10/6/2008 - Review by: Etiam
Company: Meteor City Records
Genre: Blues, sludge, doom
An iconic melding of rock, metal, and blues
As metal has enjoyed a popular resurgence in this decade, fans have also begun to reach out to decades past: old collaborations between now-famous artists, first demos of legendary bands, etc. In conjunction with this movement, the genre of traditional doom has received a boost from reformed veterans (e.g. Pagan Altar), homage from new groups (e.g. Witchcraft), and reissues of underground classics, such as 'Lunar Womb'. Originally released in 1991, this is the sophomore album from The Obsessed, one of the first bands formed by genre mainstay Scott Wino (most renowned for Saint Vitus). The Obsessed came together formally in 1977, release a handful of demos, and lay dormant until the early 90s. Then, Wino recruited new members (on this album featuring Greg Pinhas and Scott Reeder, both of Goatsnake), released three LP's, and disbanded soon thereafter. Fairly considered the epitome of The Obsessed, 'Lunar Womb' now receives reissue treatment from the rising Meteor City Records, remastered and with new liner notes and art. Wisely, the Goya portrait of Cronos still appears, albeit with a couple alterations.
The press material refers to 'Lunar Womb' as part of metal's "secret history", which is a fair assessment; The Obsessed ranks as one of Wino's lesser-known projects, but technically predates Saint Vitus and was integral in shaping his distinctive style, which in turn has influenced an entire generation of trad-doomsters. But with that said, 'Lunar Womb' is frankly not all that doomy, and exudes instead a Texas blues plus Bayou sludge vibe. Wino's simple couplet riffs and power chords draw on age-old rock tenets, while the lead harmonies and his vigorous (if not always impeccable) pentatonic soloing suggest his metal leanings. It's certain that Black Sabbath influenced The Obsessed, but it seems that genre classifications are a little misleading in this case. Calling The Obsessed doom metal because of their macabre cover art, members' associations, and occasional vibe is hardly defensible. Often, 'Lunar Womb' has more in common with the equally obscure hard rockers Sir Lord Baltimore than with the likes of 'Sweet Leaf' and 'War Pigs'.
Opening track 'Brother Blue Steel' demonstrates this, opening with a lumbering palm-muted riff that evokes a little Black Sabbath, but soon counting off to an uptempo solo section that takes up the last third of the song, 'Back to Zero' almost seems to combine Motley Crue and Alice in Chains, and 'No Mas' has a kick not unlike a Hendrix number. Closer to doom is 'Hiding Mask', a standout that doesn't quite drop to Sabbath-esque depths, preferring a slightly more adroit brooding that clocks in at under four minutes.
Regardless of its specific permutation, 'Lunar Womb' is an iconic melding of rock, metal, and blues. Although more vintage in tone, it also reminds one of the first waves of black and death metal, when the spirit of the performance was paramount, exceeding the fashion, visibility, and even the execution. Most of all, it recalls an era where true rock and metal were driven underground, and managed to survive only by the virtue of blue-collar acts such as this.