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The Great Cessation Frances Morgan , August 18th, 2009 11:17

Proof positive that getting back together isn't always a bad idea, longstanding Oregon stoner trio Yob ride out again two years after quietly splitting up, and damn near flatten all in their path. The Great Cessation – tellingly released on one of the most consistently exciting metal labels of recent years – is the work of a band surveying the solid doom foundation laid down by their paradigmatic 2003 release Catharsis, and deciding to build something unexpectedly vast and bleakly psychedelic on top of it.

'Burning The Altar' nods to Om's desert metal with some hushed, Eastern-scale breakdowns, but the track's dense, grainy texture is anything but meditative; and nor is the roar of guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt, who bursts into earshot with an eerie, roughened howl, followed by a sinister, one-note chant. Scheidt's voice – which can morph from stentorian bellow to a distinctive vibrato whine reminiscent of both Rob Halford and Burning Witch's Edgy 59 – is possibly Yob's most potent ingredient: monotonous, lumpen vocal performances, frequently buried (for their own good) in the mix, are endemic in the more experimental wing of the doom genre, and there's a exhilarating fluidity, as well as a disquieting shiver, to Scheidt's galloping verses in 'The Lie That Is Sin'.

Producer Sanford Parker, member of Minsk and Buried At Sea, knob-twiddler to Nachtmystium and Unearthly Trance among others, and formidable analogue synth-hound, creates a vertiginous sense of distance and motion between Scheidt's higher and lower registers, manipulating and extending any nuance that could result in psychic unease with distorted doubletracking, phasing and tape echo, revelling in the possibilities of noise and interference that lurk behind every riff. As always, Parker's mix is impressively mobile and synergistic, shifting perspective and emphasis as if part of the band himself. 'Silence Of Heaven', the album's centrepiece, showcases his knack for almost industrial soundscaping – but, crucially, well within the context of Scheidt, drummer Travis Foster and new bassist Aaron Reiseberg's ideas and interplay. Foster's austere momentum leaves ample space for guitar and bass to judder and smear into one another with sliding, almost atonal intervals that occasionally coalesce into darkly purposeful harmony. Around this, Scheidt's voice wails and refracts, while another distorted, radio-like vocal part spits and chokes beneath, clamouring for attention. By the end of the track a kind of abject chorale has been set up, with multiple Scheidts retching, booming and growling like lost souls in a bottomless pit.

Yet there's something fittingly redemptive about The Great Cessation; a sense of purpose perhaps best realised on the title track. Initially reflective and soulful in the manner of Boris' 'Flower Sun Rain', the song's force and weight increases incrementally, the melody retaining a heavy, trancelike simplicity while the overall texture becomes denser and more complex. It is beautifully played and paced, and quite worthy of the overused adjective 'epic' – and Parker busts out one of his synths for a guitar/oscillators duel right at the end. It's a fitting outro for an album on which Yob's potential for monolithic disquietude seems braver, weirder and more fully realised than ever before.

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