‘Clearing The Path To Ascend’
OUT 1st September 2014
In brief: Track 1 is classic YOB, Track 2 is classic YOB speeded up a bit, Track 3 is YOB with quiet bits, and Track 4 is new, melodic YOB.
Despite its title, this is an album that descends in terms of quality and interest as it progresses, starting off with brilliantly ferocious sludge and gradually slipping away to sickly, mellow soundscapes.
Once you hit play, you have about a minute and a half to make sure everything valuable in the room is tethered securely. At that point, the opening song ‘In Our Blood’ launches into a massive, breathtaking riff that kicks you in the teeth, and then invades your world like an axe-wielding burglar. The riff rolls, expands and develops with a precision, sophistication and maturity that you might expect of a band in its third decade, releasing its seventh album.
The vocals of main man Mike Scheidt (sole surviving founding member of this Oregon doom trio) sound as excellent as ever, his clean voice ethereal and enthralling, while the growls shake you to your roots.
Three years on from the opinion-dividing ‘Atma’ album, YOB show that they can still deliver the goods. This is sludge that refuses to crawl in self-loathing, but rather it explodes from the low swamp of its birth. The production just about manages to balance the band’s combination of muddy misery and raw dynamism.
YOB use their finely honed songwriting skills to carry the listener wherever they want to go. The following track, ‘Nothing To Win’, is the band’s own, twisted version of upbeat and catchy. Infused with a monumental energy, this is 11 minutes in the heart of thunderstorm. The guitars lose some of their murky malice and sound wild, as if the chaos of nature has been briefly harnessed and tamed.
After that, ‘Clearing The Path To Ascend’ begins to lose its way a little. ‘Unmask The Spectre’ follows, drifting through nebulous mists, uncertain and – by YOB’s own high standards – rather innocuous. The song’s neatly-arranged quiet-loud-quiet structure is simple and effective, the guitars unhurried and emotional. But it’s a kind of over-extended modern sludge ballad that drags towards the end.
The drawn-out, dreamy introspection continues on the album’s closing track, ‘Marrow’. Entirely lacking the fierce cutting edge that you might expect from this band, this song is a strangely empty, cheese-eating, melodic post-YOB monster. Scheidt sounds thinner and gentler than before, and at times is reminiscent of Stryper’s Michael Sweet!!!
When the disappointment of this 19-minute radio-friendly dud wears off, you might find yourself looking back to the excitement of the album’s opening moments and scratching your head in confusion. It started so well, but wandered from the path.