What the fuck is going on in Oregon? Some of the most forward thinking yet hazy, cerebral and generally unhappy music of recent years – Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room, Yob – has emerged, drunk on small batch craft brew, out of those fog shrouded hills to lay a vicious beating on our collective synapses. Surely the Black Flag/Sabbath-worshiping heritage of neighboring Washington state has rubbed off over the years, but in the past decade cities like Portland, Eugene and Salem have staked a legit claim for Oregon being the new center of musical creativity on the West Coast (LA's resurgence of indie rock being their only real competition, Seattle still largely reeling from their grunge hangover).
Yob surprised all by gradually disintegrating in 2005, leader Mike Scheidt finally calling the whole thing off early the next year, but they've been back for two years now and the sharply evolved chemistry – Scheidt reemerged with a whole new rhythm section – really shines through on this year's Atma. 2009's comeback effort The Great Cessation was quality work, but in my opinion a bit bogged down by the directionless droning of the title track, a 20 minute affair heavy on standard issue atmospherics and light on memorable, crushing riffs. The title track on Atma is quite the opposite: when the drums drop out and that detuned juggernaut of a riff comes in at about the six minute mark, you know instantly that this is going to become a concert fave for years to come.
"Before We Dreamed of Two Masters" is, at 16 minutes, another potentially bloated epic, but this time around the band bisect it in the middle with a calm interlude into two distinct segments, the latter of which bears a heavy Neurosis influence courtesy of Scott Kelly's contributions (he is also listed as guesting on album closer "Adrift in the Ocean", which similarly disintegrates into an atavistic, almost Lovecraftian tribal droning toward the end).
Every Yob album to date has had Scheidt's stamp all over it, but they have tended to deviate slightly from one release to the next, some focusing on ambiance and others on concussive doom riffs. As the type of fan who enjoys both but prefers the latter, Atma ranks as an improvement to these ears over The Great Cessation, though it's hard to say it's clearly superior to antecedent efforts like Catharsis and The Illusion of Motion.
Still, five songs in 55 minutes… sounds like classic Yob, doesn't it?
8.5 out of 10