"Time to wake up," intones Alan Watts at the onset of Clearing the Path to Ascend, the latest full-length from Oregon doom- metal masters Yob.
“Time to wake up,” intones Alan Watts at the onset of Clearing the Path to Ascend, the latest full-length from Oregon doom- metal masters Yob.
The line, spoken by the late British-born author/philosopher, resonated strongly with band singer/guitarist Mike Scheidt, who found himself struggling with a host of personal demons and eager to begin anew as the musicians entered into the process of amassing material for a new album. In a 2014 interview with Vice, he opened up about everything from his divorce to the process of being weaned off psych meds — issues that informed the darker pull of tracks like the tar-black “In Our Blood.” But, much as its title suggests, Clearing the Path to Ascend refuses to remain earthbound, steadily building to the comparatively weightless album-closer “Marrow,” which spirals into the heavens over the course of 18-plus glorious minutes, like a multi-ton passenger aircraft gradually attaining liftoff.
“I try to write lyrics from a place where they are digging into the darker edge of it, but there’s always an openness and a feeling of hope in [the music], because that’s what I want,” said Scheidt, now in his mid-40s, who joins his bandmates for a concert at Ace of Cups on Wednesday, March 18. “I approach the songs in such a way that you’re not wallowing in it, and it never really feels like opening some old wound.”
Scheidt’s mindset was shaped, at least in part, by the punk and metal acts he absorbed as a teenager, particularly larger-than-life bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
“Metal had this triumphant warrior power to it. Listen to Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. Those songs were not about how depressed they were or how dark everything was. They were warriors. And they were winning,” Scheidt said, who first picked up a guitar at 15 after encountering Celtic Frost (“That was the first time I was like, ‘I have to learn how to play that song,’” he said). “Being a teenage kid and feeling like you're out of control, the music felt really empowering.”
Scheidt’s aims with Yob are far more modest, however, due in part to the music’s intensely personal nature, and he speaks of making personal connections with listeners rather than emitting chest-out battle cries to the planet at-large.
“Of course the world is crazy, and it's getting crazier all the time, but I'm not here to preach to anybody. I'm just working on myself because the clearer I am and the more grounded I am, the better I can be for anyone around me,” said Scheidt, who described himself as an average musician that transcended his modest skillset by throwing “the passion at it.” “What motivates me is still being alive, and still having a nervous system. There are still things that are beautiful and strike me, and there are still things that hurt. And as long as those things are going along, I'll always have something to write about.”
Photo courtesy of Yob