Welcome back friends!
At least, I hope you’re returning after the terrifying journey into madness the last album I shared with you should have taken you on. If you missed it I hope you’ll check out my review of Doom II by Witness after this second chapter of Dark Inspiration. While I will not be bringing you deep, dark doom every week, I thought since we’re still getting to know each other, I’d share with you an album that has inspired me more than almost any other. This album has not only inspired the dark thoughts I pour out onto the page but also inspires me to continue tapping away at the keyboard daily.
So strap on those headphones… Today let’s take a journey into possibly my favorite album ever written, Yob’s 2014 opus, Clearing The Path To Ascend.
There may be nothing I love more in this life than discovering new art, falling in love with it, and having my thoughts explode in directions I never knew they could. Whether that art takes the form of a painting, a sculpture, a movie, a book, or a song/album makes no difference at all. What matters is, does this piece of art touch my soul in some way?
I began writing in 2012 (at 39 years young) and that is also when I put a major effort into searching for new music that would take my mind to “that space”. The space where, not only did the words flow out of me, but it also forced my mind to go on wonderful adventures. I was becoming an artist for the first time in my life. I say that meekly and humbly. I am not comparing myself to the greats nor claiming to be a great artist. However, I do the best I can. So now, with the stage set, let’s dive into what, for me, is one the greatest albums ever made.
Clearing The Path To Ascend is the seventh full length album from Eugene, Oregon’s ultimate doom trio of mastermind, lyricist, guitarist, and vocalist Mike Scheidt along with drummer Travis Foster and bassist Aaron Reiseberg. I consider this album to be an absolute masterpiece so I’ll do my best to hold my gushing adjectives to a minimum. Yes, I am a completely biased reviewer on this and, probably, every review I ever offer you here. This was actually my first Yob album but I’ve since acquired their entire catalog of music, something you’ll do as well if this album touches you as it has me.
The opening track, In Our Blood, had me hooked before the first note ever played. It begins with a sample that simply states, “It’s time to wake up.” You would expect an explosion of sound after such an opening proclamation but instead you hear a somber quiet guitar riff from Scheidt that sets the tone and the mood that carries throughout the album. When Foster and Reiseberg finally burst in you are well on your way through a hypnotic journey that will last for over an hour with just four songs!
When Scheidt’s vocals finally kick in after three minutes of aural assault they are ghostly as though calling out from the great beyond. Scheidt’s lyrical poetry is driven home as he bounces between spectral crooning and harsh growls that only serve to draw you further in. If you read through the lyrics you see, that beyond the hypnotic nature of the music, they are quite spiritual. This point is emphasized with another sample from British philosopher Alan Watts about three quarters of the way through the song. It is a beautiful and simple thought, “What is reality? Obviously, no one can say because it isn’t words. It isn’t material, that’s just an idea. It isn’t spiritual – that’s also an idea. Time to wake up!” The sample ends with a bang heightened by a soul shaking roar from Scheidt as the song bursts back to life.
I have an admission to make here. By this point of the album, before the nearly seventeen minute opening track ends, I am often so immersed in the music I don’t even notice when In Our Blood ends and Nothing To Win begins. This generally continues through Unmask The Spectre until Marrow begins which is the final song on the album.
This has nothing to do with the quality of the middle two tracks. In fact they are outstanding. It’s the hypnotic effect this album has on me. Nothing To Win is a powerful song that blazes with a speed you don’t expect out of a doom album. It, along with Unmask The Spectre have an almost psychedelic effect that has me swaying along plus I’m often writing to this album which causes it to drift to the background. When I hear Marrow begin and I’m like, “Oh shit, did I listen to the whole thing already?!” The answer is always, “Yes, idiot. Yes, you did.” Hence, I’ll skip to album closer and one of my favorite songs of all-time, Marrow.
I’ve heard Mike Scheidt say he wrote this song for his daughter and it somehow made an already beautiful song even more beautiful to me. Marrow is a song about searching for the meaning of your individual life and life collectively. I think we’ve all asked ourselves at some point if all that we do and have done is worth it. We search for a deeper meaning to our lives as we get older. We dig deep into the marrow but is there an even a deeper meaning to it all for us to find? Makes you think doesn’t it? When we get to the end of our lives time doesn’t stop. It simply goes on without us. Scheidt sings, “Time will crawl to the sea / Time will fall inside the dream.” Quite a beautiful way to look at it if you ask me.
I think it’s what draws me to this song, to this album and to Yob. It makes me think . . . no, forces me to think. Isn’t that what good art is supposed to do? Great art is different for all of us. The things that make you think are different from what does it for me. Maybe you are inspired by Madonna or something. And, you know what? That’s okay. Don’t ever let someone tell you your art has no value. If it moves you then it is valuable. Clearing The Path To Ascend and the entirety of Yob’s musical catalog move me and inspire me. So, if you’ve never listened to them I hope I’ve encouraged you to do so now.
If you’re not into the fuzzed out sound of doom then I’ve got a special treat for you. Here is an acoustic version of Marrow that I absolutely love.
Hopefully, you’ve learned a little about me today and, more importantly, I hope I’ve helped you discover one of the best bands on the planet. I’ve written more with this album as my soundtrack than just about any other album in my collection. It is my hope it can inspire some dark art out of you as well. Feel free to share, your art is important too.
And finally… Stay Positive & Make Good Art.