To say that The Obsessed’s fourth studio album has been a long time coming is an understatement of sorts. Twenty-three years have passed since the release of The Church Within, the stoner doom legends’ brief dalliance with the major label world, and despite occasional reunions, Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich’s numerous other projects have always seemed like barriers to a wholesale return. Fortunately, there are few figures in the heavy music underground who have a clearer understanding of their own appeal. Sacred not only ticks every last musical box that patient fans could possibly desire, it also encompasses many of the subtle detours that Wino has embarked on over the years.
It begins in the best possible way, with one of the craggy legend’s trademark riffs on the title track confirming that the sound of the 21st-century The Obsessed is inextricably linked to their earlier incarnations, but somehow bigger in dimension and delivery. Razor Wire follows: a snappy, nails-hard rocker with an insistent, rumbling groove and a telling showcase for Wino’s battle hardened vocal cords. If Black Sabbath’s demise is causing you to lose sleep, great consolation can be found here because The Obsessed simply get the Sabbathian swagger and how best to wring fresh impetus from that immortal template without simply copying it wholesale. Sacred’s production is key here, too; this is one of the heaviest records Wino has ever played on, the warmth and heft of those critical analogue tones and textures bolstered but not bullied by some distinctly modern muscle. A welcome return for ancient curio Sodden Jackal says it all about this band’s ability to marry past and present without foregoing their core identity, while the rambling thunder of Stranger Things packs a deep psychedelic punch, ensuring that doom metal’s lysergic underbelly is represented with gleeful aplomb. Stoner purists will be more than satisfied by Punk Crusher and Cold Blood, not least because every song here more than meets the standards set on the band’s accepted masterpiece, 1991’s Lunar Womb. Though nostalgia may still dictate that those early works will remain the most revered, Sacred feels close to a definitive statement from doom metal’s most dedicated practitioner.