YOB - Our Raw Heart
Relapse Records
7 songs (1:13:19)
Release year: 2018
YOB, Relapse Records
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the month

Back with their eighth album, Oregon-based doom trio YOB survived disaster early last year after guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt was hospitalised from a near-fatal diverticulitis episode. Most of us would be angry at the universe after our gut tried to kill us; instead, Scheidt has channelled his feelings about his second chance into a heartfelt, downright life-affirming doom album that is almost just as heavy as past releases from the band, yet somehow twice as beautiful. Each new YOB album is a revelation in its own right, and as great as Clearing the Path to Ascend and Atma were, Our Raw Heart manages to carve its own niche and again impress you with how good the band are. Mixing several strains of doom together, from stoner meandering to sludgy aggression, and throwing in plenty of post-rock influence in some of the lighter passages, YOB are something of a perfect blend, excelling at each element and making for a whole that's better than many other big names. They're the type of band that seems eternally underrated, forever fighting to be heard whether due to illness as here or the ridiculous Middian fiasco of a decade or so ago, and each listen to them has all the joy of discovering something fantastic that we all strive for as music fans.

The biggest selling point is Scheidt himself; his voice and guitar ably backed up by bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster but there's no doubt about what to focus on and what drives the music. Opener Ablaze is Scheidt's imperfect yet emotionally impactful singing atop a guitar storm, a heavy wall of noise one moment and a textural backdrop the next, backed by occasional growls and a perfect moment of strummed guitar and lonely voice before the heaviness crashes back in, the overall effect a lost soul clinging desperately to driftwood in a raging ocean. It's a great opener despite the ten-minute-plus length, driven by melody and easing the listener in without patronising them with anything simplistic. The following The Screen, conversely, is amongst the most 'metal' songs on the album but also one of the simplest in structure, ugly scraping chugs for riffs and a simple drumbeat forming the backbone of the whole song, heavier snarled vocals helping increase and hold tension through the repetition of those riffs even with a glimpse of relief in the form of a brief chorus.

It feels unduly harsh to criticise this album at all, although it must be done; although they're hardly filler, there are a couple of tracks here that feel lesser simply because everything surrounding them is so transcendental. The droning In Reverie is solid but easy to forget, for instance, and a good part of Lungs Reach is basically ambience, with the much heavier second half of the song not particularly noticeable, but it does set up the album's centrepiece quite well, the sixteen-minute monster Beauty in Falling Leaves. Now this is a highlight! definitely of the album and quite possibly of the year, a superbly fashioned long song that after a slow build-up for the first few minutes is soon driven by yearning vocals and a more melodic guitar approach that seems rooted in atmospheric sludge, moving from laid-back post-rock to something more upbeat and strident, the guitar riffs swirling psychedelically over each other and forming a gorgeous liquid embrace that is easy to lose yourself in. It's terrific, easily good enough to end the album on and that we get another twenty minutes of music is just a bonus; the aggressive sludge of Original Face good but the softer, introspective melody of the closing title track incredible, echoing the peaks of Beauty in Falling Leaves and making you want to revisit the journey you've just taken. Rarely is heavy music this uplifting and beautiful, rarely is it so life-affirming; another gem in the YOB discography.

Killing Songs :
Ablaze, The Screen, Beauty in Falling Leaves, Our Raw Heart
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by YOB that we have reviewed:
YOB - Clearing The Path to Ascend reviewed by Kynes and quoted 95 / 100
YOB - The Great Cessation reviewed by Adam and quoted 91 / 100
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