BEST OF 2014 — 3. YOB, ‘Clearing the Path to Ascend’ (Neurot Recordings)

YOB coverThere is no other band in heavy metal quite like YOB. Their music is heavy and pulverizing, but you don’t walk away sullen or depressed. If you feel uplifted when all is said and done, don’t be surprised.

Funny, but there’s been a lot of talk the last few weeks, especially on this site’s comments section, about what comprises metal culture and what should and should not be. Yet, no one can question how truly heavy and metal YOB are. They don’t need to posture or drop silly references to the devil or evil or try to make other people feel unwelcome. They plug in, connect spiritually, and just blow the doors down. They’ve done that on every release they’ve put out during the past 15 years plus, and each of their seven records offers something different and explosive. Their latest, the amazing “Clearing the Path to Ascend,” is one of their mightiest to date and arguably their best work ever. After spending the last two releases with the always awesome Profound Lore, the band released this new album on Neurot Recordings (Relapse handled the vinyl version), a home just as honorable and fitting.

Guitarist/vocalist/lyricist/visionary Mike Scheidt and his bandmates Aaron Rieseberg (bass) and Travis Foster (drums) find a new volcanic level on “Clearing.” From British philosopher Alan Watts’ opening urging, “Time to wake up,” on first track “In Our Blood” through to the emotional curtain dropper “Marrow,” the band takes you on a physical, psychological journey on these four songs that run just over an hour combined. In fact, if we named a track of the year, “Nothing to Win” might take home the honors, as it’s one of the band’s most devastating, infectious songs in their rock-solid catalog, and there is never a time where that thing doesn’t get my blood charging and raise my spirits. We were very fortunate to have a chance to ask Scheidt some questions about the band’s great new record, where the YOB’s positive messages come from, and what lies ahead for the group. Long live this amazing band that just gets better the more road they travel.

Yob Press Photos 2014 - Clearing The Path To AscendMeat Mead Metal: We’re naming “Clearing the Path to Ascend” as the No. 3 metal album of 2014. It’s a fine achievement, another strong entry into the already powerful YOB catalog. Now that the record has been out a while and you’ve had a chance to play these songs live, what are your thoughts on what you accomplished with this album?

Mike Scheidt: We’re very glad you dig our new album. Gratitude! We agonized over this music, and it’s been very satisfying to have it both be a progression for what we do and to have it sit in well with our past work. The support and generally really favorable response is overwhelming, and we are blown away. We don’t have many goals beyond writing the music that closest reflects where we are at as people, and to make music that makes us really excited in our jam room. If that happens, then it’s already served its purpose for us, and we feel like we can put it out there for other folks to hear. The band has already gone so much farther than we could have imagined, that everything now is a continual trip and we feel very lucky.

MMM: The title “Clearing the Path to Ascend” is an interesting one that also seems like it fits well into YOB lore. What is the meaning behind it?

MS: It’s personal. It has to do with things I am trying to work through. The only way music I write feels like something worth going through the process of writing, recording, touring, etc. is if it’s dealing with subjects that are close to home. The flipside to that is it’s also a very nerve-wracking process that may sometimes teeter on being too revealing. But anything less doesn’t feel right for YOB. To even talk about it post-recording is arguably too much.

MMM: So many metal bands, especially in the doom circle, have violent, negative vibes to them. Understandably so. But YOB always feel different. There is a positivity, even a spirituality to the music that seems to encourage reaching beyond the dark. Even the band’s URL is yobislove.com. Do you agree with that assessment? If so, where does that come from?

MS: I love dark bands and vibes and largely resonate with them. My lyrics and vibes are geared more towards my personal hopes and growth. That includes meditation, Eastern mysticism, and positivity to help with clinical depression that consistently borders on ruining it all. That tension is where I write from, and I’m trying to get better. At the end of the day, love is what makes it bearable.

MMM: The record starts with Alan Watts’ quote, “Time to wake up.” It’s not the first time you’ve used a Watts quote, and he also speaks more during the later stages of “In Our Blood.” What does he mean to you and to the band’s philosophies?

MS: Alan Watts has been a source of inspiration to me for over 25 years. His intense humor and wisdom, deep intelligence and wit as a writer, speaker and practitioner is an amazing gift he gave to the world. He has been a part of YOB’s work from day one.

MMM: This record certainly is one that I feel is meant to be consumed as a whole. There are great, smashing highs like “Nothing to Win” (might be my personal favorite YOB song, by the way) to the closer “Marrow” that really stretches out and explores so many different dynamics. What do you hope listeners get from committing to this record as a whole journey?

MS: Our hope,, if any, is that after listening to the album, someone might feel better. Whatever that means to them. We don’t have demands to anyone who listens. For those who can climb on that trip with us, it’s an honor. For those who just dig the heaviness of the music and could care less about the lyrics that is equally great. We write and record, play shows, and give everything we have. But how it is received and heard, is very personal to the person listening or watching and as such may not have anything to do with our motivations. It is theirs, not ours. Whether someone likes it, loves it, hates it, resonates, or is indifferent, it’s all good.

MMM: This is the band’s first record for Neurot. Why was this a good home for YOB, and how do you feel about the association?

MS: As massive fans of Neurosis and their work, to be on the label they created for themselves and have their confidence is an amazing honor. The timing was perfect, and we couldn’t be happier.

MMM: What does YOB have planned for 2015? Are you looking at doing more touring? Creating new music? All of the above?

MS: We will be touring with Enslaved and Ecstatic Vision throughout March, and will add US headlining shows on that trip as well. We are very excited about that. We will be looking at some other smaller trips throughout 2015, and I am sure we will be doing some writing, but we won’t rush that. I will also be working on the new Vhol album, as well as a new solo album and a couple of new projects. It will be a very busy year.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.yobislove.com

To buy the album, go here: http://neurotrecordings.merchtable.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.neurotrecordings.com/

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