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Sleeping in Samsara (RIP YOB)
by Mark Hensch

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A fond farewell to YOB, may they rest in peace.

In 1996, few people could have guessed that Eugene, Oregon would one day be the epicenter for an earthquake so vast in scope it would shake the doom metal scene to its very foundations. That catalclysmic shaking was that of YOB, a power trio whom would go on to make some of the most fervently revered doom in recent years. 

On January 14th, 2006, founding member Mike Scheidt announced that the band would no longer exist. As news of the demise spread, many expressed sadness, loss, and gratitude. I for one felt all three. On the one hand, I was sad to see one of the best kept secrets in music hang up their instruments and ride into the sunset. On the other hand, I was damn grateful I was able to hear this music and follow the band on its journey, for what an amazing trip it has been! Much as the band made it a lyrical theme to explore the passage of time, I felt like I had years with a band I cherish (and I did) yet hardly knew them at all (I wasn't there at Genesis folks).

So it is that I offer unto you the readers this memorial. It is for all of YOB, past and present. It is for fans old and new. It is for myself, being the selfish YOB fanatic I have been for about two years now. It is a labor of love for anyone and everyone who was able to appreciate this band, or may do so in the future. 

As stated previous, YOB was founded by one Mike Scheidt in 1996 Eugene, Oregon. The capable frontman took up both vocal and guitar duties, and YOB was soon rounded out by bassist Lowell Isles and drummer Gabe Morley, both of whom would remain with YOB until 2002. In 2000, years of practice saw the band finally record; the unreleased YOB Demo was handed out like candy at the band's tectonic live shows, and it's three tunes of burly Sabbath worship in the post Sleep age converted many fans.

The 2002 full-length debut Elaborations of Carbon is in my opinion one of few flawless doom metal albums. Effortlessly mixing pulsing sludge, stoned 70's throwback guitar wankery, and some wicked elements of noise, the disc stands out as a critical gem. Jam-packed with choice cuts of doom grandeur, the disc is like a hour long highlight reel. For example, take the opening haymaker combo of "Universe Throb" and "All the Children Forgotten." The former DOES sound like the fluttering heartbeat of the cosmos, whereas the latter hits with an esoteric menace few bands can match. I count "Clear Seeing" as my all-time favorite car cruising song ever, and with its steroid-fueled Sabbath riffs, you should too. Closing track "Asleep in Samsara" is a delicious aphrodisiac and also inspired the title of this article.

In 2003, the band released an album on new label Abstract Sounds, entitled Catharsis. Though I'd hesitate to call it better than other albums (in reality, can a perfect YOB album exist when all of them are so well-crafted?), Catharsis sticks out to me as the place where YOB really stepped into their own. Mixing ambient space-outs with fuzzy hippie guitars and crushing walls of sound, the disc also saw YOB starting their trademark practice of releasing gigantic songs. "Aeons" buzzes in with interstellar menace before kicking your pathetic Earthling ass, and "Ether" is a doom rocker that should provide a quicker YOB fix for stalwarts and noobs alike. The finishing touch of "Catharsis" is like twenty-four minutes of bliss, and few albums have better endings than this one. Few albums that is, save for 2004's The Illusion of Motion. The recording was put out by the most stable YOB lineup to date, that of Scheidt and newcomers Isamu Sato on bass and Travis Foster on drums. Many were wondering what YOB would throw out next. To further complicate matters, the typically mainstream label Metal Blade Records signed the band amidst much fan-fare and head-scratching in the doom subculture, with many picking sides. Once the album was actually released, no logical naysayers remained to accuse YOB of jumping the shark, and Motion now sits astride many personal favorite lists. 

"Ball of Molten Lead" has one of the most sonically pleasing intro riffs ever, and "Exorcism of the Host" is a doom opus that could put Electric Wizard to shame. The short and gritty chaos of "Doom #2" is ironically the shortest YOB track in existence, and "The Illusion of Motion" is a song my words can do no justice. Purely untouchable by mere words, I'd say The Illusion of Motion is strictly divine, and must have for doom fanatics everywhere. Despite the surprise of many after hearing of the Metal Blade deal, the label promoted YOB very well and in 2005 the lineup again entered studios to record The Unreal Never Lived. The disc was an ethereal and often mystical wandering through the stars, and saw Scheidt outdo himself in the vocal department. 

The album received almost universally glowing reviews, and I say that few releases are a better swansong than this. Tracks like the raw "Quantum Mystic," the expansive "Grasping Air," and the blackhole void of "The Mental Tyrant" are top-tier songs by a band in their prime. Unlike most of their metal peers, YOB did not leave irrelevant or stagnant; this was a band in its prime and with plenty of potential still left.

Perhaps this is why so many were shocked to hear of the band's split. What's done is done, and all we can do now as music fans is respect and revere. With reflection, I have come to recognize this is the only way YOB could have ended anyways. YOB were such a fantastic doom band as they represented the very nature of doom; the realization as a man that you are mortal and doomed to die. With this in mind, perhaps YOB were so good at what they did as they knew their modus apparatus of music was but temporary and as such, poured all they had into this fantastic music. Again, as a fan, I could not ask for more. Here's to YOB, and thank you for all the music you gave to us. Rest in peace, and stay doomed.

YOB existed from 1996-2006, and are a favorite of the author. Please take this article for a biased tribute to a well-respected band, and, if it impressed you, check out YOB. It is one of the smartest things you can do as a music fan in this or any year...YOB is also survived by Scheidt, who intends to carry on in the doom genre with a new band AGE, and who also has several tiny side-projects.


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