For many people, Mike Scheidt is Yob. Gentle and hirsute, hes the face and the versatile voice of the Oregon doom-metal trio. He writes the bands songs and its lyrics, and thats his guitar that yawns and rumbles across Yobs sprawling, slo-mo epics.
Indeed, Yob is a massive musical force thats built from and guided by Scheidts vision. But a third of the way through a 30-minute conversation about the bands intensely personal 2014 album, Clearing the Path to Ascend, he attempts to shift the focus away from himself and onto the whole.
Its just my music that I write to help me deal with life and deal with being on this planet, and it helps me do that, Scheidt says. It wasnt that long ago that no one hardly gave a fuck, so I didnt realize that all these years later thered be more eyes and ears on me doing it.
And Aaron and Travis, he continues, referring to bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster. Its not just The Mike Band. Its Yob.
The line where Scheidt ends and Yob begins has never been blurrier than it is on Clearing the Path, a stunning work that achieves pulverizing power, cathartic beauty and just about every shade in between across its four lengthy songs. Those four songs, combined, run a very Yob-like 63 minutes, and sonically, they trace a period in Scheidts life marked by divorce, depression and ditching psychiatric meds, then overcoming these things, celebration and, ultimately, hope. Its an incredible story told through thunderous riffs and lyrical candor; recording Clearing helped me get through it, Scheidt told Noisey, Vices music website, last summer.
And that, he says, is all that mattered at the time.
I went into this album really feeling like it was working for us, but having no idea if any of it was actually good, Scheidt says. But, you know, it was working for us, so thats the most important thing. If everyone else hated it, its still good for us. In order to keep it pure, you acknowledge that theres some expectation and just keep your head down and do the work and make sure that you really mean it.
Of course, everyone didnt hate it. Upon its release last fall by Neurot Recordings, Clearing the Path received nearly universal praise, and at the end of 2014, it was named one of the years best metal albums by outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Decibel Magazine to The Quietus. Few bands deliver as completely, The New York Times raved.
Much of the album treads the same ground that Yob has dominated for nearly two decades: deep, dark, devastating doom metal thats heavier than Earth and moves more slowly than evolution. Anchored by Rieseberg and Fosters glacial rhythms, Yobs songs are wide-open, apocalyptic landscapes that provide ample space for Scheidts howls, growls and six-stringed wizardry. On Clearing the Path, the 17-minute In Our Blood and the 15-minute Unmask the Spectre begin with quiet, reverberant guitar tones and build into congested battlefields of sludgy riffs, modest guitar solos and Scheidts grizzly incantations. The song in between, Nothing to Win, is a relative punk rager that bludgeons for eight minutes before blasting off through squalls of space-junk for three.
And then theres the closer, Marrow, which finds Yob floating through a prettier, more melodic world that it has explored before, but never so triumphantly. At 19 minutes long, its a sea of undulating low-end, chiming guitars and vocals that soar as high and clear as anything Scheidt has ever done. Taken with the three preceding tracks, Marrow is the sun breaking over the nights horizon, the light at the end of the tunnel. Its as uplifting as doom metal gets, if its even still doom.
For Scheidt, what you call it doesnt matter. What people think of Marrow does matter to him, but he cant control it. What matters is that Clearing the Path is an honest reflection of his life, his mind and his work at the time it was made.
Id say this albums more personal in some ways than other ones, he says, meaning its closer to home rather than digging into wide-open subjects that can be interpreted any number of ways but dont necessarily point directly to the heart of the person.
I mean, maybe they do but on the new album, the person is a little clearer in focus, Scheidt adds. To me, it has the same goal—its just feet in the mud instead of the head in the clouds, I guess.
Much has been made about Scheidts more personal—and thus less spiritual or mystical— lyrics on Clearing the Path. To hear his analogy, that shift makes perfect sense.
People that go to meditation retreats, there comes that period of time in the retreat, however many hours or days in, where the romance of sitting kind of gives way
to being uncomfortable and being tired and being hungry. All this stuff will come into play, he says. I guess on this album, thats kind of more where Im at: dealing with the stuff that comes up when the romance of it goes away, and you have to deal with the shit.