Separating YOB’s music from its frontman is like subtracting volume from their stage show. Vocalist/guitarist Michael Scheidt’s spirit is deeply entwined with YOB’s elemental doom. When his soul aches, his riffs dredge pain from a bottomless sludge pit. But YOB’s albums mostly unfold like a storm rolling over their neighboring Willamette forest. The trees can only surrender to the tempest. Under dark skies, the gales may bend the branches. But once the storm passes, soft moss and dormant flowers sprout from the rain.
Our Raw Heart marks the eighth full-length from the Oregonians, and the first since Scheidt’s harrowing triumph over acute diverticulitis. At over 73 minutes long, it’s their most monumental release yet. In many ways, it feels like a return to the days when YOB released a new record every year. Opener “Ablaze” ignites with a discordant edge, reminiscent of “Grasping Air” from The Unreal Never Lived. That early album’s influence seeps into “The Screen,” with its initial crunch echoing a mid-epic riff from “The Mental Tyrant.” The slow-burn initiation and eventual exhale of “Lungs Reach” would feel welcome on The Illusion of Motion.
But beginning with “Beauty in Falling Leaves,” Our Raw Heart’s second half conjures the transcendent spirit of its predecessor’s “Marrow.” Later, the title track’s leisurely 14 minutes feel like pure sunshine after Scheidt’s thorned bellows in “Original Face.” For as bleak as things seemed in Scheidt’s hospital room, Our Raw Heart parts the window curtain to reveal the pastoral sprawl beyond. In interviews after his hospital release, Scheidt admitted he wears more colorful outfits since his recovery. Boasting the greens of storm-nurtured grass and autumnal orange, Our Raw Heart is a vibrant example of healing through doom.
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