Monday, May 16, 2016

The Obsessed, Karma To Burn, and The Atomic Bitchwax @ Saint Vitus Bar

Apparently if you're a bald guy of a certain build and you stand in front of a club with your hands in your pockets, people will just assume you're the doorman. If there was some advantage to kids warily pulling out their IDs for me and punks-turned-yuppies condescendingly telling me they're "on the list", I'd have some fun with this newfound knowledge; alas, all I gained was sympathy for the people who have to to this for real. (Fun fact: a lot of door men in NYC are actually off-duty cops. Antagonize them at your own peril.)

I may be alone in remembering this, but there was a time when there was a divide between "true" doom metal and its less heavy, more hedonistic cousin stoner rock (probably due to the latter's perceived commercial appeal). Some intentional Iommi-ing aside, The Atomic Bitchwax are definitely more "rock" than anything else. I decided within a few songs that their mugging wasn't for me and that their Thin Lizzy retreads were just as easily enjoyed sitting down near the bar. 

Karma To Burn is a name I've been seeing in print for close to two decades, though I don't think I've ever actually heard their music. I mainly know them as the band that (allegedly) fired former Kyuss frontman John Garcia for (allegedly) sounding too much like Ronnie James Dio. [I can't decide which part of that story I find funniest. Allegedly.] Though the connection undoubtedly has served them well, their instrumental rock is doesn't have much in common with Kyuss. For one thing, they're more consistently heavy - caveman tom rolls and swinging beats behind lumbering riffs, like a Sabbath-driven "Frankenstein". And god damn, that cowbell makes me smile.

As I've written before, I find very little separates The Obsessed from Wino's other projects over the years; indeed, as the other members of this incarnation (ha ha!) were both in Spirit Caravan, that project could have been resuscitated just as easily (though "Spirit Caravan Plays Selections From The Obsessed Catalogue" doesn't have quite the same cachet). At the end of the day, I was there for Wino himself, no matter what he calls the outfit he tours with or what material he plays.

I thought the last place I saw The Obsessed - outdoors, in broad daylight - was the perfect setting for their bluesy roots metal, but within the small confines of Saint Vitus, their music takes on a darker, more intimate feel. These songs have aged incredibly well; maybe it's because they always felt a little out of their time. As hardcore, thrash and grunge sprouted up around The Obsessed, they've always been out of sync with tastes both mainstream and underground  (a hesher friend in college disparaged The Church Within as "southern rock", and passed it over to me without qualms). Not much has changed on that front; the new songs, including the presumptive title track "Sacred", are as much of a throwback as the rest of the band's oeuvre. No record label has attached itself to the new material yet, which explains why the band is touring in support of an album that's not out and has no official release date. But after watching kids half my age nod their heads reverentially to songs older than me, it's hard to imagine anyone letting a new Obsessed album slip through their hands. [There's always Bandcamp, guys.]