YOB is one of the most influential doom metal bands of the last 20 years. The brainchild of Oregon’s Mike Scheidt—who functions as primary songwriter, guitarist and vocalist—the band has been ahead of its time for years and is frequently cited as a major influence on a number of prominent acts. There hasn’t been a better time for doom metal in the popular zeitgeist for decades and right when it was the perfect time for YOB to reassert itself as perhaps the most sophisticated and sincere practitioners of the genre, everything nearly came to an end.
Scheidt, who had been diagnosed with diverticulitis in 2016, became seriously ill right before two major gigs. He described in a column for Noisy his reticence to actually deal with the pain in his gut. He didn’t want to cancel gigs and cost people money. His girlfriend prodded him to at least go to emergency care but he went to the supermarket first to make sure she had groceries if he was stuck in the hospital. He waited in the hospital for hours in terrible pain until it was revealed his diverticula had burst and perforated his intestines. Surgery, opioids, and a long recovery followed. Everything was in doubt. This month YOB will release their first album in four years, called Our Raw Heart. The album is perhaps the most straightforward, emotional and direct as anything the band has ever released. I had the chance to speak with bassist Aaron Rieseberg about the record and how Scheidt’s near-death experience and long road to recovery impacted recording.
Aaron Rieseberg: I agree with you that this is a little more direct and more economical in ways. Certain songs are a little more to the point, still very long but more direct going for a little bit of a different feel.
DHK: How much of this shift do you think was impacted by Mike’s ordeal and long recovery?
AR: It came about naturally. Mike was on the mend for an insane amount of time and he had been writing all this stuff by himself. And then we played it into the ground and what came out was more like this big psychedelic ballad kind of thing. We recorded so much that we ended cutting some music from this album. We were actually planning to do a double album with different feels on side A and side B.
DHK: Oh my god. I would kill for that.
AR: (Chuckling) Maybe next time.
DHK: What do you make of the current popularity of doom metal? You became part of YOB after it was already an established influencer on the scene. What’s it like to be part of a group whose work has so clearly influenced so many popular bands?
AR: I marvel at how big the genre has gotten. But it’s hard for me to tell where bands were influenced or if they are sounding like other bands. I’m just amazed at how big and welcoming the scene has been. It’s not so long ago that this was a very shunned style, it was called repetitive and derivative.
DHK: You have a lot of respect for other folks in the scene. You mentioned earlier that Bell Witch’s new album was one of your favorite of last year. It was at the top of my album-of-the-year list. Now your going to be touring with them. Their album came after a death of a founding member. And clearly your album was influenced by Mike’s health crisis and recovery. I imagine seeing both bands at this point in time is going to be quite an emotional experience.
AR: Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper is an absolutely incredible album. I don’t know if they’ll be playing all of it but I think they’ll play a lot of it and we’re going to be playing a lot of new material. I think it’s going to be an emotionally draining evening.
DHK: While doom has been knocked for being repetitive and derivative, I believe that there is a lot of chances being taken and interesting things being done by bassists in these bands–including yourself. Are there other musicians you look to for inspiration or whose work you admire?
AR: Dylan from Bell Witch and Joseph from Pallbearer are doing great stuff. They play these very musical chords and melodies they hit hammer-ons but at the same time what they are playing is hyper-melodic. It’s not just this stereotypical stuff. It’s this big tone and harmony happening.
DK: Just how tenuous was YOB’s existence during Mike’s ordeal? And how does it feel now to have this album launch coming out through Relapse Records?
AR: With Mike, things were very much uncertain. He was still healing and dealing with a lot of pain. We weren’t sure he would play shows again or make another record. Mike started feeling really good physically and things started moving. We’ve known the guys from Relapse for a while. They did some of our vinyl releases and it just felt like a natural fit.
DHK: What do you attribute the popularity of doom metal to? I’m reminded of the story of the Zambian band Witch–a stoner/doom band that was founded in the 70s around the time the country’s economy collapsed. Obviously, there are a lot of people feeling oppressed by the economy, the government, not being able to make it by on one job. Do you think that has anything to do with it?
AR: I see two sides. One is exactly like you said. Putting on a doom record can serve as such a relief. The way some of these bands connect emotionally, whether through triumph or hate, they provide a form of emotional connection and release. That connection, that emotional journey you go on listening to the full album is so instantaneous. It really picks me up and is what I need when I have to deal with some fucked up shit or read about something terrible. More people are dealing with that and more people are finding the music through technology like Spotify. It is definitely the right time for the genre because things are crumbling.
YOB will be touring the Northeast in late June. Their new album drops on June 8th.