The Agit Reader

Underground Arts, Philadelphia, June 29

July 8th, 2018  |  by Brian O'Neill


With Bell Witch being forced to cancel at the last minute due to a medical emergency, Black Urn got bumped into the main support slot. The band self-identifies as a sludgy doom entity, and as such winds up on almost every Philly show as the local support. The classification is not entirely inaccurate especially considering that other like-minded bands incorporate outside influences into doom. The thing is not many of them bring groove metal into their sound (Black Urn even covered Alice In Chains’ “Junkhead” on a recent split), and this unique facet is what sets the band apart.

It’s mostly drummer Tim Lewis whose tempos break the stoner speed limit with breakdown parts that seem equally out of place. Vocalist John Jones also has a hoarse mook metal scream that is the antithesis of doom. However, the twin-guitar attack of Jordan Pierce and Ryan Manley brings to mind traditional metal at its finest, rekindling memories of the days when such distinctions didn’t much matter.

Of course, Yob is also a study of contrasts, though nobody doubts Mike Scheidt’s bonafides. He went so far as to almost die last year after emergency surgery for diverticulitis. There are few things more doom metal than cheating the devil.

The album spawned from that ultimate survival, Our Raw Heart, covers a lot of things: his penance for past sins, his thankfulness for a chance at redemption, and his embracing the life that he previously took for granted. He takes his mere survival as a triumph; these shows to support it are his victory lap.

You could see how alive Scheidt is. The way he let the feedback shatter his body while he pounded his chest and arched his back to look to the ceiling with his eyes closed in metallic meditation during the intro to “The Lie That Is Sin” was just as poignant as his screams during it. Not a moment was taken for granted, not a second wasted.

That track came from 2009’s The Great Cessation, the first album with the current lineup. Although Yob is always thought of as Scheidt’s creation, it’s telling that the band goes back no further during the set. The rhythm section of drummer Travis Foster and bassist Aaron Rieseberg are the beat behind the heart Scheidt wears on his sleeve (literally, as is the case on the new album artwork). The military cadence and precision of “The Screen” and the psychedelic backlash backwash of “Adrift in the Ocean” are markedly different, seemingly incapably so, without their contributions.

That psychedelic haze and the spirituality of Yob that was New Age-y even before being mortally tested—the band’s own website URL reads Yob Is Love—has caused others to refer to the band as hippies. It’s not entirely inaccurate especially seeing promo shots with his peaceful bespectacled gaze. But remember that in the ‘60s Blue Cheer was considered too out there. In a 2004 interview in Lollipop Magazine, Scheidt conceded, “Hippies cower at our shows. They’re not happy.”

Yob may be love, but Yob is a metal band. Unapologetically so. Expect anything else and they will harsh that mellow real fast.

The set closed with the title track of the new album, about a quarter hour of the most uplifting, regenerative doom metal ever created. It was emphatic, epiphanic elation. It was spiritual in every way imaginable. It was so good the band then didn’t go through the ritual of leaving the stage, realizing the futility of it. Instead, they “encored” with the 13-minute closer “Burning the Altar,” which was just as intense, with a dramatic Middle Eastern flair that showed Yob has been doing this all along.

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