Wednesday, September 23, 2009

YOB—The Great Cessation (Profound Lore)

Mike Scheidt and his latest YOB mob (old drummer Travis Foster and new bassist Aaron Rieseberg) have come roaring back to life after Scheidt’s disastrous turn with Middian, the project he started after folding YOB. Middian released the fine Age Eternal album, then were quickly sued out of existence by a band who owned nearly the same name. To add insult to injury, Middian were designated as “untouchables” and dropped by an unhelpful Metal Blade Records. Considering what Scheidt has been through, it’s tempting to hear the new YOB album as a prolonged howl of anguish. However, The Great Cessation is not mere catharsis; it’s a defiant and triumphant continuation of where YOB left off with 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived. America’s finest doom act is back, and stomping balls. As guitarist and vocalist, Scheidt holds the keys to YOB’s sound. He’s always been a tasteful guitarist, even when pounding out waves of sludge cranked up beyond 11. Engineer/co-producer Sanford Parker knows how to record this sort of thing. The guitar tracks are massive, and Scheidt has more than just a few powerchords in his guitar-senal. He hits all six strings, sending you whirling helplessly in a tornado of frequencies. “Burning the Altar” is a thundering opener, full of YOB trademarks such as Scheidt’s alternating high-pitched/monster growl vocals, sluggish pacing, and an epic length that encompasses a Middle-Eastern-flavoured interlude and a squalling guitar solo to take us out. “The Lie That is Sin” is melodic and surging, demonstrating the power of control and restraint. The only track that resists enjoyment is “Silence of Heaven,” a cauldron of torment that divides the album in half. The layers of hellacious vocals overpower the music’s grinding doom, throwing the balance off. I couldn’t make a breakthrough on this one; it doth not rock. The 20-minute title track, the best song on here, is perfectly paced and perfectly placedas an album closer. It opens in an archetypal post-rock style, a desolate crawl with murmured vocals. As a song, it flows perfectly, never dragging, expertly assembling a few crushing riffs, while avoiding extraneous repetition or digressions. On this track you can hear YOB’s music getting leaner and more holistic; the joins becoming more difficult to discern. Scheidt’s portentous strumming conveys immense melancholy, as do the lyrics: “Will we ever see a time without cause, when we see what we know never was?” This kind of wistfulness in music and lyrics elevates YOB above other Sabbath-worshipping doom acts. YOB could cover “Cortez the Killer” as credibly as “Hand of Doom.”

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