Review: The Obsessed ‘Incarnate’ – Ultimate Edition

Until recently Incarnate was long out of print but thanks to the amazing folks over at Blues Funeral Recordings this is no longer the case. The album was originally released in 1999 and consisted of hard to find EP’s, demos and outtakes. This Ultimate Edition will be released on Record Store Day (24th October), comes with four bonus tracks, revamped artwork courtesy of Maarten Donders and extensive liner notes from Wino explaining the stories behind each track, making this release something of a wet dream for The Obsessed and Wino fanatics.

The Obsessed & 'Incarnate - Ultimate Edition’

As the album consists of a mammoth twenty one tracks, I will be eschewing my usual track by track analysis in favour of a general overview highlighting what I consider to be the standout moments.

The first track that catches my attention is Concrete Cancer which appeared originally on 1985’s Metal Massacre VI compilation and I actually prefer this version to the original, it sounds a lot beefier and faster paced. Next up would be the kickass cover of Grandfunk Railroad’s Inside Looking Out from the Altamont EP, Wino does a fine job of emulating Mark Farner’s distinctive vocal style and the grooves are fat with a capital PH. 

However what really serves as the unique selling point for the album is the inclusion of the legendary 1983 Sodden Jackyl EP which consists of the title track, Iron And Stone and Indestroy, and is the only release to feature the classic Wino, Dave Flood and Mark Laue line-up. The recording quality isn’t the greatest but the tunes themselves more than make up for it. Classic biker doom metal injected with a punk attitude.

In an age when metal was associated with bombastic stage performances and sleaze, it’s no wonder The Obsessed‘s unpretentious style made them firm favourites in the DC hardcore scene. I recall an interview done with Wino where he stated they were one of the first bands to bridge the gap between punk and metal, one of the reasons being that the band never tuned up at gigs, which seemed to impress the punks in the audience. An EP of significant historical value and importance.

Classic biker doom metal injected with a punk attitude…

Spirit Caravan originally appeared on the 1991 Hellhound Records compilation What The Hell and on Elusive Truth by Spirit Caravan. As a big fan of that band, it was an interesting listen as it allowed me to see the slow but steady evolution of Wino as a musician/lyricist with the slightly more complex song writing as opposed to The Obsessed‘s direct hammer blow approach. I enjoyed it but I missed the amazing sustained opening guitar histrionics on the Spirit Caravan version, although this is a minor quibble. Likewise the same could be argued about Fears Machine which appears later on the stunning Jug Fulla Sun record. 

The final standout for me was the band’s version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s On The Hunt which was recorded in the same sessions as The Melvins Stoner Witch and features Dale Crover on drums/backing vocals. I’ve never been particularly enamoured with Skynyrd’s dopey redneck anthems (Sweet Home Alabama, Freebird). However Wino has a particular skill when it comes to choosing tracks of bands that are not as well-known and wino-fying them so you would never guess they were covers.

The Obsessed are well regarded not just in the stoner/doom scene but by artists as diverse as Ian McKaye, Pepper Keenan and L7, all of whom acknowledge the band’s influence. Incarnate will appeal to hardcore fans with the Sodden Jackyl EP and the other demos and rarities, however newer listeners may be better suited checking out any of the band’s ‘proper’ full length albums first.

Label: Blues Funeral Recordings
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Scribed by: Reza Mills