YOB, Our Raw Heart: Rise in This Moment

yob our raw heart

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Our Raw Heart comes accompanied by the narrative of guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt coming through a potentially life-threatening bout with diverticulitis that required emergency surgery and a long recovery afterward, and it’s easy enough to read that story and reflection on that into the lyrics of the seven-track/73-minute outing. Even as songs like “In Reverie,” the short and punishing “Lungs Reach” and longest track and immediate focal point “The Beauty in Falling Leaves” — which feels like a natural answer to “Marrow” (discussed here) from the last record and the latest in a tradition of¬†YOB epics going back 15 years to the early declaration of their second album,¬†Catharsis, and their preceding 2002 exploratory debut,¬†Elaborations of Carbon — bleed directly into each other in a natural flow, something here feels unsettled, shaken. As reflective as¬†Our Raw Heart¬†gets, it’s still right that it includes “raw” in the title, as it seems there’s very little distance between the expression and the experience.

At the same time — and somehow not in contradiction —¬†Our Raw Heart is also¬†YOB‘s most expansive-sounding collection yet. Produced by the band, which is the steady lineup of¬†Scheidt, bassist¬†Aaron Rieseberg (also of Norska) and drummer Travis Foster, with¬†Billy Barnett at¬†Gung Ho Studio in their hometown, it’s patient and graceful. It maintains elements that are signature¬†YOB, whether it’s in¬†Rieseberg‘s foundational low end throughout,¬†Foster‘s propensity to make even a quiet drum part like the quiet fade at the end of “Beauty of Falling Leaves” swing, or¬†Scheidt‘s style of riffing on opener “Ablaze” and the galloping chug of the subsequent “The Screen,” but it also pushes ahead along the steady pattern of progression that¬†YOB have tread since making their return nearly a decade ago after splitting up following¬†The Unreal Never Lived.

And even before that. The entire trajectory, from one album to the next, has been a progression of always-developing sonic ideas, and as much as¬†Our Raw Heart¬†may be centered around¬†Scheidt processing and coming to an understanding of what he’s been through — never mind the psychological and emotional implications of facing one’s own mortality; or better, don’t — the story of who¬†YOB are as a band lies in that factor. Like Neurosis before them and few others on this planet, they’re the kind of band whose eighth album you look forward to because you can trust it will bring the next stage of their creative evolution, and certainly¬†Our Raw Heart¬†lives up to that promise.

yob photo by jimmy hubbard

Songs like “Original Face” and and even “The Screen” seem to share some sonic kinship with¬†Atma, and certainly a closing title-track with a stretch of quiet guitar at the beginning is familiar enough ground, but for all three players and for the group as a single entity, these cuts and the rest demonstrate that the larger narrative of¬†YOB is one of an ongoing advance, and the most pivotal accomplishment¬†Our Raw Heart¬†makes in terms of its sheer sound is in pushing beyond its predecessor as fluidly and naturally as that album did its own. Our Raw Heart¬†is the point at which¬†YOB affirm not only the sustainability of their sound as a mature band, which¬†Clearing the Path to Ascend¬†seemed to lay out, but also their unmistakable drive to go deeper into their approach and find a new level of enunciation for who they are and what they do.

This journey is as gorgeous as it is grueling and as beautiful as it is painful. The scope from the lumbering march of “The Screen” to the immersive breadth of “Beauty in Falling Leaves,” or from the momentary extremity and crunching atmosphere of “Lungs Reach” — which at 5:40 is the shortest¬†YOB song ever — and the epilogue of push in “Original Face” and apex wash in the title-track, during which the lead guitar seems to sing through its surroundings almost like a joyous bagpipe on a fadeout that, even after 73 minutes, seems to end the record too soon. Worth noting that while it features the shortest cut they’ve ever written — as its centerpiece, no less —¬†Our Raw Heart¬†is also the longest¬†album¬†YOB have ever produced.

That’s here or there to the listening experience itself, as once you’re in it, you’re in it, but a testament nonetheless to the basic amount of, well, everything put into it. While the title begs the question of who “we” are — the band? the band and audience? the whole of humanity? —¬†YOB make perfectly clear the personal tone of the album, and whatever it might mean to anyone who’d take it on, it obviously holds great meaning for them. Still, looking at it in the context of their arc as a whole, it is the continuity that’s most striking.¬†Scheidt,¬†Rieseberg and¬†Foster seem to hit turning points almost each time out, and¬†Our Raw Heart¬†is no exception to that, but it’s also the logical next step from where they were four years ago, and as much as it may be fueled and motivated by what¬†Scheidt¬†went through over the last couple years, in its songwriting and execution it continues the band’s progression and says more plainly than ever before that it will not stop.

For as long as¬†YOB go, they will keep growing. I don’t know if it was a question, but if it was, it isn’t anymore, and the answer is that while their style remains one of the most immediately identifiable in doom, and while their influence spreads over an up and coming generation of heavy acts looking to reach expanses of their own,¬†YOB will still refine who they are, still push beyond their collective comfort zone, and still work to arrive at a changing realization of their sound. If¬†Our Raw Heart isn’t a contender for the best album of 2018, I’ve got nothing for you, but more important than where it appears on a given list and more important than any fawning the press might throw its way, it’s the latest stage of¬†YOB‘s resonant and perpetual manifestation, and another landmark along their own expressive path.

YOB, Our Raw Heart (2018)

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One Response to “YOB, Our Raw Heart: Rise in This Moment”

  1. Dave #1 says:

    That’s a great photo (Yob on the Rocks).

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