REVIEW: YOB – “Our Raw Heart”
Writing a follow-up to 2014’s career defining ‘Clearing the Path to Ascend’ was never going to be an easy task for Oregonian doom stalwarts YOB. They could not have predicted, however, that life would get in the way in the form of an emergency trip to the hospital for guitarist and vocalist Mike Scheidt in January 2017 for what turned out to be a severe case of acute diverticulitis. Following a successful 6+ hour surgery, whose high price tag was offset by donations by generous fans who raised over $27,000 in 3 days, Scheidt and company are back on track. They are now poised to release their massive new record ‘Our Raw Heart,’ on June 8th via Relapse Records. As is often the case with these things, life affirming upheavals make good art. “I live in a different world now,” muses Scheidt via the LPs press release, “and all of that went into this album—new insight, a new sense of self.”
“Ablaze,” with its uncompromising accessibility begins record number eight with a classic encapsulation of the YOB sound, as measured emotive melodicism rubs elbows with unhinged and equally emotive heaviness. In the past, the slightly over-saturated “live” sound employed on YOB’s records has been effective; however, the cleaner sound of ‘Our Raw Heart’ works brilliantly, and may help to introduce the band to an already widening audience.
“The Screen,” built on a stampeding stutter of a riff (which is admittedly a little repetitive even by YOB standards) juxtaposed with a characteristically soaring chorus, steers the LP into a darker place. “Reverie”carries the blazing torch through a dark and heavy atmospheric haze that highlight the band’s penchant for unison riffs. Drummer Travis Foster and bassist Aaron Riesberg, who Scheidt refers to as “old friends and bandmates (who) were a key part of the communal (writing) process,” expertly emphasize every doom laden twist and turn.
“Lungs Reach” begins with tension building atmospherics, which reach a climax in the form of a short slab of intense death doom. “Beauty in Falling Leaves,” the centerpiece of the record, is quite possible the loveliest, most heart wrenching thing that the band has recorded to date. The soul-bearing lyrics, which include lines like “Been this way throughout my life/Your heart brings me home,” are delivered in a tempered time-worn rasp, a new weapon in Scheidt’s already impressive vocal arsenal, which ranges from guttural lows to piercing highs.
The heart racing impending doom of “Original Face,” effectively picks up the pace, expertly setting the stage for the title track. “Our Raw Heart” begins with a pretty acoustic passage before opening up into an epic bittersweet slow burner that positively drips with hope. While hesitant to discuss lyrical details, Scheidt describes the album as one that’s “built on not only what I went through but what everybody gave us.” In this context, the track feels like a love letter to life and new beginnings. As the song winds down, the listener is left with the impression that YOB has created something truly special, an album which in the words of Scheidt “is a gift that was given to us all.”
On ‘Our Raw Heart,’ Yob mastermind Mike Sheidt effectively wrestles catharsis out of a transformative and life-threatening illness through a set of transcendent emotionally charged songs that philosophize on the concepts of life, death and the human condition.