Transfer, 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, initially playing covers by the Tygers Of Pan Tang, Angel Witch, Michael Schenker, Accept as well as The Scorpions, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. 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 original compositions “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).
»Marshall Law« was very well-received in the US (selling way over 15,000 copies) and as a result being licensed for continental Europe by Germany’s SPV. To promote the record, 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.
With a new management and a new record label, change for Obsession was on the horizon though, as Mike Vescera, who later went on to find fame and fortune singing for both, Loudness and Yngwie Malmsteen, explains: “As we started growing in popularity, we felt needed better management. And regarding Metal Blade, I'm not sure that we ever spoke with Brian Slagel about staying with them. So I don't recall if they wanted to keep us on the label. It was a crazy time and hard to recollect.”
Instead of Metal Blade, Enigma Records was the new home for Obsession as Mike Vescera recalls: “If I remember correctly, ‘Scarred For Life’ and a new version of ‘Shadows Of Steel’ were the two songs we sent to Enigma. I think from the success of »Marshall Law« and these two songs were enough for them wanting to sign us. Being on Enigma Records we had major distribution and the big promo machine of Capitol Records behind us.”
With no line-up changes and a new record label behind them, Obsession were highly motivated to make their first full-length album an ever bigger success story than »Marshall Law«. But all was not well. Christened »Scarred For Life«, the album was originally planned to be unleashed to the public in November 1985 but the release date was postponed to July 1986, with the band losing their momentum due to the delay. ”This was very frustrating for us,” sighs Mike Vescera a good 37 years after the event. “Enigma had just become part of Capitol Records, so they asked us to please hold off on the release date until the deal with Capitol was completely sorted, then we would release with the new company, etc. It did hurt momentum a bit, but we were able to play live shows, test the new material and keep the buzz going.”
However, when »Scarred For Life« was finally released, it was considered another success: “I think for the time, it was quite good. We were still finding our way as a band and experimenting with things. I always feel that things can be better, but I think good it was good for that point in our development. I think »Scarred For Life« was not quite as dark-themed as »Marshall Law«. Also, I believe you can hear that we were starting to become quite a good band and becoming better musicians. We were starting to get our own distinct style and musical direction at this point and recorded at a much better studio. »Marshall Law« was funded by the band, so having an actual budget from a label was really helpful, and we felt like we were legit. Furthermore, we were also learning more and more about the actual recording process, so this helped quite a bit. Once again, Brian Keene was at the helm, he had a great ear and very clever production ideas. If I had to name my favorite song on »Scarred For Life«, then it’s probably the title track itself. I think it’s the strongest song on the album.”
The reactions to »Scarred For Life« were quite good again, says Mike Vescera: “Once more we had huge support from nationwide college radio, and the press/promo from Enigma/Capitol was a big step up for us. I've always heard of us being referred to as US Metal, but I must say that the reaction and feedback from Europe, South America and Japan has always been great, too.”
Also on the live front Obsession were pretty active once again: “We always did many shows. Back then, we could play locally three or four times a week. Plus we had nationwide recognition, so we were able to get on some cool North East tours (with Twisted Sister, Plasmatics, Quiet Riot and Anvil for example).” In addition to that, “we were always writing new material,” says the Obsession singer, “we would try out new songs in our live show, so many of the songs that appeared on the albums were tested live first. I know ‘Killer Elite’, which appeared on »Methods Of Madness«, is one of these songs.” As a matter of fact, we will come to this album in the next story.
The deluxe vinyl re-issue of »Scarred For Life« on High Roller Records features the original demo version of “Shadows Of Steel” (as heard on »Metal Massacre II«) as an exclusive bonus track.