We count time in moments, not minutes. Minutes are an easy subdivision, a common agreement to note the objective passage of time. But we never objectively pass time: our “time” is made up of moments that can feel like a second or a lifetime. A minute is nothing without the events that fill it, and those events can warp and distort our perception of time in the best and worst ways. All of which goes to say that what for us may feel like about four years since Oregon titans of doom Yob released an album, it can never match or compare to how long it must have felt for Mike Scheidt and company to release Our Raw Heart, a piercing catharsis that seeks to make sense of the tumultuous events of Scheidt’s recent past, and not coincidentally some of their best work to date.
Every review is going to address the life-threatening issues that plagued Scheidt in early 2017: the diverticulitis as well as the resulting staph infections and seizures. Those events, those moments, color every note of Our Raw Heart, whether direct as in the lyrics to the title track, or more obliquely in the stuttering lurch of single “The Screen.” Those moments of Scheidt’s life are reflected everywhere on the album, just as all of our moments will reflect back when we listen to it.
You can probably say that about every album, but there’s something almost tangible in the interplay between Scheidt, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster that makes the listening experience much more immediate than predecessor Clearing the Path to Ascend. Rieseberg (whom we sat down with for a killer interview you can find here) has after a decade of being in the band developed an uncanny sense of how to mesh with Scheidt’s crushing riffs, working within and around the guitar and drums to occupy a space that feels bottomless and beautiful. And if there’s a better doom drummer out there than Travis Foster I have yet to hear it. There is no Yob without his instantly identifiable time keeping, his ability to anticipate and shift the beat just enough to keep you off your toes for as long as he wants to. 13 years later and I’m still thrown by the opening of “Quantum Mystic” off of The Unreal Never Lived. Put all together there’s few bands with more potential to explode than Yob, and in Our Raw Heart they take the pain and trauma and uncertainty of the last few years and open what feels like a new chapter in their career.
This fresh start is immediately noticeable on opener “Ablaze.” It’s heavy and open, the chords ringing in with the cymbal hits. Scheidt’s vocals (he basically had to learn a new way to sing after recovering) has a newfound resonance that gives the song another dimension. It’s startling to have the openness and reflective tone slam into the shudder of “The Screen” which hits like a freight train. The 3/4 time and howling beastial roar moves into a despairing chorus that really shows how far Scheidt has come as a vocalist. It took a few listens for me to really get into how powerful this song was, but now it’s a rallying fist that punches the rest of the album into an even higher gear.
“In Reverie” opens with Rieseberg’s bass seemingly coming from the earth’s core before the guitars and drums explode into another cacophony of doom. It feels the most like what the band were doing circa The Great Cessation and Atma, and juxtaposes nicely with the refreshingly short “Lungs Reach.” For the majority of its length it plays with emptiness and space, and again serves as another highlight for how much Foster and Rieseberg bring to Yob. Which is good because the rest of the album feels like the release of everything Scheidt had inside him. Nothing is held back, and the gorgeous opening of “Beauty in Falling Leaves” slowly rises in intensity even as it maintains its fragile cadence. Scheidt’s voice conveys the pain and fear in lines like
Darkness comes to the door / table place set before its honored seat
before moving into a chorus that aches with the longing and yearning to ensure that his message, that throughout, its their heart that brings him back from the edge, brings him home, is so clearly understood. That chorus was the moment I took Our Raw Heart as more than simply another great album and instead found within its windings notes and breaths of a piece of the universe, a shared moment that connects time together between people who will never likely meet. It’s powerful, and it continues through the raging beauty of the song into the furious commitment at the heart of “Original Face” and into that closing title track. “Our Raw Heart” the song is a resolution, an ending that looks back on a life and finds a sort of peace. The shimmering, psychedelic solo that stretches the end of the song is a stunner, with Foster and Rieseberg supporting Scheidt’s journey to wherever it takes him, a place we’ll have to discover on our own as the song slowly fades away beyond our reach.
Our Raw Heart is approximately 74 minutes long. I suspect the moments that make up those minutes are much longer for Yob. For myself it feels like nothing and eternity: it’s over before I know it but I come away feeling both heavier and lighter for the moments that carried me to the music, and that accompanied me through its runtime. For an album to bring you along on that journey and leave you feeling anything is an achievement. What Yob have done is give you a piece of their own journey, their own pains and fears and determination to let you know you’re not alone there in the dark where a moment can stretch into forever.