Album Review: YOB Our Raw Heart
To appreciate music, a listener doesn't have to know anything about the artist that created it or what went into its creation. It can be enjoyed on a surface, visceral level. But to truly connect with music is difficult without delving into the creators and their creative process. There almost wasn't a creative process for Yob's latest album, as vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt nearly died in early 2017.
During surgery for an extremely painful intestinal disorder, things weren't looking good, but Scheidt pulled through. It took an arduous rehab process and a lot of money (which fans and friends helped with via a GoFundMe campaign), but he got through it and was able to create Yob's eighth studio album Our Raw Heart.
The experience changed Scheidt, which in turn changed how the album came out. “It’s like when your hard drive crashes—sometimes only parts of it are retrievable,” he explains. “That’s how it was for me. Some things just didn’t come back. Others came back in completely different ways. Others are still there but my perspective is completely different. I live in a different world now, and all of that went into this album—new insight, a new sense of self.”
Though Scheidt's perspective is different, the music on Our Raw Heart still has the touchstones of previous albums while venturing into a previously unexplored territory. Yob albums tend to be lengthy, giving plenty of space to explore that territory, and that's the case here, with the seven tracks clocking in at just over 73 minutes.
The album gets off to a deliberate start with “Ablaze,” which is more of a slow burn with a two-plus minute instrumental intro before the vocals kick in. Dense riffs and a heavy bottom end give way to a peaceful interlude about three-quarters of the way through the song before the somber doom kicks back in.
Speaking of the heavy bottom end, Yob is more than the Mike Scheidt show. Bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster are integral collaborators who provide the bedrock that the songs are built upon. Whether it's providing a basic foundation to showcase Scheidt's riffs or stepping forward with more creative and complex flourishes to bolster a song, their musicianship is consistently top-notch.
Constructing an album's track order can be challenging, but Yob has done a good job placing the songs so they flow seamlessly. “In Reverie” crawls along with crushing guitar and passionate vocals. Its oppressive nature is contrasted by “Lungs Reach,” whose first half is downright peaceful and airy before harsh vocals and heavy riffs take over.
One of the album's highlights is “Beauty In Falling Leaves,” a 16-minute opus with vocals that are melodic and emotional, Scheidt's most impressive performance on the record. It's a varied track, with ebbs and flows in intensity that maintains interest throughout. That's a challenge when both the individual songs and the album are lengthy, but through the final notes of the closing 14-minute title track, Yob is up to the challenge.
While Our Raw Heart has a lot of dynamics when it comes to the music and a lot of emotional ups and downs in the lyrics, one thing that's consistent is the band's gratitude. “We had a joyous time writing this record, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of people all around the world who decided that we mean enough to them that they would take their time and energy and send it in our direction,” Scheidt says. “And now we have this album that’s built on not only what I went through but what everybody gave us.”
That emotional connection between Yob and their fans is a strong one, and they cement it on Our Raw Heart with songs that are engaging and revealing, immediately appealing but with subtle nuances and layers that only become apparent after subsequent listens. It's a powerful and cathartic release that will most likely make an appearance on plenty of year-end “best of 2018” lists.