And so returneth the mesmerizing doom outfit Yob with Atma, their second album for pioneering Canadian label Profound Lore. Their first, The Great Cessation, was released in 2009 after they reformed following several years of inactivity. Cessation deservedly sat atop plenty of best-of lists for that year and was a mammoth, hypnotizing album, a very welcome slab of churning dirges and sweeping riffs that curved towards the darkly contemplative side. New release Atma continues in a similar vein (at least where the heaviness is concerned) but main man singer/guitarist Mike Scheidt—whose vocals have taken on some fantastic new fluctuating dynamics—has upped the psychedelic component to create some flawless 21st century doom-laden space-rock.
Comprised of five elongated sluggish numbers, Atma lurches about the heavier end of the musical spectrum with expansive, almost post-rock styled arrangements, which combine sludgy downtempo riffs with an esoterically tinged theme and incredible, colossal, crushing tones.
Yob are out there on their own really, providing something that is both transcendental and pulverizing in equal measure. Atma is the kind of album made for lying back and listening to—although I imagine it would be something else altogether live (bordering on the spiritual on the right night). But as I live In New Zealand, and we’re not likely to see Yob down here anytime soon, it’s probably best appreciated by kicking back, firing-up, or indulging in whatever neuron-charging pursuits you use to open up that third eye.
Every song on the album has plenty of shadowy, mind-bending elements, blended with syrupy riffs to ensure things remain captivating. But it’s Atma’s two longest songs that provide the best head-shaking moments as the thick grooves collide with the hallucinatory pre-release promises. The 16 minutes of “Before We Dreamed of Two” and the 13-minute closer, “Adrift in the Ocean”, bring the psychedelic vibe to the forefront. Scheidt’s guitar work (and guest vocals from Scott Kelly) lay down a bed of interweaving throbbing atmospherics; haunting, almost ambient passages; and creeping predatory riffs, only to blow it all apart with thundering crescendos, howling vocals and enough emotional athletics to leave you breathless.
There’s a primal, instinctual vibe to Atma, especially where the runniness of the album’s firmament is cut with guitar lines that bring harmony to the proceedings. It’s here, in the drawn back philosophical passages, that Atma makes your heart soar, and while I’m not entirely sure Yob would thank me for referring to them as ‘space-rock’, there is a huge cosmic component to the album that’s undeniable. Sure, the band are soaked in primordial doom-laden murkiness, but this is essentially a very forward-thinking album, taking the field of emotive, heavy, introspective rock into some fresh pastures where everyone else is simply a follower.
Atma is going to be topping plenty of best-of lists for 2011, there’s no doubt about that. If you’ve heard any of Yob’s previous albums then you know what to expect—astute, always challenging, free-ranging doom from the underground. For the uninitiated, you’re about to encounter something that has the potential to shake the foundations of what you expect from the world of weighty meditative rock. Who knows where Yob is heading to next, but wherever they’re going, you’d be a fool not to follow.