I needed this. I’d been looking forward to this gig since it was first announced and hearing Yob‘s latest album, Clearing The Path To Ascend, recently seriously cranked up the excitement factor.
I was already well aware of exactly what a piece of work Pallbearer‘s recent Foundations Of Burden is and had been pleasantly surprised by the recordings of Ghold I’d heard via their Bandcamp site – these days I don’t have very high expectations of British sludge bands, so I was thankful to not have to lay ears on another EyeHateMonkeyWizard clone – but it was definitely Yob that I was most eager to see. I’d had a cast-iron pig of a day and I was pretty damn sure, based upon my previous experiences with seeing Yob and the exceptional tunes on the new album, that Yob was exactly what I needed to get myself back on an even keel – specifically the final track from the album, the jaw-dropping Marrow, a song that brought me to tears upon first listen, and one that Yob mainman Mike Scheidt confessed to me was the hardest arrangement that the band has ever attempted. Hell, I wasn’t even sure that they would want to even play it live, but I lived in hope.
The Roadhouse is one of my favourite local venues and I’ve been coming to it since the early nineties, but tonight was the biggest crowd that I have ever seen in it and a healthy portion of this sold-out crowd seemed to be friends or acquaintances. Definitely a good start to the evening, and a few warm hugs and some vodka were exactly what was needed to kick things off.
Speaking of things kicking off, tonight’s openers Ghold were already fully in session and the London-based duo were adeptly doling out drums-and-bass-driven devastation that brutally laid waste to the crush of bodies before them as I entered the room.
Drummer Paul and bassist Aleks pump out a crushing nuclear-fusion of Man is The Bastard bass-power-churn and sick Nightstick filth topped off with dual gruffly-chanted vocals ala Melvins/Karp/Big Business. A deadly combo and no mistake.
Now as I mentioned earlier, I’d had low expectations as to what Ghold were going to sound like and so had only really intended to give them a cursory listen via their Bandcamp site, but what I heard was pretty damn nasty so I kept on listening. However, as enjoyably ‘orrible as their recordings are, they don’t compare to the Ghold live experience at all.
Live the duo sound absolutely depraved, as their grinding, blistering bass thrum and backdoor-smashing drum battery are amped right up to the hilt and those dual vocals sound viciously primitive. Joined toward the end of their set by guitarist Oliver Martinez, his spaced out scuzzed up axe mange was the final indignity that pushed Ghold over into unadulterated solid gold muck. Some enterprising label needs to snap these fuckers up and get ’em into a quality studio pronto, the resulting album stands a damn good chance of being a classic.
To attempt to up the filth-factor after that would be sheer folly, and so it was that Little Rock, Arkansas doomlords Pallbearer delivered an infinitely more nuanced, melancholic take on heaviness, and one with a deeply emotional core thanks to the mournfully melodic vocal of frontman Brett Campbell and the elegiac chordings and harmonies of the guitar duo of Campbell and fellow axeman Devin Holt. Of course they were still crushingly heavy, just in a different way to Ghold.
I’ll just take this opportunity to remind you that I have a terrible memory for song titles, and to also confess that my notes for the evening turned out to be an unreadable scrawl, so a blow-by-blow set list just ain’t going to happen. However, I feel fairly confident in saying that Sorrow And Loss‘s monstrously miserable opener Foreignerwas giving an airing along with cracking Foundations Of Burden tune The Ghost I Used To Be, but any more than that I cannot say for sure. I’ll tell you what though, the set was utterly majestic, totally textbook exemplary Doom Metal with cues taken most notably from UK miserablists Warning in its winning combination of visceral emotionalism, morbid melodicism and hellish heaviosity.
Pallbearer are a class act and one that perfectly translates from the recording studio to the live environment with very little lost, something that tonight’s headliners Yob have very much in common with them.
Now, I’ve seen Yob a fair few times over the last few years and they have never once failed to impress, but tonight was something else, Yob entirely transcended all that came before. They’ve always been a great live band, but thanks to the blistering material from their stunning new album, Clearing The Path To Ascend and mainman Mike Scheidt‘s incredible voice and presence, tonight they were on fire.
Once again, apologies for my lousy memory and illegible notes, but I honestly cannot remember what the first two songs in the set were, but I’d be inclined to say that the opener was something from The Unreal Never Lived if I were a betting man. The spacey slow-burn build and jagged lurching discord that we love so much was firmly in evidence as Scheidt howled and growled his heart out, drummer Travis Foster battered seven bells out of his kit and ever-friendly ray of sunshine Aaron Reiseberg created the throbbing bass undertow.
After two songs of cosmic doom Yob kicked into the first of three tracks out of four aired from Clearing The Path To Ascend, the furious whirlwind of Nothing To Win, all tumbling toms, black metallic guitar swarms and guttural yowls, and induced more than a few next-day bangovers for sure.
I said it in my review of the album for this very site, and I said it to Scheidt, but the material on Clearing The Path To Ascend will be the material that will make people sit up and pay attention. All four tracks are alchemically pure 100% Yob, refined to represent the very best that this band can deliver, and none more so than the next two tracks delivered tonight – the alternately brooding-and-spiky Unmask The Spectre and the dynamic, heartwrenchingly triumphant set-and-album closer Marrow, which was being aired tonight for only the third time ever.
Both tracks exhibit a real maturity in both execution and delivery, a great understanding of arrangement and dynamics and, most notably, a jaw-dropping vocal performance from Scheidt. His voice runs the gamut from inhuman, bestial roar soaring up into the upper ranges of classic-era Dave Mustaine and usually within the same song. Apparently he’s been taking some vocal lessons and it’s sure as hell been paying off.
Impressive though his range across Unmask The Spectreis, it’s with the entirely-clean-sung Marrow that my heart lies. This is one of those songs that you hear and you wish you’d written yourself, and is easily the single best song that I’ve heard this year for sure. The first time I heard it, I’m not ashamed to admit that I wept and I was honestly not entirely sure I would be able to get through it tonight with dry eyes, after finding that it was on the set list.
The mood that Marrow evokes in me is a strange mix of heartbreak and exultant triumph, and the moodswing between the two states brought out by the combination of Scheidt‘s soaring vocal and the odd minor chords that pepper the song really does a number on me like nothing I’ve heard in a long time. Standing inches away from Scheidt as he ripped into the song was an emotional experience for me but I managed to reign it in despite myself. Come the end of the set, however, there were massive hugs awaiting both Scheidt and Reiseberg. What can I tell you, I’m a hugger.
Tonight was exactly what I needed after the lousy day I’d had and the love in the room for both Pallbearer and Yob was palpable – Scheidt remarked that it actually felt like playing a hometown show for them. It’s so damn heartening to see people taking so completely to Yob and I honestly think that next time around we won’t be seeing them in quite such an intimate venue. They deserve everything that comes their way.
Yes, I can happily say that tonight was just about the best show I’ve been at in one hell of a long time, thanks to three great bands and a wonderfully appreciative and receptive crowd.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson
Photos by: Lee Edwards