Saturday, November 22, 2014

Yob—Clearing the Path to Ascend (Neurot)

The newest release from the legendary Oregonian doom trio turns out to be the most open and expansive Yob album. With only four songs, it originally struck me as a very long EP. I felt during the first few listens that it might have lacked enough content to make for a satisfying 62 minutes. I still can’t shake that notion; however, Clearing the Path to Ascend just needs to breathe and be whatever it wants to be. Not forcing things is what Yob’s all about. In a way, they’re saying more by saying less. “In Our Blood” eases us into the album with a mere 17 minutes of everything that makes Yob great: lumbering riffs rippling with complex overtones, downward shifts into sparse strumming and shock-cut volume dynamics—the whole whisper-to-a-roar gambit. “Nothing to Win” almost takes the form of a conventional rock song with its tense-verse-and-cathartic-chorus structure. That impression is undone, of course, by the dissolution of all that during the song’s second half. But man, does it build to a huge finish. The song highlights the album’s murky production—it’s not bad or detrimental to the material; it’s just such an onslaught of competing tones. That element of the Yob aesthetic hasn’t changed. The drums fight to get through beneath the mattress pile of guitars, which is always threatening to collapse and smother you for good. The last track is really something magical, and it’s the one I’ve had to work hardest to change my perspective on. At first “Marrow” seemed bloated—a nearly 19-minute song made from about 8 minutes of material. There’s no question that it’s a beautiful set of chords with an affecting melody overtop. Mike Scheidt sings his heart out on it. Moodwise, it feels like a heavy ballad from the ’70s in the tradition of “Here Again” by Rush, “Parents” by Budgie, or Zep’s “No Quarter”. Those bands managed to say their piece in the space of 7 to 10 minutes; why couldn't Yob? Damn modern bands and their lack of self-editing. But “Marrow” develops beautifully and it does have enough content for what would have been a side-long epic back in olden times. It’s the most graceful song they’ve recorded, and when I hear the first few notes ring out, I know that I’m in for one of the year’s best pieces of music.

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