The first words uttered on Yob’s long awaited new album are “time to wake up”. From there, the acoustic guitar intro to In Our Blood briefly aids the transition from slumber to fully awake before the crushing overdriven guitars of Mike Scheidt begin slowly pummelling with grievous intent. As a wakeup call, it’s a little like drawing back the curtains and finding that the world is in the process of being devastated by a meteor strike.
It has been three years since Yob’s last album Atma, but it’s clear that Yob have hardly been sleeping soundly. Instead, it would appear that they’ve been given to some considerable introspection, which in turn has led to a slight altering of their sonic blueprint. Whilst the phenomenally heavy, doom-laden riffs are all present and correct, Yob’s approach in recent years has been to slowly increase their dynamic range.
Clearing The Path To Ascend is the culmination of a slow, almost imperceptible mutation of the band. Where previously they’ve been content to grind their audience into a fine paste, they now seek to create complex labyrinths of varying tones and complexity. In essence Yob’s story is not unlike that of A Clockwork Orange’s Alex (Kubrick’s version); initially enjoying the rush of uncomplicated violence, but with age comes refinement and an appreciation of more refined debauchery.
At first, it seems as if nothing much has changed. In Our Blood opens the album in typically brutal fashion. Sheidt’s guitars create huge, blackened waves of sludge, whilst bassist Aaron Rieseburg and drummer Travis Foster keep things moving with a relentless and ominous drive. Despite the song’s 17 minute length, it never meanders and constantly pushes on into new shadowy territory becoming more captivating with every passing second. Importantly Sheidt’s vocals cut back and forth between gargled drawl and Ozzy-like howl, the dual approach adding layers to the band’s songs. At times they sound like hymns, albeit, hymns sung at a burning altar.
Nothing To Win ups the ante considerably. The slow bludgeoning of In Our Blood is followed by an uptempo wraith of a song and it’s a welcome if slightly unsettling change of pace. It’s here that the skills of Foster come to the fore. The initial back beat is a rumbling, shimmering beast. As the song progresses and loosens up, he’s no less impressive, trading blows with the hammering riffs of Sheidt’s guitars. For a moment, as the relentless rolling riffing becomes a kind of hypnotic haze, Yob could easily be mistaken for Melvins at their most barbaric.
With Unmask The Spectre things take another turn. With its haunted thrum intro, complete with whispered vocal, it’s as close as Yob get to the gothic doom of bands such as My Dying Bride. It’s here that the band really flexes their songwriting muscles, not containing themselves to changes of tempo or heavy hitting riffing there’s a real move towards dynamic shifts and narrative. Switching between quiet contemplative sections (some of which are genuinely spooky) and ferocious riffing, Yob exhibit a tendency for violent mood swings. At times it is suffocating and terrifying, but occasionally utterly thrilling and otherworldly.
The best is saved till last (depending on how you like your Yob), and Marrow represents the band at their best and at the furthest from their origins. More than just doom/sludge, Marrow is bordering on prog-rock at times. The opening introspective acoustic guitar passages eventually open out and become more distorted, but do so only to provide additional tone, they are never overbearing. Yob forego the crushing riffs, look for something more expansive, and find it. It’s here that they truly soar, Shiedt’s vocals are elegant and somehow almost heavenly. Around the midpoint, the band pull back, and head inwards once again. As they head to the horizon, they unleash an emotionally heavy blues riff that is simply stunning. It’s as if the previous songs have cleared the path, and with Marrow, the band finds transcendence. This entire album is in a constant state of movement, and could just be their finest moment yet.