The Great Cessation (Reissue)
With doom metal now in vogue and bands like Pallbearer receiving critical acclaim for taking the genre into creative and even accessible directions, it feels like perhaps the metal audience and critics are suffering from collective, selective amnesia. It looks like Relapse Records is doing its best to rectify the situation be reissuing YOB’s 2009 masterpiece The Great Cessation remastered by Heba Kadry who has done engineering work for Bjork, Slowdive, Mars Volta, and White Hills. Since 1996, Oregon’s YOB has composed psychedelic, dark and poignant doom metal. Although the band’s lineup has changed dramatically from release to release, the one constant has been guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt who has consistently delivered songwriting and meticulous craftsmanship. His rhythm guitar feels like water boiling on a stove, simmering, splashing, singeing– at times spilling over. Always mesmerizing, foreshadowing coming movements and maintaining a droning presence that engagees rather than lulls. His voice–ragged and high pitched– brings to mind a grungy Ronnie James Dio, or a sincere Dave Mustaine. In another way, the band oeuvre owes much to the work of My Bloody Valentine and Smashing Pumpkins. These bands utilize layers of rhythm guitar, shoegaze licks and nasal lead vocals to produce tracks that take the listener through emotional climax after emotional climax–creating earworms that are absolutely undeniable.
Originally produced by the great Sanford Parker, Kadry’s work pulls apart some of the dense layers, highlighting complexities and compelling song structures. There is much more here than distortion and power chords and Kadry helps highlight that. Bonus track “Blessed By Nothing” heaves like a ferocious leviathan spreading itself carelessly across a blighted land. Yes, its metal. But Schedit’s guitar work is reminiscent of The Screaming Trees–it’s blues-influenced, rugged and earthy. YOB surpassed the current crop of doom bands in 2009. It’s exciting to imagine what they might do next.
Early on in Netflix’s new sci-fi/crime series Dark detective Ulrich Nielsen is shown as a child in the 80s’–unkempt long hair, facing a computer screen that flashes violent images and listening to “Pleasure to Kill” a record by German thrash-metal band Kreator. Nielsen looks up at a detective who has come to question him and states the lyrics to the song matter-of-factly “My only aim is to take many lives/The more the better I feel.” The detective leaves certain that Nielsen and Satanism have a direct link to his case. If 2017 has an equivalent–metal so dark and evil that it inherently invokes suspicion of the listener it has to be Tchornoborg— the hour-long album dedicated to the Slavic god of evil. Is the product of Ukrainian multi-instrumentalist Markov Soroka who has gained increasing notoriety since releasing a solo album as a teenager in 2009. Now 21, Soroka produced his magnum opus with the help of a drummer–it’s a staggering feat. With four tracks that clock in around 20 minutes a piece, Soroka keeps listeners engaged with orchestral movements, blistering guitar riffs, saxophones and a mood that can be easily likened to that experienced by attendees of a funeral where a terrible fire breaks out. I: The Vomiting Tchornobog (Slithering Gods of Cognitive Dissonance) combines black metal’s deep anxiety and hysteria with doom’s hopelessness and resignation. III: Non-Existence’s Warmth (Infinite Natality Psychosis) is allowed to breathe—like the calm that engulfs a no-man’s land–the track luxuriates in horror. Tchornobog is not a worship of the Slavic “Black God”. It is a result of heavy meditation in a desert landscape from the perspective of a vessel mountain which harbors a nest for the Mind’s Eye to be imprisoned. I witnessed — without any hope of my eye closing — the terrible sensory overload of the black vomit of Tchornobog. The recordings provided here are a sonic journal of the metaphorical events and the empathetic interpretation of a landscape in my skull,” wrote Soroka on his Bandcamp page. So don’t call Soroka a satanist, but still, you probably should be very afraid if this is what this young Ukranian man takes away from meditation.