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Live Report: The Obsessed, Cobalt, and Savage Master

I’ve been cranking The Obsessed’s remastered self-titled debut (set for release November 17th via Relapse) the past two weeks, and man, it’s been fucking righteous.

When the sky’s grey and the mood on the subway is like hell just flipped over twice, just crank some Wino and friends and get to that special place. Seriously, The Obsessed are one of the coolest and most magically riffing punk/metal/psych/doom/rock bands of all time. There’s an energy to them that is beyond the horizon: like you’re dreaming through the wind on the open road and there’s infinite freedom all around you.

The group, headed by the legendary Scott “Wino” Weinrich (Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand), is the absolute clearest connection to 1970s psych rock, 1980s punk rock and hardcore, and early riff-heavy, heavy metal. I mean, it’s like the connection to infinity. I’d never seen Wino live in action, and Tuesday night at New York City’s St. Vitus was the place to be. Shit was rocking.

Savage Master opened up in chains, whips, and leather, slaying the place hard. In general, bands that wear S&M masks aren’t something I’m down with, even if the band can play; but Savage Master riffs are fantastic. And there’s something airy about them. They’re not scary or greasy, but just the opposite: open and smooth. Fronted by the mystical Stacey Savage (the only member who performs without a mask), the band is all Judas Priest, W.A.S.P., and Iron Maiden riffs and extensions, pulling off their own thing because they reach for that extra something: that special inner-strength and love of composition and performance. The band can fucking play, there’s no doubt about that. The masks, well, they aren’t a distraction, and that’s pretty remarkable, because I hate those things.

Experimental extreme metal stalwarts Cobalt sprawled their magic in shadowy demeanors, playing a musical form that was straight up unique and arty. Perhaps held together by an affinity for black metal (pretty much everywhere you read, they’re referred to as black metal), the band is actually all over the place. Post punk, doom, gothic rock, twang-hilly metal, bits of speed, and flourishes of warm buoys — it all coalesces into something surely dark, but wickedly light as well. The band doesn’t tour much, and you can tell how much a performance really means to these guys: they don’t hold back, and give every ounce of blood they have. Extremity is at a premium, as vocalist Charlie Fell is the vision of Jim Morrison, Sid Vicious, and Attila Csihar come to life. Being from Colorado, there’s a mountainous approach to the band’s songs, something that feels difficult and real, like a struggle to capture existence and a long climb upwards. Their set was evil and punk, and hopeful and inspiring. Cobalt nailed it.

The Obsessed achieved absolute greatness. Holy shit, the riffs… there’s nothing like Wino. No one writes songs like him: all organic, road-weary, extra-dimensional. There’s simplicity to the band. Punk rock and the blues are crucial elements that make the circular rhythm flow. I was laughing and smiling hard, as they rolled through classics like “Streetside” and “Freedom,” widening and stretching their psych jaunts and inner-punk turnabouts. The Obsessed are that special link to the great rock of the 1970s and the early hardcore and punk of the 1980s. Their music is about songs and feelings, and reaching for the places that lift you out of the darkness.

Doom metal is all about the shadows and the pain and the torture, so it’s funny that The Obsessed are referred to at times as such. It’s happy doom, if it’s any doom at all, because there are few bands out there that twist a mood around onto itself.

— Christopher Harrington

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