Review: The Obsessed ‘Live At Big Dipper’ (Authorized Bootleg)

Released to coincide with their 40th Anniversary, Live At Big Dipper (Authorized Bootleg) has been dusted down and given the record day limited vinyl treatment to celebrate one of the most original, influential and vital members of the doom community, The Obsessed.

The Obsessed ‘Live At Big Dipper’

Fronted by the one and only Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich this live album captures the last moments of the original and classic The Obsessed line up compromising of Dave ‘The Slave’ Flood on drums and Mark ‘Professor Dark’ Laue (bass) joining the frontman. Unearthed, scratch that, exhumed like some rotting corpse, this recording from 1983 was seemingly lost until recently and according to the man himself is ‘Raw and noisy and took some cleaning up’.

Without beating around the bush, this is a nice way of saying, Live At Big Dipper sounds like shit. For those who don’t know their history, the original line up of The Obsessed would write some of their hardest, and most creative music in the period between forming as Warhorse in 1976 and their split in 1986 that would see Wino go on to front Saint Vitus. In this period, they would only release one EP Sodden Jacket in 1983 (the track Iron And Stone can be found here) and despite recording their debut album in 1985, it would not surface until it was released by Hellhound Records in 1990.

As such, the opportunity for recordings of the OG incarnation of the band are few and far between, even their previously released recordings, like the 1985 Live At The Bayou tracks on their 2017 debut reissue (Relapse) and Live At The Wax Museum (July 3, 1982 – Doom Records) still comparatively sound crap in terms of audio fidelity. What Live At Big Dipper does sound like though is a band crammed into a small, sweaty club, having fun and playing out of their skin.

Dripping with that heavy Sabbath meets Motörhead/punk vibe infused song writing that would go on to make Wino one of the most influential and revered names in heavy music, there are times when the band are so lost in their craft that it doesn’t no matter that, at times, it sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of a bath tub as it takes this reviewer back to countless small venues in my tenure as a heavy music fan, where I have stood close to the PA, without ear plugs listening to a band turned up way too loud by a sound man who seems woefully unqualified for the job, and despite losing my hearing for 48 hours after, I’d still come away with some of the best experiences of my life.

All the tracks on this album are awash with the protopunk, NWOBHM style that bridged the Seventies to the Eighties like Lifer City and the majority of them haven’t surfaced on recordings prior to this in their original form. The audio, understandably up and down in quality, clears up for Field Of Hourswhich would later make it’s way onto the third album The Church Within. Here it’s understandably a much rawer, faster version that the one eventually committed to tape but still with that rich blues plod. The aforementioned Iron And Stone showcases the passion in Wino’s voice as you picture the faster track churning the club into a sea of bodies crashing head long into each other.

Dripping with that heavy Sabbath meets Motörhead/punk vibe infused song writing that would go on to make Wino one of the most influential and revered names in heavy music…

This is the key to this album. Dispense with any notion that you’re going to be listening to anything remotely polished and just surrender to the feel of the moment. The Obsessed wrote great songs, some of which are here in forms you haven’t heard before (Mental Kingdom for example), but also some you may have never heard (Leather Nuns?) but music is about the passion and catharsis brought about by a connection with the songs and the people playing them.

Often the spirit in which the music is brought is as vital as the sounds being played and this is a perfect example. The people in Big Dipper that night got a snapshot of a hungry band, firing on all cylinders doing something that few would be able to touch, then or since and, sound quality be damned, that must have been a special night for all in attendance.

Then album is rounded out by several demos recorded in 1985, by which time Dave the Slave had been replaced by Ed Guli, and finishes the release off with yet more treasures from the vaults. Kill Ugly Naked heard live on the debut reissue blisters by like early Metallica, as does A World Apart which ditches the speed on the chorus for a choppy Sabbath style lurch.

The previously unreleased Higher Power is a breakneck instrumental dash before the dubiously titled Neatz Brigade from The Church Within is rawer than being dragged by a truck wearing only hot pants.

Live At Big Dipper shouldn’t be critiqued like a new album, it shouldn’t be judged by modern recording standards. Yes, if you’re going to ask fans to shell out strong money for an album (only $29 USD plus shipping actually) then they deserve to know what they’re getting.

However, this is an extremely limited (350 copies) pressing on a beautiful black and bone coloured vinyl with a cosmic swirl pattern, and on top of that you also get to experience the raw power of one of the most revered bands on the doom scene as they began to spread their wings and take flight. Chuck in the digital download as well and really the question is why aren’t you buying it?

Label: Blues Funeral Recordings
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Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden