Two words quickly sprang to mind as I started putting together thoughts about my collective Yob experience: “epiphany” and “resonation.” That first choice is obviously pretty dramatic, so I’ll address it quickly in hopes of stemming any notions of my being too idolizing.
I was a couple years late to the Yob party for entirely feeble reasons. But a rather unforeseen event one calm evening in the company of 2003’s Catharsis caused an abrupt turnaround in my little world. In short, I had an epiphanous “Ether” moment; one of those rare flashes where a stretch of music lifts you right off your haunches and into the sky for a Golden Ride that completely levels the playing field and brings a band under a fresh, new light. It was precisely that moment when I fully recognized that Yob had indeed waltzed up and effortlessly yoinked Excalibur free from the psych/sludge doom-stone and took their rightful place upon the throne. And I’ve been a loyal Yob follower since that very day.
That revelatory experience has made Catharsis a very important part of my now steady diet of Yob, and I honestly don’t believe they’ll ever quite topple it for that very reason alone. In fact, I’d tag that slab of august nobility as the best release to hit the stoner/psych/doom/whateverthehellyouwanttocallit genre since Sleep’s Holy Mountain, and that includes a world populated by Come My Fanatics. So, not only would I call it amazingly resonating — as in, “the album produces intensely deep, rich and reverberating sounds” — but it also finally resonated with me — as in, I unexpectedly felt that freaky connection/shared mentality with the band that caused my eyes to finally pop wide open.
I can’t seem to figure out how to filter that to sound less fanatical, but it’s precisely that entire notion of ‘sublime resonation’ between band and listener that gets Yob enthusiasts terribly excited about the prospect of new material. So, to say the air has been electrified as the band’s sixth release (and second under the Profound Lore flag following the surprising drop by Metal Blade over the whole Middian poochbonk) continues to approach is a rather copious understatement.
Based on the preliminary interviews with head Yobber, Mike Scheidt, and more specifically, the recent video cut over at Invisible Oranges, I’d imagine folks are expecting quite a different beast in Atma. One doesn’t toss out statements like “heavier use of Middle Eastern sounds” and “one piece primarily comprised of ethnic instruments and classical guitars” without expecting a number of raised eyebrows. But truthfully, I think I’m in need of good-sir Miguel to run on over here and bash my head against the stereo to point out any measures that might feature lutes, bouzoukis, tablas, or anything of the sort. So don’t expect to hear any sizzling sitar shredding here, is my point. I agree that the overall vibe whiffs of a more introspective, meditative mood that’s quite fitting of that ruminative cover (courtesy of Dark Castle‘s Stevie Floyd) and the album’s title, but the single greatest difference on the surface here stems from the fact that Mr. Scheidt decided to re-don his production hat in 2011.
I’m sure the lion’s share of folks with any Yob interest have already fully digested album sampler, “Prepare the Ground”. Yep, that’s it, man; that’s Atma‘s production in a nutshell. Scheidt reconnects with that raw, grimy guitar tone, and I, for one, am pleased as a puppy with two peters to experience its bitterness. Not only does it up the nastiness ante and boost the amount of venom to the album’s numerous riff break-outs (the very heart of the self-titled track, for example, or the 5:40 mark of the closing “Adrift in the Ocean”), but it also gives Aaron Reiseberg a little more opportunity to shine on his bass. And Mahatamaholyshit, does that bass get some beautifully heavy work done on this record. Hell, listening to the gruesomeness of “Upon the Sight of the Other Shore” sounds almost as if Yob are working their instruments over while being trapped within one of those wobbly, near-to-bursting carbuncles blotting the beast on the cover of Mental Funeral (the 3:45 mark — just sick!) So, while Atma might initially sound less heavy than it’s predecessor because of Scheidt’s freshly filthy guitar tone, the album does in fact contain some of the heaviest measures Yob has crafted to date.
Atma‘s two longer pieces, the 16-minute “Before We Dreamed of Two” and the 13-minute closer, “Adrift in the Ocean”, deliver the fucking goods, pure and simple. No doubt folks are already well-aware of the guest appearance of Scott Kelly for this endeavor, and unsurprisingly, it’s a seamless merger: like shitting a brick over the perfect plate of huevos rancheros only to find that you’ve yet to spoon the black beans into the party. His presence is much more noticeable on “Before We Dreamed of Two”, a tune that comes from the gate with that plodding, airy-but-heavy Yob stamp that’s lifted by Scheidt’s psychedelic fretwork, but goes dead-quiet for three minutes at its centerpoint for a serene stretch swirled by lapping waves and Kelly’s soft voice. By 10:15, it’s 100% sloooow and garfugginggantuan, and Kelly’s harsher vocals fit like a snuggly glove. His role is mitigated to strained whispers on the closer, but “Adrift in the Ocean” caps Atma with every element fans have grown to love: It’s pretty, gauzy and melodic at the onset, beats your ass to the rocks (with an emphatic Scheidt ROAR) at its midpoint, and crescendos into a pants-shittingly epic and melodic moment before closing the album out on a final crushing note.
High accolades are already trickling in, and they’ll likely continue to do so over the course of the next four weeks until Atma properly drops. With that in mind, I would encourage fans to do whatever’s necessary to clear their lofty expectations before diving in headfirst. 2009’s The Great Cessation re-set the bar pretty high, and Atma‘s encompassing atmosphere, while similar in scope to previous releases, is decidedly different because of its grittier approach and wider vocal array. The overall power won’t take long to set root, though, I can certainly attest to that.
In a world where we frequently seem barraged by shitbag declarations of [band-X] or [band-Y] “saving modern metal,” Yob and a handful of other humble-but-heavy hitters continue to deliver some of the most beautifully affecting metal that’s 100% heartfelt and righteous to the core. The amount of people the music inspires is secondary to how well it thrills those who care. And Atma most certainly offers up yet another exhilarating Yob ride. The fight for my top record of 2011 just got a whole lot dirtier.