YOB are well past the point of being “established” and into the point of being “revered”. Two decades into a career which has produced seven acclaimed albums, the latest of which in 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend arguably being the best yet, YOB are at a stage where a tour will attract as many genuine feverish devotees who adore and worship this band as it will more casual observers.
Before we reach this though in Manchester’s Ruby Lounge, proceedings are opened up by Liverpool’s IRON WITCH. The band have existed within the UK underground for a solid amount of time, putting their name to various splits, demos and singles like the charming Hangover Suicide 7″, but a lack of a full-length has hampered their progress somewhat. In 2016 though that debut full-length is finally surfacing, with the band keen to capitalise on what opportunities A Harrowed Dawn might bring. This renewed momentum is clear on stage, IRON WITCH delivering what is undoubtedly the most horrible set of the night in the nicest possible way. Their lurching sludge straight out of the EYEHATEGOD school is spiteful and ugly, frontman Dave Mould doubled over as he sounds less like someone uttering coherent phrases and more someone choking on their own spit, which only adds to their deathly vibe.
BLACK COBRA, who themselves have been present on the scene for almost the length of time that tonight’s headliners have, offer something less putrid but considerably more wild. Their riffs undoubtedly put them in the stoner and doom sphere but there’s a hardcore-tinged aggression to BLACK COBRA that makes them far more visceral than most of their contemporaries. This is even more impressive given that there is only two of them, the guitarist and drummer making a gutsy enough noise between them to match the many more-legged horror that dwelled on stage before them. The frantic nature of a song like Obliteration almost gives off the feel of watching a grindcore band who happen to have BONGRIPPER’s guitar tone at points, but these are offset by more familiar riffing and flowing grooves that allow for something to be latched onto before returning to beating you over the head once more.
Mike Scheidt has spent the support sets at the back of the venue happily watching his tourmates and taking photos with any fans who approach him, and by the time he and the rest of YOB take to the stage both he and the crowd are thoroughly limbered up and raring to go. Their music may be longwinded but the effect is instantaneous, the room and all within it being dragged straight into YOB’s sonic universe as the building chords and marching drums of Ball of Molten Load begin to escalate and eventually crash down and heads begin to sway as one. YOB’s music is like being tied to a rock floating through space, observing with wonder the desolate wastes and mesmeric nebulae only to have that peace interrupted by asteroids and debris impacting upon its surface.
Scheidt’s vocals take on a whole other savagery live, battling for room in the dense air, and his more melodic moments remain alien and enticing. Scheidt himself is a whirling powerhouse, flashing an endearing look of glee to the audience one second and transforming into a mammoth ball of hair beating his guitar into smithereens the next. He’s backed by one of the most accomplished rhythm sections in doom, a genre which hinges so much on what can be made of the space in between notes as much as the notes themselves. The almost tribal percussion parts of Adrift in the Ocean and The Lie That is Sin are as hypnotic as the twisted crush of Atma, and the rumbling bass is enough to displace vital organs. This is a band with all the bludgeoning caveman power of any name you could throw out there, but with all the intelligence and spirituality of something so much more. Nowhere is this more evident than in Marrow, undoubtedly one of the best doom songs of the last ten years and a total wrecking ball to the emotions, the guitar positively weeping before rising and soaring into cathartic, life-affirming sunlight. Their records are mind-expanding as it is but the live environment is where YOB truly stake their claim as one of the most special bands we have who should be cherished. YOB are a marvel of what 21st century metal is capable of, and as they bow out with the churning mass of Burning the Altar, it’s impossible to ignore the untameable desire to watch them do it all over again.
Check out our exclusive photo gallery of the night’s action in Manchester from photographer Sabrina Ramdoyal:
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