Tuesday, November 22, 2011

REVIEW: YOB -- Atma

Not that it was noticed, but the jealous exigencies of the real world jammed me up good for 5 or 6 weeks of the past couple of months, such that I couldn’t post anything. All that time I was listening to a few new things that I’m hoping to get around to writing something about in the next couple of weeks, but on a daily basis I felt myself being pulled into one record I just couldn’t get out of my head – not that I was trying. It was the new album from Eugene, Oregon's Yob, called Atma, a five song, 55 minute maelstrom that I swear, if you give it the time and attention it deserves, will be on your year-end list regardless of where your music tastes currently dwell. It was released a couple of months ago by Profound Lore.

I’m not so na├»ve as to expect that the regular visitors to this forum come here to get a metal fix, and despite that I’ve deeply loved the genre since I was a pre-teen, I confess to being a philistine when it really comes down to it. Still, I’m probably listening to as much metal now as I have since I was a kid, when my steady diet of Zeppelin, Sabbath and Priest abruptly gave way to Killing Joke and then to punk, causing me, with few exceptions, to lose touch for the next 15 years. Thank goodness life is long.

Yob is the creative outlet for Eugene singer-guitarist Mike Scheidt, and the band has released five studio albums since 2003. They are variously categorized as doom, sludge, or stoner metal, in that their songs are not 3-minute Converge-style metalpunk amalgams, nor are they the 6 minute solo-filled scorchers so well-covered by the likes of Matt Pike and Trey Azagthoth. This is not to suggest Mike Scheidt is less than a brilliant guitarist. He demonstrates several times on this album that he’s fully capable of a gripping solo, but the most fascinating and rewarding guitar work on Atma can be felt in the tension Scheidt creates between the low-register bar chords and the bright bursts of sound that flash out of the sludge. He has credited his Brent Monson guitar for the beautiful sound he is able to get on the record – and it is uniquely beautiful.

These songs take time to develop, and they take several listens to know, but they are thoughtfully composed by an artist who has considered every measure. I am well aware I’m asking a great deal of a reader to request that he or she listen carefully to a ten minute song from a genre he or she doesn’t give two craps about, but I’m going to throw a couple of them up here and urge you to pour yourself a drink (a big freaking drink, these are long songs), isolate yourself, and let the noise take over. If, after a couple of minutes, you feel like turning it off, what you really need to do is shut the hell up and turn the volume a couple of rotations higher.

This is the album opener, “Prepare the Ground”, which starts with a primal chord progression leavened with that Monson sunburst, and then progresses into something highly violent that will make you think the guitar is actually fighting back . This video is from a live show in Spain a couple of months ago, but the sound quality was bad, so they subbed in the album version. Doesn't match up perfectly, but it's better than looking at an album cover for the whole song. Enjoy it.


Not to be undersold here are Scheidt's vocals, which at times sound like Ozzy channelling 220 volts, and at times sound outright bestial --for example, about 6 minutes into my favorite song on Atma, "Adrift in the Ocean." This tune (the album version is below) again illustrates that terrific interplay of sludge vs. burst he's getting from his guitar.


Come on, folks. Whatever your aesthetic leanings you need to buy at least one metal album every year. If you're limiting yourself in that way, make this beautifully conceived, beautifully executed, and exceptionally violent album the one. After about 5 listens, you'll be trying to figure out where to find more.



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