"some music was meant to stay underground..."

YOB - "Atma" (CD)

YOB - "Atma" CD cover image

"Atma" track listing:

1. Prepare the Ground
2. Atma
3. Before We Dreamed of Two
4. Upon the Sight of the Other Shore
5. Adrift in the Ocean

Reviewed by on August 13, 2011

"Slow, down-tempo rhythms have defined Yob’s past catalog. Don’t expect that to change; however, 'Atma' shows the band kicking the pace up a notch or two."

Since reuniting after a hiatus, Oregon outfit Yob has put in its bid as America’s reigning kings of stoner/doom. After nearly a decade of releases, the group has taken their THC-tarred sludge on the road, thus making a name for the band during a time when this form of music is at its peak in popularity. “Atma,” the band’s sixth full-length recording, shows them seeking to ride this wave of success, hoping to build this wave to tsunami-sized heights.

Slow, down-tempo rhythms have defined Yob’s past catalog. Don’t expect that to change; however, “Atma” shows the band kicking the pace up a notch or two. The short tracks, and I use the word “short” loosely, clock in between seven and nine minutes. Here, the group breaks down the song into two parts, concentrating on a single riff. They add and subtract from this riff or theme, often charging their batteries for a “fast” ending. The longer songs contain several themes. These themes may seem redundant after a while, but a closer listen will reveal subtle changes.

Guitarist Mike Scheidt creates massive, granular guitar riffs. “Prepare The Ground” and the title track ushers in the album with mammoth-striding guitar rhythms. In the case of the former track, the trio doesn’t work this sound to death, pushing the pace around the 1:30 mark, before returning to the same theme (enhanced theme), but with the type of gusto ending one would expect from High on Fire. The title track switches stances around the two-minute mark. At this point, an open chord rings out to signify the churning, sandy riff that comprises the rest of the track. This muffled tone plays like a slow speed metal rhythm—Slayer on ludes.

With “Atma,” the group also instills a lot of vibe. The sixteen-minute epic “Before We Dreamed of Two” starts on a meditative note featuring “ohm” producing guitar harmonies. The last five minutes of this track depends on doom-laden chords that hang in the air, like the album’s cover depicting dripping rays from the eclipsed moon.

“Adrift in the Ocean” also follows in a similar fashion to the cover art. During the softer moments, the vocal and guitar melodies have an underwater quality akin to the ocean adorning the cover. Sound effects create a fog horn-like noise on this track. The title track places the listener in the rain, where a bell fades in, its clang magnifying near to the point of leaving a taste of iron in the listener’s mouth.

Vocally, “Atma” balances harsh and clean voices. Scheidt possesses a throat that falls somewhere between Neurosis’ Scott Kelly and Clutch’s Neil Fallon. Often, he assumes a higher pitch and envelops his voice in psychedelic effects. Rather than creating migraine-causing screams like so many singers in the sludge arena, Scheidt finds that accessible balance.

The guitar work on “Atma” is probably the first facet most listeners will notice. These riffs are gigantic and seem constructed in a gravel pit. After hearing the same riff repeatedly, the album may appear trite. In that regard, “Atma” definitely requires several close listens. It also requires a certain mood. Once understanding sets in, “Atm emerges as the band’s finest hour, an otherworldly journey.

Highs: "Atma" features crushing guitars and dreamy ambiance.

Lows: The album may seem redundant.

Bottom line: An epic album that requires several listens and a certain mood.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)