Review Summary: Pain, frustration and healing with YOB...
The past few years have been a whirlwind in YOB’s career. While riding high on the momentum created by Clearing the Path to Ascend
, front man Mike Scheidt went through life threatening issues with diverticulitis. Fortunately, after several surgeries (plus months of recovery), everything is back under control and he managed to ferociously return to the stage and ultimately, the recording studio. The US sludge/doom trio have released some of the most interesting, powerful and thoughtful music in the genre and a new LP was overdue. Although many recent articles focused especially on the health scare, Our Raw Heart
itself deserves a lot of praise. Of course, lyrically it is related to the pain and low moods the man experienced, however, there’s more to it, as their albums always featured a spiritual side.
Musically, Our Raw Heart
continues to expand the melodic influences Clearing the Path to Ascend
boasted, while keeping the raw elements intact too. As a result, we get a bit of everything you would expect from YOB. Despite being 73 minutes long, the record is divided into seven tracks which, in my opinion, are easier to digest overall than the 4 featured on its predecessor. ‘Ablaze’ rips through the gates with punishing riffs, alongside a mixture of clean and harsh vocals. Mike sounds more powerful than ever, whereas the post metal leanings are a taste of what’s to come. Same goes for ‘In Reverie’, whose trudging grooves are augmented by pounding drums and scorching bass lines. On the other hand, the band easily proves they still are one of the heaviest acts on Earth as heard on ‘The Screen’, ‘Lungs Reach’ or ‘Original Face’. The former’s staccato chugs, punctuated by hellish growls over soaring chords, are very compelling. Scheidt sings about overcoming pain in a spiritual way, so there’s more to this song (and album) than anger or frustration. You can gradually deduce the acceptance and healing of body and mind in order to move on to a better place. Then, at only 5 minutes, I initially thought ‘Lungs Reach’ was going to be an interlude. The moody bass notes playing half of the time span with only a few sounds in the background hinted at a moment of respite. I was definitely not expecting them to kick in a full-blown sludge/doom dirge. This should really shine during upcoming live performances. Meanwhile, ‘Original Face’ is characterized by urgent guitar tones surrounded by several brutal riffs. The chemistry between the members is at an all-time high. There are trademark progressions or inspired detours that showcase the maturity, as well as the veteran level of structural details.
Nevertheless, two of the biggest highlights on the record are the title track and ‘Beauty in Falling Leaves’. The latter pops up midway, giving the listener minutes of calm guitar picking and a clear rhythm section. Scheidt’s clean vocals are prominently used to great effect throughout. Even the distorted notes play more melodic parts, creating a complex, bittersweet journey. Besides this, I also like the subdued coda, where a panning effect offers the instrumental coda a warm vibe. Moreover, ‘Our Raw Heart’ feels like a continuation of ‘Beauty in Falling Leaves’. Using some heart wrenching chords, the twangier guitars are well-rounded by the huge, fuzzed out bass. Sharp leads cover the middle part, slowly making way for a cool solo. Subsequently, the main riff closes the last few minutes of the songs on a really high note. It’s amazing how airy these two track sound, you don’t realize their actual length.
Overall, Our Raw Heart
is a truly encompassing journey that requires multiple listens to unfold itself (much like any YOB album). There’s anger, frustration and melancholy to be found, still, at the end you’re left with a sense of relief. It’s a weird thing, but I believe the band wanted it that way. There’s focus on the dark events Mike went through, but it’s all over now, he survived, so he wants to move on. I recommend this LP to any fan of metal music and especially to those who are into the trio’s music. This is one of their best releases so far and I can’t wait to hear more from them as soon as possible.