Audio restoration and mastering by Patrick W. Engel at TEMPLE OF DISHARMONY in December 2022.
American metal band Obsession formed in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1981. It took the band two years to ink a deal with Metal Blade Records and come up with their debut 12” EP »Marshall Law«, featuring the songs “Only The Strong Will Survive”, “Hatred Unto Death”, “Execution” and the title track “Marshall Law”. The line-up on this legendary piece of US Metal vinyl (bearing the catalogue number MBR 1010) consisted of Matt Karagus (bass), Jay Mezias (drums), Art Maco (guitar), Bruce Vitale (guitar) and Mike Vescera (vocals).
Mike Vescera, who later went on to find fame and fortune singing for both, Loudness and Yngwie Malmsteen, explains: “I was the last member to join the band in ‘82. New Haven, CT, was our stomping ground and a big part of the success of Obsession. I was in various other local bands previously, but nothing to the level of Obsession.” According to Mike, Obsession started out as a cover band: “Yes, this is true, we were doing what was obscure metal at the time. There was no one covering these bands. We did stuff by the Tygers Of Pan Tang, Angel Witch, Michael Schenker, Accept as well as The Scorpions, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.”
The shining star of the original Obession line-up was indeed Mike Vescera, even in the early stages of his career, his versatile, powerful and dynamic voice (featuring a healthy dose of high-pitched screams) was hard to match. Being initially trained as a classic pianist, Mike really admired Freddie Mercury and was also influenced by Steve Walsh of Kansas fame. Entering his metal phase, Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford became his heroes. He adds: “Before Obsession, I was in band called Castle. We covered quite a bit of Rainbow and Deep Purple.”
When Mike Vescera joined Obsession, considerable progress was being made in a relatively short period of time. All the hard work paid off, when the band managed to place “Shadows Of Steel” on the compilation album »Metal Massacre II«, put out by Brian Slagel’s Metal Blade Records in 1982. “We started recording original music early on,” elaborates the singer. “We knew of Metal Blade and the first »Metal Massacre« record. We submitted a demo we had recorded, and Brian Slagel thought we would be a good addition to »Metal Massacre II. After the release and success of the second »Metal Massacre« record, we approached Metal Blade about releasing an EP with him. Brian signed us on, and we released »Marshall Law« with him and Metal Blade.” But why an EP and not an album? Mike Vescera: “At the time, EPs were quite popular and common, we just felt this would be the best option for us. Mind you, we did have enough material for a full-length, but felt the EP would be the best for us at that point in time. We did have quite a few songs to pick from. We were still finding our way musically, so I believe these songs we picked best represented what Obsession was portraying at that point.”
“We were quite young at this point, I had just turned 18, so pretty new to the recording world,” reminisces Mike Vescera about his first time in a professional recording studio. “We were learning as we went along. Luckily, we had Brain Keene as a co-producer and his great experience helped quite a bit. Brian was actually a quite famous Jazz/Progressive guitarist, so his input really helped create something special with the band.”
Having started out as a cover band playing tunes by Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, amongst others, it’s no wonder that Bruce Vitale and Art Maco, the two guitar masters of Obsession, performed some killer two-way six-string battles on songs like the heavily Exciter influenced “Only The Strong Will Survive” as well as “Hatred Unto Death”, “Execution” and “Marshall Law”. Unsurprisingly, Obsession gained a lot of respect for their four-track debut EP: “The reaction to the record was great. We were surprised how well it was received. College radio was a big part of Obsession’s success. We were a favorite of many college radio stations across the country.”
All this resulted in some more than respectable sales, at the time reported to have been somewhere in the region of between 10,000 and 15,000 copies. However, Mike Vescera begs to differ: “From what I understand, it was quite a bit more than 15,000 copies, but very hard to verify at this point. After »Marshall Law«, we started getting quite a bit of interest from a lot of labels. We wanted to be on a major label (Atlantic, Capitol etc.), as most bands at that time. Enigma (Greenworld), who was the distributor for Metal Blade, approached us to sign with their new label. We felt it would be the best option for us and the deal they offered made sense at the time.”
Over in mainland Europe, SPV licensed »Marshall Law« (a good while after the American release), even placed a few ads in German metal mags and did a bit of PR for the record as well. Mike’s memory proves to be as sharp as his singing voice: “I remember when SPV released this, I believe I was touring with Roland Grapow in Germany. I was in talks with SPV about a possible solo deal at the time, so they did keep me informed.”
After the release of »Marshall Law«, apart from playing extensively in the New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts area, Obsession “toured quite a bit on the East Coast of the US, mainly the Northeast all the way down to North Carolina”, before dedicating more time to the songwriting of their first full-length album. But this, as they say, is another story.
The deluxe vinyl re-issue of »Marshall Law« on High Roller Records features four bonus tracks from the original demo tape which was sent to Metal Blade Records. “These were the first original compositions we recorded as a band,” closes Mike Vescera.