“Time to wake up,” goes the chilly, sampled voice at the start of “In Our Blood,” the opening track of Yob’s latest album, Clearing The Path To Ascend. Coming from a band so adept at hypnosis, it’s a jarring command. On the Portland group’s last full-length, 2011’s Atma, each song rippled and writhed like coiled lightning being slowly unspooled. That hasn’t changed on Clearing The Path. The big difference is how, even at its most thunderous and assaultive, a sense of peaceful resignation works its way up through the wounds.
The four songs on Clearing The Path range in length from just over 11 minutes to just under 19 minutes. That sprawling, mostly unbroken canvas—minus any of the seemingly requisite, almost always distracting interludes atmospheric metal bands love to sprinkle throughout their albums—adds even more mass to the band’s unholy presence. “Nothing To Win” churns like an oncoming tsunami, with the crushing pressure of mountain-sized doom riffs held barely at bay by singer and guitarist Mike Scheidt, whose voice is as supple and intimate as it is elemental. And on “Unmask The Spectre,” the concept of truth-seeking is manifested in a droning, windswept meditation that ultimately goes over the cliff and straight into an abyss. Just as things bottom out, Scheidt’s vocals climb into an epic, upper register, as if summoned by some higher being.
Clearing The Path is Yob’s first album for Neurot Records, run by the post-metal veteran Neurosis, whose members have been known to make guest appearances on Yob recordings. That influence is strong on the album, but not overwhelming. There’s a more organic feel to Yob’s work, as best heard on the closing track “Marrow.” After a melancholic introduction that’s all slivers of moonlight glimpsed through banks of fog, Scheidt and crew hit their melodic peak: All doubt and ambiguity is blown away in a desperate yet cleansing burst of lucidity that owes as much to prog rock as to doom metal. All dreams must end—but by extension, so must all nightmares. On Clearing The Path To Ascend, Yob has beautifully, brutally conjured a bit of both.