SACRED WARRIOR - Obsessions (Limited Run Vinyl)
The first installment of the much vaunted and much anticipated Limited Run Vinyl has finally arrived – the first batch to reach my ears the Retroactive Records releases (Bride – Silence Is Madness, Deliverance – Stay Of Execution, Antestor – Omen and last but not least, Sacred Warrior – Obsessions). It should be no surprise to anyone who has heard me preach metal that Obsessions would hands-down be the first of the 4 to grab my attention and make its way onto the Rega Planar 6 platform which serves as the workhorse turntable of my audio system. Equipped with the Exact cartridge – ideal for rock and metal – and boosted/cleaned by the Parasound Halo Jr. preamp, the RP6 was more than ready for the Obsessions prime-time hi-fi vinyl debut.
Limited Run Vinyl is a new multi-label collaborative series between Roxx Records, Girder Music and Retroactive Records which features 180-gram vinyl releases of classic Christian rock/metal titles alongside some of the newer cutting-edge bands in the scene. Each release features black poly-lined inner sleeves, random color vinyl (most mixed/swirled) and most importantly a new master for vinyl. Each title in the series is limited in quantity to 50-200 units.
Earlier this year the CD remaster of Obsessions was released as part of the new Metal Icon Series by Retroactive. Here is just a portion of the write-up I contributed to that release regarding the music and legacy of this juggernaut of progressive power metal.
What else can be said about Obsessions that has not already been said? While it will always be true that the music speaks for itself, this album truly was the culmination of four great years of work by a band that was sadly not destined to grace us with their ministry and music for much longer after this monumental 1991 release. To quote my own words from the Heaven’s Metal Top 100 Christian Metal Albums Of All Time list – where Obsessions ranked #7 behind greats like Vengeance – Human Sacrifice, Tourniquet – Psycho Surgery, Deliverance – Deliverance, Whitecross – Whitecross, Extol – Undeceived and Stryper – To Hell With The Devil – the descriptive went as follows:
“Christendom’s best power metal band ever hit their high-water mark with this collection of songs which perfectly blended Queensrÿche, Iron Maiden and their unique and inspiring take on the scene.”
That view holds to this day, at least in my mind. While each of their three preceding albums were distinct in musical, lyrical and production elements – each with their own great qualities – Obsessions truly brought it all together on a level that was just so complete and so professional. I remember at the time this was originally released I couldn’t stop being impressed with the licks and lyrics – and the production quality surpassed anything the band had put forth to date. I was in medical school at the time – this album an incredibly inspiring collection of songs. So influential was it to me that I even quoted some of the lyrics from “Wings Of A Dream” on my (med school) senior yearbook page!
One of the greatest aspects of this album was (and remains) just how “real” and visceral was the music and were the words conveyed through this metal. The over-arching thread was the faithfulness of God – that no matter how bad life gets with addictions (“Obsessions”), no matter what death steals from us in this world (“Sweet Memories”), no matter how far we stray in our faith (“No Turning Back”), no matter how much the world’s ways seem wise to us (“Kamikaze”), no matter how isolated we feel from God because of our sins (“Remember Me”) – that God is faithful to His promises for us, and that He is sovereign (“Fire From Heaven”). And while Satan roams this earth constantly looking for prey (“Mad Man”) the hope and faith we have in Christ sets us free (“Temples On Fire”). To this day, I can’t think of a more comprehensive album from both a personal and spiritual perspective that breaks it all down in such a simple and human way. It doesn’t hurt that the soundtrack to these eternal observations is both exceptionally executed and timelessly relevant. (March 2019)
Accolades of the original aside, what about this vinyl remaster? I can confidently say that this mix on this media brings these iconic songs into a whole new light – the sound now massive, much richer and more dynamic. One of the only drawbacks to the original was the slight excess emphasis on loud treble guitars and vocals and a restrained/compressed bass guitar and drum sound. The immediate impression upon hearing the opening notes of “Wings Of A Dream” is one of awe – there is this tight, yet more resonant bass sound. The warmth is there, but the guitars and vocals still cut through and it all just sounds so massive. The drum salvo at the beginning of the title track catapults out of the speakers, lending a “live” quality to the music that was absent on the more sterile, somewhat over-produced digital mix. Rey’s vocals have a larger than life tonal quality, which is showcased on song like “No Turning Back” and “Remember Me.” Velasquez’s snare drum similarly has a fuller tonal range, this quite evident in “Temples On Fire” where the attacking snare notes have more “punch” than “splat” quality. And the added full resonance of the toms during the open middle section of “Mad Man” positively impact the devastating sounds of the album finale. Fandom aside, this is the best these songs have ever sounded – the vinyl master successful in projecting a more organic, live mix.
The physical disc itself is impressive, my copy the watermelon swirl in color (as pictured). Instead of the sharp edges on the 140-gram releases, this disc – in addition to the nice weighty quality – boasts smooth edges with ample run-in on the playing surface so the initial engagement of the stylus is seamless without skips or jumping right into the music. My disc is essentially flat, although not perfectly so, and well-centered. I love how the label blends right into the record surface, almost as if it is part of the wax. More importantly, it plays flawlessly with very minimal surface noise in the form of a few “pops” mostly noticeable only between tracks and not excessive. While this isn’t quite audiophile quality vinyl, I would venture to say it’s very close, and for this release in particular, the sound quality is notably improved over the original release on CD, largely because of the de-emphasis of the treble and the enhancement of the bass end of the EQ.
Aesthetically, the packaging and presentation – while not double-gatefold – is first rate.
The 12 x12 insert (available on only the first 100 units) contains lyrics on one side and excerpts from the original Heaven’s Metal feature on the other. The back cover features the same artwork/picture found on the last page of the 2019 Metal Icon Series CD booklet (pictured).
You don’t want to miss out on this fantastic first time pressing (there may never be a second) of this masterpiece so click HERE to pick up a copy before its too late … and stay tuned for more reviews of the Limited Run Vinyl series right at heavensmetalmagazine.com!
And be sure to check out all of the great new releases and information at limitedrunvinyl.com.
1. Wings of a Dream
2. Sweet Memories
3. Turning Back
1. Remember Me
2. Fire from Heaven
3. Temples on Fire
4. Mad Man