Capturing what it is that draws us towards doom is a hard feat. The genre is deceptively simple, requiring a fair amount of active listening for a listener to be able to pick up the nuances that operate behind the scenes. Perhaps it’s that challenge itself which beguiles us: we know that the surface holds little more than the quickly fading charms of repetition, hazy promises of mind alteration and the wilting appeal of emotional singing. However, we are also fascinated by the idea that, with attentive study, more layers seem to unfold, sounds below sounds and sound-scapes which at first did not present themselves to the shallow ear. YOB have always been a great example of this and Clearing the Path to Ascend is no different. This album is a thing to be immersed in, an onslaught to be born. It will spit out the casual first-comer but lovingly embrace the dedicated pilgrim to its core.
Handling an album with this kind of monolithic structure is difficult. There are several approaches but in this review we shall utilize deconstruction by looking at each separate track as its own creation and the interaction between them as creating the album. Without further ado, we are greeted by “In Our Blood”. The purpose and mission of this track is to draw the line in the sand, clearly and brilliantly. This is a YOB album and if you’re looking for something else, you best be on your way. All through the crushing beginning, right across the quiet middle, with its eerie and indecipherable sample, and finally at the mind numbing, crushing edge, all the tools of the trade are brought to bear. We are, for the first time but not the last, introduced to the brilliant vocals to be found on this album. Black Sabbath inspired clean singing merges beautifully with harsher growls that would not embarrass any death metal band out there, echoing and fleshing out the rest of the instruments. The ending simply turns the screws even tighter, meaning slower and more resounding.
From this vale of echoing bells, a path winds quickly upwards with “Nothing to Win”. This track is faster and focuses on a whole different aspect of the instrumentation heard thus far. Instead of relying on the lower end of the scale, the magic and power is to be found in the shimmering fuzzy-ness of treble laden leads and higher pitched vocals. While tempting to catalog as a more Black Sabbath track than the first one, this track is better likened to acts like Red Fang or Kylesa, with one hand clenched firmly on the sludge foundation while the other wrestles with the faster paced rock it draws from. We’ve already hinted at the truly unique factor of this however: to match the changing tempo, YOB decide to focus more on clean singing. The result is a crystal quality to the whole thing, as the vocals compliment the fuzzier approach taken by the rest of the instruments.
“Unmask The Spectre” is the blindingly heavy response to the previous track. Almost with a vengeance, it reiterates the slower parts of the first track but takes them even lower. The growls here are down right guttural, delving the bass depths of the range to tumultuous results. Everything else coalesces on them to create a track that seems to last for an entire album, a long and drawn out sojourn in the essence of YOB. That is perhaps the best way to describe “the unmasking”: YOB rip away all pretense and garnish, heading straight for the maelstrom that is the linchpin of who they are as a band.
And then comes “Marrow”. This track is the path to ascension for this album, away from nearly any other doom release of this year or any before it. “Marrow” shows us what experienced musicians have that sets them apart from younger contenders: the security and self-knowledge needed to change, right in the face of their most iconic work. This track turns towards a melancholy akin to Pallbearer, mixing the heavier sound of the first and third track, with the cleaner vocals of the second one. It is an amalgam of heavy, repetitive, slowed down, monolithic riffs and high scaling, soaring, emotional vocals. It is the final adornment in the crown that is this impressive release and a fantastic way to close such an impressive album: a tour de force of all the different sounds and subtleties that such a “simple” genre can give us.
YOB – Clearing a Path to Ascend gets…