By Christine Leonard
CALGARY — “Have you heard of YOB?” shouts Red Fang’s lead guitarist Dave Sullivan over the undulating waves of Dopesmoker as pivotal doom rockers Sleep paralyze the crowd amassed in Olympic Plaza for Calgary’s 2011 Sled Island Festival.
A ringing endorsement from one American hardcore band to another, and Dave is right on money when it comes to the considerable chops of fellow Oregonian heavy metallers YOB. Slang for an aggressively rude and noisome young man, YOB also refers to the phenomenally innovative band that produces magnificently luminous yet darkly foreboding soundscapes. Masters at transitioning from atmospheric tangents to blistering technical onslaughts, vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt (Chemkill, H.C. Minds, Dirty Sanchez, VHÖL, Middian), bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster are far more civilized than their name implies.
Originally formed in Eugene, OR, back in 1996, YOB released four impactful albums before disappearing in 2006. To the delight of fans they re-emerged in 2010 with departing bassist Isamu Sato (Fingertrap) being replaced by Aaron Rieseberg of the Oregon sludge band Norska. Upholding their reputation as a real band’s band, YOB has recently found a new roost thanks to Neurot Recordings, an independent US-based record label founded-in-part by members of the Oakland post-metal band Neurosis.
“We’ve known Neurosis as fans for a long, long time and it is an incredible honour to be represented by a label that we trust and hold in such high regard,” Scheidt relates. “We’ve been given some great opportunities, but we don’t want to hurt our name so we are careful not to associate with things that don’t align with our vision for the band in the long run.”
Indeed, it hasn’t been easy trying to find a market for their sprawling 15-minute-long opuses, but YOB hasn’t veered from the elaborate anthems that find them gleaning components from the stoner, sludge, doom, prog-rock and other metallic veins. Ballasting the fleetingly mortal with imperviously eternal in each symphonic composition, Scheidt’s salient vocals grant YOB’s monolithic movements an organic appeal amidst a dearth of thunderous forays. From the talented lyricist’s perspective, his band’s acute lack of commercial-appeal has been anything but a hindrance.
“When we first stated in the mid ‘90s we had no hope of selling albums, or ambition about getting recognition, we were simply playing the style we loved and that moved to us write. There were only a handful of bands doing the same thing at the time, but our doom fan minority inspired me to keep going anyways. Getting the nod of approval from the likes of The Hidden Hand, High on Fire and the other bands we were supporting on tour was payment enough.”
Four years have elapsed since YOB released their critically-acclaimed album Atma on the Profound Lore label, yet little has changed with the tight-knit threesome. According to Scheidt, YOB’s experience-based approach to their work has been the key to retaining their authenticity. 2014 found YOB laying the groundwork for their next set of jaw-dropping performances with the release of Clearing the Path to Ascend (Neurot Records). Compounding their nigh Godlike status, the album’s 19-minute closing track “Marrow” was touted by many as the “Metal Song of the Year.”
“I feel as though we have one foot in the world and one foot out of it,” Scheidt explains. “Clearing the Path to Ascend deals with themes that have played out in my music for the past 20 years from Eastern mysticism to blue-collar quantum physics. What we see, hear, touch and taste are only a sliver of the sword. I try to stay aware of when I’m getting lost and ask myself “What am I taking for granted?”AB, Alberta, YOB