One of the only Cleveland bands to have actually showcased for major labels, Disengage hasn't shortchanged itself by signing with Man's Ruin, the San Francisco-based indie label owned by graphic artist Frank Kozik. Having played in a side project called Hermano (which features ex-Kyuss singer John Garcia), guitarist Mike Callahan was able to convince Kozik that Disengage should be on the roster of Man's Ruin, a label primarily dedicated to stoner rock. It wasn't a hard sell, and it's easy to tell why -- Obsessions Become Phobias has the same heavy guitars and parched vocals that typify stoner acts such as Queens of the Stone Age, Fu Manchu, and Nebula. And that's not to say that Disengage is derivative -- the group's tight arrangements owe as much to hardcore as metal and feature a unique combination of the two genres.
While it's often difficult to hear singer Jason Byers in live settings, the mix on Obsessions, the follow-up to the band's 1997 debut, Teeth, Heart, and Tail, puts as much emphasis on his vocals as the guitars. Byers, who seems to have a permanent scowl tattooed on his forehead when he's on stage, writes humorless, brooding songs filled with images of sharp fingernails ("Spine of Teeth") and burning buildings ("Angel's Night"). The shifting dynamics of "Tyrant's Blues," "Sunstarved," and an untitled instrumental suggest that the band, which also includes bassist Sean Bilovecky and drummer Jonathan Morgan, has outgrown the Black Sabbath-meets-Black Flag description of past days. With Obsessions, Disengage proves that it's a band deserving a wider audience outside of Cleveland.