Of 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.
Since 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.
Vescera 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!