YOB has been a constant force in the doom metal field. Since their first release, Elaborations of Carbon, they have not ever really disappointed me. Releasing records year after year, they took over the doom/sludge/stoner genre by storm, having excellent moments with Catharsis, The Illusion of Motion and The Unreal Never Lived. Even when they took a break, Mike Scheidt went on to form Middian, where he also managed to put out another excellent album. If you have not checked out Middian’s only release, Age Eternal, you should as soon as possible. And then when YOB returned they continued their familiar path, putting out The Great Cessation and the unbelievable Atma. And now they come back, three years after their last full-length and bring forth Clearing the Path to Ascend. Everything you love about YOB is back, from the huge riffs, the stone rock moments to the sludge weight and the psychedelic touches, Clearing the Path to Ascend does not disappoint.
The dreamlike melodies of the opening song come straight in, slowly dragging you into the band’s heavy vision. Their incorporation of cleaner parts with effects is as strong as ever. When they want to be minimalistic, for instance ten minutes in “In Our Blood,” YOB is able to craft the ambiance very nicely, while the addition of samples to make things a bit more interesting certainly does not hurt. Those dreamy states are a crucial part of the band’s identity and they work perfectly in the new album. Take for instance the beginning of the closing track of the album, especially when the drums join in the ethereal melodies YOB is awakening a ritualistic aspect of their music. But that does not mean that all the atmospheric parts that YOB throws in are nice and some of them can be quite sinister and nasty, as is the case with the circling guitar parts of “Unmask the Spectre.” When you have trippy effects working alongside these more peaceful moments, you can see that this band is the real deal. Nine minutes in “Nothing To Win” the band is incorporating some weird feedback to make this moment more excruciating and memorable, while reaching a whole other level of psychedelia, about eleven minutes in the closing track.
It is not a case of something new per se in Clearing the Path To Ascend. It simply is a band doing what they know how to do best, and nailing it. The guitar work feels more natural and more inspired in this album, with the dissonant parts playing a huge part in the band’s vision. The slower bits in “In Our Blood” are tremendously enhanced by the use of inharmonicity. Similarly in “Unmask the Spectre,” YOB’s colossal riffs and dissonant bits are contrasting in an unbelievable manner, lifting the track even further. But, it is not just the case with the more adventurous melodies. The band has taken the lead parts up a notch. The background lead guitar near the end of the opening track might be hidden in the background but plays a vital part in the hellish vibe that the song demonstrates. While about eight minutes in “Unmask the Spectre” the band is letting out a much more emotional feeling with the lead part really taking off and in a similar manner YOB unleashes a guitar solo in “Marrow.”
While if you consider that YOB is in essence a doom metal band, you definitely get more than you would have expected from your bog standard doom act. The much more direct and in your face “Nothing to Win” sees the band throwing everything they got to make your head bang, with the drum patterns really leaving a dent. The song is full of energy, and especially about seven minutes in goes completely mental. And then, they go and structure “Unmask the Spectre” in such an unconventional manner that it is hard to ignore. YOB go between the heavy parts and the clean bits in a way that feels so natural, it is just difficult to believe they were able to pull something like that off. To even top all that off, they go on in “Marrow” and when it feels like the song has reached a peak, they follow that with another peak for the song, and then another and another. For the first nine minutes of the track it is unbelievable that they are able to top one part after the next.
All YOB’s albums feature great vocal performances, both clean and growls. And Clearing the Path to Ascend is not an exception to that rule. Scheidt’s clean vocal performance fits great with the band’s heaviest riffs, being able to squeeze through the dense music and reach the listener. And the way it is balanced to the music in Clearing the Path to Ascend is just phenomenal. His clean voice might be great in songs like “In Our Blood” and in the end of “Unmask the Spectre,” but it is clearly in another level in “Marrow,” offering a cathartic performance. The growls on the other hand are giving the necessary power to the album to make an impact, with the start of “Nothing to Win” stealing the show. There is even some experimentations with whispers in “Unmask the Spectre,” which offers a rather interesting twist in there.
Clearing the Path to Ascend is the band’s seventh full-length, and it is amazing to see that they are still as vibrant and hungry as in the days they were putting out Elaborations of Carbon. The band’s blend of psychedelic doom/stoner/sludge remains as fresh and interesting as ever and their newest album is an example of what heavy music should sound like.
9.0 / 10
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