under the radar for people initially are the drums, who may becomes the second child appreciated after the primary riffs. More than anything across this record, the drums are helping to regulate the pace by which Gilded Sorrow plays at. The riffs are naturally going to assume command of the band’s trajectory, and the guitar work is going to feel like the flashiest thing here, but we’re it not for the drum tracks, this record wouldn’t strike with the essence that makes The Obsessed tick. The drums won’t play anything you have t already heard before on a classic doom album, as strikes and bass drums are delayed and don’t seek to needlessly fill the spaces between, for that’s where the magic of doom lies. Yet, throughout each track there’s often something implemented to keep us engaged; a little drum fill or something that’s more than the typical drum track a song has affiliated us with.

In conclusion, The Obsessed’s latest record is one that, while may not land amongst my favourites by the band, is still a quality time to be had and one that is extremely easy for newer fans to dive into. It’s arguably a perfect gateway record for people if they’re looking to try an old school variation of doom but feel swamped by the myriad of choices of retro bands. As we’ve mentioned, Gilded Sorrow doesn’t try to reinvent any form of wheel nor does it try and unnecessarily spruce up a retro sound; it’s stays true to itself and even though this is the band’s first full length work in seven years, they don’t try and impart anything overtly flashy or superficial into their songwriting. They play, do their job, then get out. The pace is steady from start to finish, but after that final track I felt pretty satisfied by what I got and how long it took to get there. It was refreshing to look back on a record after I was done and felt like every minute I spent with it was worthwhile. It’s an entertaining release for sure even if it doesn’t try and make itself out as the grandest thing in old school doom. Another positive release for The Obsessed.

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