Yob’s singer/guitarist, Mike Scheidt, has commented on his pursuit of an emotionally and spiritually immersive musical experience that is greater than the sum of its parts. Neurosis, for one, mastered this technique, and their influence on Yob has been apparent from the beginning. One wonders, then, if Yob’s trajectory might resemble that of Neurosis, where dense sludge and thunderous hardcore (or post-hardcore) elements gracefully evolve into a contemplative, dissonant, folk-infused doom metal.
Yob’s creative decisions on Atma (2011) – especially its final track, “Adrift in the Ocean”, a song that both shimmers with cathartic beauty and rages with force – and Clearing the Path to Ascend (2014) suggest just such an evolution. Most suggestive and generally striking of all up to that point was the final track on Ascend, “Marrow”, nearly 19 minutes in length, cleanly sung, and structured around a simple repeated musical theme. Scheidt has performed this song in acoustic settings with the melody arrangement mostly unchanged, and the result is at least as stark as the original.
But Our Raw Heart follows through on not one but several musical threads over the course of its basically merciless 73-minute running time. The opener “Ablaze” and the glowing centerpiece, “Beauty in Falling Leaves”, are together the clearest heir to the style embodied on Clearing the Path to Ascend. The latter song is the album’s longest at 16 minutes – some bands are packing up the van in the time it takes Scheidt to clear his throat – and heir to the style of “Marrow”.
Whereas on earlier Yob releases Scheidt’s vocals were just that – vocalized sounds made by the human voice, ranging from a high-pitched semi-tuneful wail to a heaving roar, on “Beauty in Falling Leaves” he sounds for the first time like a straightforwardly and conventionally skilled singer. It is a surprise, but a welcomed one. Here the band achieves a genuine kind of meditative beauty, and the song is more reminiscent of the solemn classic doom of Pallbearer or Warning than anything appearing on their own last two records.
At other points Our Raw Heart goes in different musical directions. “The Screen”, for example, looks back to the band’s gnarled roots with a plodding opening riff that sounds like something off Eyehategod’s first album, bass and drums undergirding the verses in minimalist 1980s-era Melvins style. “Lungs Reach” is mostly instrumental, again, recalling ambient moments on Neurosis’ Through Silver in Blood (1996). Here Scheidt employs one of about half a dozen vocals styles the album.
The songs do not cohere with the same kind of symmetry as those on Clearing the Path to Ascend did – four songs, four sides, one musical and philosophical path upwards – but the band’s three musicians have history and an evident chemistry that clearly affords them creative flexibility without sacrificing consistency. They have a conceptual vision too – and this is not too grand a word for Scheidt’s relentless and cryptic existential questioning, more urgent than ever on Our Raw Heart. Consistency in all such things should not be read as damning the record with faint praise – Yob’s music simply remains powerful and beautiful.