YOB is one of those names where I expect quality before I even take off the shrinkwrap. Only in this case, it’s been a while; their last album, Atma, came out about three years ago. Still, I wouldn’t expect any less from Mike Scheidt and co—I’m pretty sure its predecessor was on my year-end top 10 in 2011, and I would hope to put this one right up there, too.
Clearing the Path to Ascend doesn’t disappoint. There are only four tracks here, but when the shortest one is over 11 minutes, suffice to say, ‘tis pretty epic. “In Our Blood” starts off slowly, a lone guitar riff repeating itself a couple times before the whole band comes suddenly crashing in. Scheidt’s vocals are as acidic as ever, soaring high above the crashing waves, but adopting a more hushed tone for the quieter, dronier parts, while also mixing in some death growls. Sure enough, the song slows to an instrumental crawl maybe about 10 minutes in, the sparsely-applied notes giving way to some spoken-word clips. A little like newer Neurosis, albeit bleaker. When the full band comes back in force—alongside an extended guttural moan—it hits you just as hard as the first time.
“Nothing to Win,” said 11-minute number, has a bleaker beginning, somewhat black-metal sounding, the repetitive pummelling eventually adopting a slightly-slower pace. I wouldn’t call this a fast song, but by YOB standards, it ain’t slow. I do think the guitar sounds a little thin on this number, though…it doesn’t quite have that doom crunch. Kinda takes a trippy industrial doom detour as it hits the home stretch, before unloading one last salvo of trademark YOB riffage.
“Unmask the Spectre” has a looming, ominous intro, complete with whispered word, but once again, ushers in the doom with a rather jarring transition. The riff pattern sounds a little familiar, before they drop the tempo down to another mellow crawl…but you know it won’t be long before they’re back at your throat, compelling you to bang your head slowly. Only this time, Scheidt’s vocals act as a gentle guide through the brackish swirl, lifting you up rather than burying you. It’s heavy, but mostly mellow ‘n melodic…though it does take a bit of a death-doom turn towards the end before ending with some heavy sludge riffing and soaring Scheidt vocals. In other words, it sounds like YOB.
Closing track “Marrow” is slightly lengthier than the rest, being that it checks in just shy of 19 minutes. The way this one starts off reminds me of the last couple Earth records, before getting progressively heavier, yet still maintaining that atmospheric airiness. A kinder, gentler doom if thou wilt. Hell, I even hear shades of country-rock outfit Huron on what appears to be some sort of steel-guitar instrument.
Hey, so this doesn’t sound exactly like their last record—but that’s not a bad thing!