By Aaron Semer
If you want to find the Woodie Guthries or Bob Dylans or Nina Simones of our day, you need to look to the fringes of the Metal genre.
Toiling away there, far from the ears of the average Metal fan, are a group of musicians and songwriters it would be horribly unfair to lump in with the likes of Avenged Sevenfold and Lamb of God. This is a group of people creating a new form of musical art that responds to our current world, rather than retreading the musical paths of yesterday. Yet, most record stores, DJs, and critics fail to differentiate these artists, lumping it all together as “Metal.”
To the ear of the average American, there is little difference. They hear a guttural growl and run for safer musical ground. Metal vocals (especially growling) are a line in the sand many refuse to cross, like rap once was.
As an avowed lifelong metalhead, I wear that line like a badge. I see it as a litmus test – a musical act of transgression. Accept it, and a whole new world of possibilities is open to you. Deny it, and – well, you’ll be fine actually, but you’re missing out.
Yob are one of the most brilliant and interesting of these bands. They are the Minutemen of Metal (that’s Minutemen the band, not the militia). What may have started as Neurosis-worship has morphed into something wholly unlike any other band. Mike Scheidt continues to lead Yob deeper and deeper down this singular hole, with blissful disregard for the music of their peers and for what Metal is “supposed” to be. Like D. Boon and company, they have freed themselves from the bounds of genre and convention only to become more beloved. It may be a small (and growing) fan base, but it is a devoted one.
Even Rolling Stone took notice this year, placing Clearing the Path to Ascend at number 50 in their 50 Best Albums of 2014. That’s something, especially considering they were the only Metal band to crack that list. While it primarily speaks to the cluelessness of Rolling Stone’s critics when it comes to Metal, it also speaks to the power of Yob.
March 11 at El Corazon, Yob exclusively stuck to new material, playing three tracks from Clearing the Path. Yes, that’s right, three. Only one song from the new album clocks in at under 15 minutes. Yob are the ultimate metal nerds. There is no pretense and no stage show. They take the stage. They wave at you, they bow, they smile, and then they dive in, deep.
They kicked off with the first song from Clearing, “In Our Blood,” and then moved on to what may be my favorite Yob track of all time; “Nothing to Win.” The brutal, constant pummeling rhythm of this song actually shook a piece of a spotlight loose, and it knocked into a show-goer’s head on the way down (they were fine).
By the third and final track, “Marrow,” a group of out-of-place looking bros tried to start moshing to no avail, while everyone around them stood in a trance. Moshing music this isn’t. Anyone unaccustomed to music like this would find what I’m about to say insane, but I could feel the love pouring out from them when they played. The insane volume, the drone, the repetition, and yes, the growling – it all comes together to form an extremely meditative and cathartic experience. When you watch them do this, you see them go to a different place, and they will take you with them if you allow it. You can read it on their faces, and in the gratitude they show the audience between songs.
I don’t know these guys, but I know I like these guys. I feel it in what they do. In fact, I trust these guys. If the shit ever goes down and society falls apart at the seams, and Yob decide to start an apocalypse hippy drone metal cult in the woods of Oregon, I am there.
Droning under the stars with Yob. Yeah. That’s how I want to go out.