I love music that helps me transcend. It’s always great to have something that gets in my blood and helps me stretch beyond the here and now. I’m talking music that goes in my ears, coats my brain with dreams and ideas, and stands apart from the rest. And just to be certain I’m not misunderstood, I don’t need substances to make that happen. Because the music’s working that well.
Over the years, long-standing doom warriors YOB have done that for me. Their music is heavy and sometimes brutal, but it’s intellectual and spiritually stimulating as well. Every one of their records feels like another step in their evolution, not only as artists but as people, too. There’s this thing about their music that just feels like something that’s supposed to lift you up and help you see beyond this world. You don’t need any mind-altering medications to get there, as noted, because the power of their music is enough. That carries over to the band’s seventh album “Clearing the Path to Ascend,” their first for Neurot after having Profound Lore release the past two, and one of the finest records in their career. In fact, it rivals “The Great Cessation” for me as my favorite in their canon. It feels like yet another rebirth for YOB, this one dragging them into more tumultuous grounds.
Mike Scheidt is out on front of this unit, giving his distinct singing/growling, expressive guitar playing, and introspective lyrics to this great band. He’s one of the most gifted, unique artists going today in heavy music, and few others have a resume as impressive as his. Along with him in YOB are bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster, the same lineup that brought you 2010’s “Atma.” It sounds like they’ve channeled their inner beasts and vowed to let their animalistic tendencies flow freely on this record, and over these four tracks, you get plenty of punishment along with philosophical wonder to keep a perfect balance.
The record opens with the tremendous, nearly 17-minute “In Our Blood,” a track with a clean, dreamy opening sequence that spills into massive sludge and heavy crunching. The music swelters, while Scheidt’s nasally pinched singing takes over, at times sounding like a voice from beyond. The track builds beautifully over its extended running time, with growls mixing in for a more monstrous atmosphere, the music going clean and spacious, and a final blast growing out of that complete with fiery soloing and vicious shouting. “Nothing to Win” is one of the heavier tracks in YOB’s catalog, and certainly the burliest cut on this record. The music boils over, with the guitar work firing on all cylinder and leading the way into the madness, a thick bassline that mauls everything in front of it, and grainy noise that spills over toward the end. Scheidt howls over the heavy charge, that reminds a ton of High on Fire, and as the song reaches its finale, the band makes a concerted effort to keep dropping the heavy lumber. Just a killer song.
“Unmask the Sceptre” is mesmerizing at the start, as the song trickles open, but then they hit on a thunderous tempo switch treated with a nice helping of grisly growls. A trance-like melody slithers through the track, giving it a spacey feeling, but it always goes back to being stormy again with fiery guitar playing and the rest of the band burning brightly. Winds woosh through, the song trudges slowly in its final minutes, and it all disappears into the mist. Closer “Marrow” runs 18:48, and it brings the damage back down to earth. The song is emotional and solemn, with Scheidt leaning heavily on his cleaner vocals, and the bulk of this feels like a soulful, heartfelt reach out into the cosmos. There is some psychedelic trickling that arrives, a pocket of deeper, softer vocals not often heard on YOB releases, and finally a point where the floodgates are allowed to open just a bit. The tempo pushes a little harder, the vocals reach for a higher level, and then everything is snuffed out, with the track fading away into the darkness. Just a breath-taking finish to a stunning record.
YOB always find a way to reach a new high point, and “Clearing the Path to Ascend” is one of the finest statements of their career. It has the crunch to satisfy those who need it heavy, but it also can help you get lost in the emotion and let your mind wander. It’s a deep thinking kind of record, both for the band and the listener. Full commitment to the music is the way to absorb all the vitamins and nutrients from these six songs, and it’s the only may it can spiritually nourish you. I’ll always be thankful for having YOB as part of my musical DNA, and they always deliver when I need something with true substance and passion and not just a drubbing for drubbing’s sake.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/quantumyob
To buy the album, go here: http://neurotrecordings.merchtable.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.neurotrecordings.com/