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YOB – Atma

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YOB and Hate Eternal resonate deeply with me, and I think of them in the same thought. They both defy the chthonic bent of their respective milieus (doom metal, death metal). They do so not just through reference (lyrics), but also in deed. Their records are massive exertions of effort that would make Werner Herzog proud. They traffic in duality, both lyrically and musically (beastly lows, turbulent highs), and they grapple with the notion of being, as opposed to the destruction of being. The title of Yob’s new record, Atma (Profound Lore, 2011), refers to the Buddhist concept of self. The title track breaks down to a relentless one-chord plod, as a new age-y voiceover explains “atma”: “that means self in the vastest possible sense”. God and Satan are null and void here.

My favorite YOB record remains 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived. To me, it’s the fullest exposition of the band’s “cosmic doom”, reaching skyward without needing a dealer. Since then, the band has felt mostly terrestrial on record. Though powerful in typical YOB fashion, 2009’s The Great Cessation frustrated me a little by not hitting the same highs. Most of Atma does likewise, with a dry sound that’s admirable ethically though not necessarily the best choice. I love the Steve Albini m.o., even for applications that aren’t obvious – see his recording of Zao – but goshdarnit, I prefer YOB with crazy effects and Mike Scheidt’s squawk piercing the heavens, and my ears liquefying.

Admittedly, that’s an easy payoff. There’s merit in YOB denying it. Most of Atma is pulverization – but just because it’s dirt doesn’t mean it’s mundane. Live, this is the type of stuff that transcends through effort. Fuck long enough, and cum might result; play hard and slow/fast enough (YOB/Hate Eternal), and through sheer electric grind, one emerges sweaty and happier. For all the defenders of the sanctity of the album (I’m one), that’s a 20th century innovation. Live music’s 3-D experience has existed since the first musical instrument, and YOB harness that power better than most. If they don’t always hit that mark on some plastic/petroleum document, I don’t mind.

They do hit that mark on Atma‘s closer, “Adrift in the Ocean”. It opens with droning, quivering clean tones evoking both Indian music and Americana. Admittedly, I’m biased towards such references (California/Whole Foods/yoga/etc. – guilty on all charges). But when they segue into simmering toms which flower into surging riffs and tritones, then return, distorted and searing the upper register – the T-word which the cynical shun, “transcendent”, is apt. After metal’s decades-long binge on necrosis, “self in the vastest possible sense” is refreshing.

— Cosmo Lee

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“Adrift in the Ocean”

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