Label: Enigma
Released: 1986

Obsession-Scarred_For_LifeOf all the albums one listens to in a lifetime, there are always those elite, sacrosanct platters that never get old, always sound fresh and perpetually deliver that same thrill they did upon the virgin spin. For whatever reason, Obsession‘s debut Scarred for Life is one of those special pleasures for yours truly. This product of New Haven, Connecticut got its start with a single on Metal Massacre II way back in 1982. After a tasty EP, they launched this gem of a heavy metal beast on an unsuspecting world.

Led by the talents of front man Mike Vescera (who would later go on to join Loudness and Yngwie Malmsteen), they rocked a simple, catchy, traditional metal style with just a trace of hair metal slickness and pomp. Every song pops, sizzles and worms its way into the brain and leaves an ugly and permanent mark. Whether you spun it in 86 or spin it now, it sounds classy, polished and oh-so-accessible. That’s how the good ones roll.

obsession_bandSince every song is a winner, it’s only worth pointing out the very best of the great bunch. The title track is so polished, but so much the archetype metal song, it’s a joy to hear. Vescera rules the roost with his powerful, high-register vocals and I always thought he enunciated his words with a bit of a Japanese accent for some reason (I’ve long suspected this was the reason Loudness eventually recruited him, though I have no proof). “Bang ‘Em Til They Bleed” is the “heavy” track on the album and verges on thrash, with a simple, muscular riff and much harsher, rougher vocals from Vescera. To me, this is exactly how 80s metal should sound and I never, ever get tired of this ballbuster.

Elsewhere, “Take No Prisoners” is a moody, but energetic rocker with a big chorus; “Tomorrow Hides No Lies” is the quintessential power ballad with an emotional performance from Vescera and “Shadows of Steel” swings the hammer of classic metal with skill and deadly precision. Not a weak song in the bunch and the album screams replay from the very first listen.

Michael+VesceraVescera is the star here and the material is based around his vocal abilities. This works as well as it does because the man has a versatile voice and can jump between powerful wailing, raspy, hard rock snarls and emotive crooning as effortlessly as I guzzle cheap whiskey. Bruce Vitale and Art Maco back him up admirable with simple, but bruising riffs that reek of metal’s golden days. Their solos are typically metal, but way more fluid and technical than one might expect. The band meshes together perfectly and I love the way they sound here.

They released Methods to Madness the following year, which was nearly as good and had a few of their very best songs. After that, they folded up shop until a comeback nineteen years later with Carnival of Lies. Though it’s fun to see Obsession back in the game, nothing can recapture the magic and staying power this release had in such high quantities. If you love 80s metal and never heard this, you missed one of the real deals. Go familiarize yourself and meet your new obsession!

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  • BaboonKing

    Will check it out. Your retro reviews are always a great source of obscure gems.

    One small correction though: it’s Mike Vescera, not Viscera! :)

    • That’s what happens when I go from memory!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I love the retro reviews too, always fun looking back. This one inspired me to give Witchfinder General a blast today :)

    • Ah, good old Witchfinder General and their boob-centric album covers.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        hard not to like

  • Mike Eckman

    Wow…this is pretty good. I can’t say I’m anywhere near an authority on classic metal, but I’d like to think I’ve heard, or at least have been familiarized with most of it, and somehow I had never even heard of this before. The production quality is surprisingly good for the age, unlike so many other vintage records of the day…Im looking at you Metal Church’s first two albums! :)

    • Glad you liked it! Try their Marshall Law EP and Methods to Madness album too. Both very solid.

      • Mike Eckman

        Listening to Obsession has put me into an 80s metal mood. NP: Savatage – Hall of the Mountain King. This album is so great! I propose this for a future Retro-Spective Review for no other reason than for some of the best guitarwork ever on a metal record. In the 80s you could throw a rock and hit a talented guitarist, but Criss Oliva was a whole ‘nother level of metal greatness. RIP Criss….

        • It is a great album, but too well known for a retro-review.

          • BaboonKing

            Well, it is well known, but we still would love to hear uncle Druhm tell us all about it. :)

            But if it has to be a hidden gem, how about Rough Silk’s The Roots of Hate? I think that one would fit in perfectly with the Retro-spective format. It’s a great album that deserves more recognition.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    This review made me dust of the collection. Thanks! Obsession deserves the nod.
    How about a retro on Icon-s/t?