"Clearing the Path to Ascend"


01. In Our Blood
02. Nothing to Win
03. Unmask the Spectre
04. Marrow

RATING: 9/10

For a band garnishing its name from a Looney Tunes episode, they've always taken their craft deadly serious. After briefly calling it quits in 2005, YOB has emerged as one the most talked-about doom and sludge bands on the planet. Their latest album, "Clearing the Path to Ascend", only has four songs combined at 63 minutes, which means more than just extended running times have changed these guys. The listener should prepare to dig in, hunker down and withstand the bombast of this album. Of course, anyone who knows about YOB is almost a guaranteed fan given the intense following they have. Thus the SLEEP-oriented drone-fest of "Clearing the Path to Ascend" is a gimme sell. It also happens to be impressive as all hell.

The 16:56 opening number "In Our Blood" begins its journey with a series of astral guitar plunks (resurfacing later in the track) that trail after an opening soundbyte invites the listener in with the edict "Time to wake up". YOB soon amps up and works bar after crawling bar, trailing echoing reverb behind the tonal crushes and the slow pummeling. Mike Scheidt's vocals wallow and ralph in varied patterns, hitting low-pitched death hollers during some of the uglier chords. No matter how dense and foreboding YOB's echoing riffs and Scheidt's screaming are, there's never any real sense of malevolence at work here. In fact, there are a few spots where YOB pulls some breathtaking notes from their clamor it borders on sheer beauty.

"Nothing to Win" has an equal amount of coarse riffs for fans to chew on, but the stepped-up pace of Travis Foster's cascading drums gives YOB the opportunity to work this grinding track to something that resembles a conventional song, in particular its red-hot choruses. The feathering notes and growled lyrics comes off like a splice between the MELVINS and MASTODON. In this case, the lengthy running time (even at a paltry eleven minutes) gives YOB the chance to heap their crushing layers and erect a towering boom that's later pulled back to Aaron Rieseberg's bass-driven hump before effecting back up to a din-filled groove.

Mike Scheidt whispers the extensive (an understatement phrase if there ever was one for this album) intro to "Unmask the Spectre" along with a dream-drenched guitar sway and minimalized rhythm. This later summons an abusive explosion of distortion and gorged bellows. The pattern is repeated then mated around the six minute mark as a new mounting melody changes the song altogether. As heavy as the chords are, "Unmask the Spectre" turns rather stunning on its course toward a subdued murmur. Soon, a series of outraged bursts toy with and ultimately scorches the reprised gentler notes that fight to jockey into the damning, flogging chords. It is the sound of conflict and YOB leaves things open-ended which tone is going to win out.

As well they should've on an album this meticulous and encompassing, YOB saves their grand finale for the 18:49 "Marrow". The band themselves have talked at social media about recording "the most beautiful arrangement we've ever written" and no doubt it's "Marrow" they're referring to. This is the richest composition YOB's laid out and no matter how sprawled this track is, every lick of it is felt more than heard. It's hard to judge which is more compelling about "Marrow", the astounding guitar lines that hit blissful crescendos or Mike Scheidt's compassionate drawling. Never moving past a crawl, the melodies shift frequently while adhering to basic ostinato principles during each changeover. The manifestation of organs alongside the wrung-out currents of the track usher a wrenching guitar solo and soon thereafter, vast, stiffened distortion.

YOB earns their reputation and then some with "Clearing the Path to Ascend". For a laggardly paced album bearing only four tracks, there's so much substance and thought to what YOB is doing. it's a given this album will find its way to the front of many year-end best-of lists. If not for SLEEP's work prior to, an album like this would be nearly unfathomable.


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