Released: 2005, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
The unfortunate demise of Oregon doom-sters, YOB, soon after releasing their fourth full-length album, THE UNREAL NEVER LIVED, late last year was sad not only because they seemed to be hitting their stride but also due to the fact that doom of this quality just isn’t being seen these days. Sure, High On Fire draws in elements from Matt Pike’s earlier band, Sleep, but for skull-crushingly heavy and glacier-paced doom, YOB is it. I still have scars from the beatdown levied by 2004’s THE ILLUSION OF MOTION, a slow, broiling monolith of plodding doom that should come with a warning for the ADD crowd. THE UNREAL NEVER LIVED still walks the same path as THE ILLUSION OF MOTION but with cleaner production, greater focus on constructing punishing riffs and even bringing in some mid-paced moments. Mike Scheidt’s vocal range runs the gamut from high-pitched wails to nasally cleans to gut-wrenching roars and the rhythm section of Isamu Soto and drummer Travis Foster generate a painfully slow but undeniably heavy rhythm section to snake through the songs. Staunch doom fans may find fault in the cleaned-up sound but this can hardly be viewed as something akin to spending six months in the studio with Bob Rock, as the swampy rumble YOB fans have come to expect is still present.
With only four songs covering 52 minutes, a person looking for a quick fix should keep right on looking. At times painstakingly slow, YOB is able to create a mood of such misery that it takes a few spins to really absorb all that is on display. “Quantum Mystic” opens with a full minute of subdued noises and spacey soundscapes before a simple riff kicks in that leads to a punchy, mid-paced groove. It is a full four minutes before any vocals are heard and Scheidt’s sneering, Dave-Mustaine-meets-Geddy-Lee whine is offset later by his bowel-flexing growls. The metaphysical construct of the lyrics will tickle those who settle in with a bong in one hand and the CD booklet in the other (“Open the shutter of the mind and it will be flooded with light”), too. “Grasping Air” is somewhat of a foray back to THE ILLUSION OF MOTION with its mournful guitar solo and vocals that sound as if Scheidt was singing through a wet sweater. “Kosmos” is a long and winding trip with a bulldozer of an opening. The ultra-low riffs and Scheidt’s vocal style epitomize the doom genre and with the mantra-like chorus, it is impossible not to get swept up in this track. The 21-minute album closer, “The Mental Tyrant,” separates the men from the boys with a slower-than-slow pace, as it takes the better part of ten minutes before Isamu Soto’s vocals come in for their assault. The ethereal, Pink Floyd-influenced intro crashes like a tsunami into a pulverizing wall of sound that moves along at a snail’s pace. The fuzzed-out guitar riffs and accompanying crash of drums and bass is disconcertingly ominous, carrying with it a sense of boding evil best experienced with headphones and a darkened room.
The only complaint with THE UNREAL NEVER LIVED does indeed lie in the production. YOB requires a fuzzy, smoky, sludge-filled tone to fully appreciate its music and the crisp production heard here diminishes some of that effect. Doom is supposed to be just that—doom—and having crisp guitar tones seems as out of place as a Fred Durst guest appearance.
With more twists and turns that a bag full of snakes, THE UNREAL NEVER LIVED is a fitting coda for YOB, who in the course of four albums left an indelible mark on the world of doom metal. Not satisfied with just down-tuning and churning out recycled Sabbath riffs, YOB accomplished what fellow underground masters Sleep and Electric Wizard set out to do and that was to stretch the boundaries of doom metal and carve a niche for themselves as forward-thinking and brutal. THE UNREAL NEVER LIVED accomplishes all that and more. Good luck to Mike Scheidt, Isamu Sato and Travis Foster for you may be gone, but shall never be forgotten. R.I.P. YOB! You will be missed…
KILLER KUTS: “Quantum Mystic,” “Kosmos,” “The Mental Tyrant”