June 8, 2018

Yob - Our Raw Heart

By Matt Hinch. I talked to Yob frontman Mike Scheidt once. (OK, twice. But the second time was only for a minute or so.) We didn't even talk about Yob, or even metal really. We talked about our kids and parenting them. It was obvious to me that, as any decent parent should, Mike loves his kids.
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Orion Landau.

I talked to Yob frontman Mike Scheidt once. (OK, twice. But the second time was only for a minute or so.) We didn't even talk about Yob, or even metal really. We talked about our kids and parenting them. It was obvious to me that, as any decent parent should, Mike loves his kids. I even think he mentioned how hard it was to be away from them when on tour. So one can only imagine how hard it was for him thinking he might leave them forever as he battled a severe intestinal disease last year. He fought hard enough to survive and once you hear Our Raw Heart you could even say he thrived.

Drawing inspiration from a life or death battle can lead to a powerful album and let me tell you, powerful doesn't even begin to describe Our Raw Heart. The album title itself is a perfect description of the journey the listener takes on this superb album. In experiencing ORH (and/or seeing Mike's ordeal unfold on social media) his heart becomes our heart and the emotions expressed are as raw as they can get.

On another level even the “our” part could be seen as an expression of the band itself. It wasn't just their bandmate fighting for life, it was their friend. I'd like to think that shared struggle plays into the wholeness one feels on what should easily be considered the band's best album to date.

ORH is a masterwork from beginning to end. From the martial chug of “The Screen” to the funereal pace of “Lungs Reach” to the overwhelming title track to the quietude and beauty of “Beauty in Falling Leaves” and every moment in between Mike, bassist Aaron Rieseberg, and drummer Travis Foster keep the listener completely enthralled. Or at least they should be. Yob has been getting progressively better with each album anyway as the band and its members continue to mature so this should come as no surprise. Personally Atma cemented my fandom, Clearing the Path to Ascend was so good I want a tattoo of the cover, and somehow ORH takes things beyond that level of adoration through a continued evolution of their sound.

I doubt a vocal instructor would call Mike's singing voice “great” but it's honest, raw, and expressive. It works for him in all his many endeavours though and especially in Yob. I don't see how anything or anyone else could make it work in quite the same, effective way. Deep, fierce growls are at more of a premium here but as the method of musical doom-bringing varies so do the vocals. From the subterranean to the stratospheric, they are the emotional pulse of the album. They convey the needed emotion without being moody. It all starts with “Ablaze” and his husky, weathered throat now bearing new battle scars representing the very scathed nature of survival at all costs.

Lyrically the album is cryptic enough and not too linear which lets the listener interpret it in their own way, applying those words to their own situation. Or one could put oneself in Mike's shoes and feel what he felt as much as you can. A particular line in “Beauty in Falling Leaves” brings maximum heft (which I'll get to in a minute”) but something as simple as “Rise!” from “The Screen” means so much more when put into context.

Yob 2016. Photos by Webzine Chuul.

The entire album can be considered typical Yob at this point as a varied mix of tones, paces, and volumes all play into their sound. ORH is no exception to this despite not feeling quite as dark overall. Aggressive, yes. But somewhat lighter. “Ablaze” falls into the “punishing doom laced with melody” category, as does the title track. As tough as these tracks can feel the human emotion always shines through in the interplay between darkness and the light. “Our Raw Heart” mines a heavy riff the same as “Ablaze”, letting melody and atmosphere fill out the sonic space.

“In Reverie” and “Lungs Reach” fill in the slower end of the cadence spectrum. The former never really breaking faster than a brain-crushing slog while conveying a good message in the lyric “The sun rises still”. No matter what happens to you or I the world keeps turning, so keep fighting to see it break the horizon day after day. The latter is even more funereal with more distinct atmosphere, growls, and a tone so heavy it will shake the wax right out of your ears.

“Original Face” tears it up! A hard drive is tempered ever so slightly by a hypnotic, rhythmic sway. It's a powerful assault on the senses that never lets up. It's kind of punch in the gut after “Beauty in Falling Leaves” from a vibe perspective but not an unnecessary one.

No doubt by now, I hope, you've already heard “The Screen” and its martial riff parade. It's mean and chunky and “holy shit!” heavy. But even it attains lift off to soar far above the earthly plane. It's kind of an odd choice for the lead single but perhaps they just didn't want to play their hand too early.

So now that I've talked about every other song let's tackle the album's high water mark, “Beauty in Falling Leaves”. Put the title in context. If you thought you were going to die wouldn't you find untold beauty in the seemingly mundane? Now take that sort of awe and apply it to a song. This song. This breathtaking expression of emotion. If “Marrow” brought you to tears, as it has so many, be prepared for heavier waterworks. Mike's expressiveness on this track reaches new heights. The melodies are entrancing and the subdued heaviness sits like lead on the heart.

Yob really work dynamics to full effect on this one. The quieter, minimal sounding verses prime the emotional pump for when the choruses hit and blow the whole thing wide open. It feels like there are multiple climaxes as every bit of feeling is wrung out of both the performers and the listener. The clincher is the line “Your heart brings me home”. No matter who you are that statement perfectly sums up the will to live. It carries hope. It signifies that one thing worth living for. Love. Yob is love after all, and something that meaningful in a Yob song is almost too much to bear.

To think that this album could easily have never happened at all is a heavy thought. Instead, Mike won and Our Raw Heart is the result. It's immense. It's heartbreaking. It's inspiring. Every band has their ultimate masterpiece (Emphasis on ultimate. Yob has more than one masterpiece.) and Our Raw Heart is it. If the Oregon trio manages to continue getting better after this I don't know what I'll do. I only have so much money and so much skin to cover. Honestly, I hope they do. In the meantime, the Yob legacy lives on in our raw hearts. And remember, YOB IS LOVE. So love Yob.

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