The resurgence of doom metal as a vital genre in the last few years is probably due to a number of factors: the return of several of its legendary acts (the likes of Pentagram can be festival headliners these days), the emergence of hugely accomplished new acts such as Pallbearer and Bell Witch, and perhaps most importantly, the prevalence of online streaming availability, which has seen fans melting the boundaries between genres and listening choices like never before.
Whatever it is, last year was a good time for genre veterans YOB to release their seventh and arguably greatest album, the epic Clearing The Path To Ascend. It brought the band’s total sense of command and deeply moving take on doom to a new level, and the packed-out Echo suggested plenty have been listening.
Friday night the Oregon trio worked its way through five songs, which in real terms led to a crushing and dynamic 75-minute set. If “dynamic” seems like an odd word to use for music played at such a slow pace, then perhaps it’s best to mention that for all the crossover potential of YOB’s music, it’s still enormously heavy.
Frontman Mike Scheidt (who also recently appeared on the excellent new album from VHOL) is both a charismatic focus and a guitar player who understands that the tone of the riffs is much more important than the speed. As a vocalist, his voice occasionally strained to be heard over the band’s thunderous march, but his versatility was on show. He alternated between a guttural but oddly soothing roar and a higher register that still surprises.
With those vocals backed by an absolutely rock-solid rhythm section, YOB’s approach feels soaring, relentless, and thoroughly hypnotic. The hold they have on the audience is perhaps most evident in the quiet, contemplative moments between the titanic riffs; during “In Our Blood” there were pauses of silence during which the spell remained.
For songs of such length, this ability to grasp the quiet/loud dynamic was crucial in a live setting. The occasionally erratic sound system in The Echo did the band justice with a wonderfully balanced sound that emphasized the crispness and clarity behind the volume.
It’s difficult to pick out a highlight from the five monolithic pieces on show, but recent album closer “Marrow” sounded sensational. Despite being a good 19 minutes in length, it somehow flew by and allowed Scheidt the chance to access the more operatic elements of his voice.
For such a crowded and hot space, the audience exhibited very little restlessness, a further tribute to YOB’s pull, and even ignoring the doom-metal tab, it’s clear that over the course of seven albums, fifteen years, and countless live shows, YOB has stealthily risen to greatness and become one of the country’s best and most under-appreciated bands.
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