By Earthdog

In my humble opinion, Yob have released two near-perfect albums, 'Catharsis' in 2003 and 'The Great Cessation' in 2009. These two near-masterpieces were as close to perfect as you can get but both had very minor flaws that were just enough to stop them from scoring the perfect 10/10. Now move forward and Yob have done almost the impossible and are about to release their best ever album... indeed, it is the perfect 10. I admit there is going to be a certain bias in my reviewing of this album, I have been a huge fan since 2002 but even I wasn't expecting something as good as 'Atma.' I will take it one step further and say I think in years to come, Yob will get name-checked as one of the world's greatest heavy bands of all time but in my mind they are there already. Their influence on other bands has been steadily creeping in for the last few years and that will only increase as more people become aware of their brilliance. What is interesting is the band split up for about 2 years after the release of the also excellent 'The Unreal Never Lived' but since they have returned, they have got even stronger as players and writers and 'Atma' is the absolute pinnacle of their work. I hate to belabor this but this album is SO GOOD, I doubt if they will ever be able to match it. Sorry in advance to the band for putting that pressure on them but I am in awe of this release.

Yob has always had a penchant for lengthy, extended doom epics and this album is no exception. There are 5 tracks ranging from 7 minutes to 16 minutes but not many bands can produce epics that flow as well as these 5 masterpieces of doom-laden groove-based metallic ear-candy. The sound of this album is monstrous; the low-end assault is so heavy it threatens to destroy the speakers at loud volumes and this is certainly not recommended to small computer-speaker set-ups... it is just as likely to shoot the speaker cones right into your unsuspecting face. So sound and production wise, everything is ideal for a ear-bashing sonic-trip of the most damaging proportions but what about the songs? The album begins with 'Prepare The Ground' which shows immediately that Mike Scheidt and Yob have reached a kind of melodic maturity. Not that this is that melodic but compared to earlier tunes; this track and others does display a stylistic progression while still keeping the classic Yob trademarks churning along at full-throttle. 'Prepare The Ground' starts with a series of chugging, monolithic strikes and continues to build even heavier and more dynamically diverse as it progresses. This lumbering beast of a song is punishing but it is also slightly weird in as much as at loud volumes it really doesn't sound all that heavy, certainly not as heavy as some of their early tunes. But turn it up loud and it becomes a different, more aggressive animal all together. It is interesting that this album and this song in particular seem to have a completely feel  at different volumes; it is the same song of course but it takes on a new life once cranked up. Most bands songs sound the same at all volume levels, it is not the case here.....My advice, turn it loud for full effect.

The slow-burning monolithic crawl continues with the title-track and it is more plodding than the tune that opens the album. 'Atma' is a composition that is very much a total Yob song. The track wouldn't have been out-of-place of any of their earlier albums but this one has a twist to it. The track is stylistically complex, both musically and thematically as it is based around the Buddhist concept of the spiritual self. Musically it is also thought-provoking, interesting stuff with the bass and drums taking most of the load before it takes a back seat to Scheidt's guitar explorations that are positively unique and mesmerizing. In keeping with the theme of the piece, there is a Eastern-flavor to the guitar solo and Scheidt's vocals are also multi-dimensional going from growls to an affected vocal which sounds like he is singing in a far-away tunnel. I know that is a pretty lame explanation but I can not describe it any other way. What Scheidt does at times is a take on a rather brave 'falsetto' kind of voice which normally would be a disaster in any other kind of band like this but with Yob it works to perfection and plays as a great counterpoint to the filthy riff-work.

Now for the doom-purists out there, 'Atma' has plenty on tap including the monster 16 minute masterpiece titled 'Before We Dreamed Of Two.' Yob have always been known and loved for their varied approach to doom from the Saint Vitus tinged traditional doom to the screeching sludgy Iron Monkey-ish kind of passages and 'Before We Dreamed Of Two' has them all in the one epic piece. This track features one of the two guest appearances from Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly and that in itself should be enough to get doom fans salivating. This piece is more-or-less split into two halves with the first being a monolithic, staggering slow-burner only to slow-down to an even more painful, plodding crawl at around the 7 to 8 minute mark. In terms of atmosphere, this is Yob's most gripping tune yet but as the first half comes to an almost slow-motion pause, the tracks second half is beyond description. It gets hypnotically minimalist in the guitar department and that is when Scott Kelly makes his appearance and the effect is mind-shattering magic. I have always thought that Kelly was the best thing about Neurosis but this is perhaps the his finest moment ; pity it didn't come on a Neurosis album but it is on an Yob album and that is even better in my book. 'Before We Dreamed of Two' is like a Rush or a Yes epic in as much as it has so much scope and depth, that at first you have to replay the first half  of the song because the second half leaves you so rattled you can't remember how the song started. This is an incredible tune that leaves you speechless.

In many ways the track that follows, 'Upon The Sight Of The Other Shore' sets the album back-to-land and gets back to how the whole 'Atma' experience started; more straight-forward and more typical of Yob as a band. This track is the odd track out on 'Atma' as it sounds out of context to the rest of the album but it is certainly not a disappointment; it is just different to what the rest of the album has to offer. Once you get used to the mood change of the piece, though, this is another killer track but its place in the albums running order is perhaps a little unkind. Any track following such a flawless epic such as 'Before We Dreamed Of Two,' would sound under-done by comparison so if there is a weak-link in the album, it would be this tune but weak by this album standards is pure gold material compared to 90% of other albums released this year. What does happen though is the last couple of minutes of 'Upon the Sight of the Other Shore' provides a perfect lead-in to the albums closing track, another epic titled 'Adrift In The Ocean.'

'Adrift In The Ocean' is the slowest moving piece on the album and I am talking about in terms of arrangement, nothing to do with the tempo. Yob has always been a band that require a fair deal of patience, they are not the kind of band to burst into song with an infectious riff or vocal right from the get-go and 'Adrift In The Ocean' is a very slow-moving vehicle in terms of structure. The song spends a good 5 minutes getting going and building in atmosphere and heaviness and then it is another two minutes before any vocals come in so yes, bring a lunch for this one. The thing is , it still keeps you mesmerized and glued to its atmospheric build-up so when it does finally hit, it is an incredibly powerful force that leaves you floored so the wait is worth it. What rings true about this track is it is nothing new for Yob and they have done this kind of track many times before but when it ain't broke, don't fix it. After the 13 minutes of this closer and the 55 minutes of 'Atma' comes to a stop, the feeling is this album is a triumph for not only Yob but for doom-metal as a genre as well.

'Atma' is doom, it is sludge, it is psychedelic and it is progressively melodic but it is also a heavy, taxing album to listen to. Yob fans will instantly dig it, that is a certainly. The album  is like all Yob albums really; it blends the old-school traditional doom with the more modern rawer take on the genre while injecting something unique at the same time and even though some passages are agonizingly slow in progressing; if you focus on it, you will get taken away with the atmosphere of this album. On first spin of the album, I knew this was something special but by the fifth and sixth spin, I knew it was more than that.  So let's see, can anyone beat it? Time will tell but for now, this album is overwhelmingly great. What more can I it in August!!! .............10/10