YOB have made a name for themselves in underground metal scene by leavening their often-oppressive doom metal with a sense of spirituality. Their seventh album, Clearing the Path to Ascend, signifies the desire to experiment with their foundation without the unyielding heaviness that made the Eugene, Oregon, power trio one of America’s best metal bands.
The sound on Ascend is tactile: The listener can feel vocalist/guitarist Mike Shiedt’s callused hands sliding up and down his guitar neck, pressing into the strings and visualizing the rapid, frenetic delivery of his riffing on “Nothing to Win.” The chord structures and tremolo picking — perhaps influenced by Shiedt’s recent blackened hardcore side project, VHÖL — is a departure from the rest of the album with a catchy, clearly defined chorus. Despite its length, the 11-minute track is the closest YOB has come to creating a mainstream-sounding song.
The middle section of the closer, “Marrow,” is reminiscent of Chris Isaak’s desolate “Wicked Game,” highlighting the vulnerability in Schiedt’s plaintive and sensitive voice. Yes, this might be their most accessible album, but Clearing the Path to Ascend seems like a natural progression, as there is experimentation without deviating from the textural parameters of their signature sound, which has already garnered a vast amount of respect. This isn’t a case of fixing what was broken; instead it’s more about becoming greater than they already were.