Like metal but not heard of YOB? You’re missing out on one of the most innovative, brilliant bands making music right now – let’s get that fixed…
I have sprawling love affairs with many bands. Some of these relationships go back decades, others are much newer. But I am always on the hunt for new artists and bands. I listen to A LOT of new music but I seldom come across bands or artists that feel seminal and/or important – most are just good, or fun, or talented.
YOB is different. YOB is one of those bands, like TOOL or Rush, that kind of defies generalization. Yes, YOB is a metal band. Yes, YOB is a doom band. And, yes, YOB has elements of sludge too. But YOB is also much, much more than this too – they have something extraordinarily special in music: they’re not only unique but incredibly creative.
I first saw YOB many, many moons ago – circa 2005. It was a small club show and they were the support band. I wasn’t expecting much when a three-piece walked on stage but within 20 seconds of the band opening, I was flawed. They were loud, huge-sounding, beautiful, intricate. And Mike Scheidt, YOB’s guitarist and singer, is perhaps one of the most talented musicians I have ever seen work.
My shock and awe at what I was beholding were further compounded by the fact I had no idea who this guy was or what his band was called. I asked my buddy, he told me they’re called YOB. And in that second, it all clicked: I knew these guys would be added to my own, personal Pantheon of Greats – my list of all my absolute favorite bands.
Mike Scheidt sings – his voice a unique mix of gravel and honey – while doing things with his guitar that I have never seen before. I was kind of memorized watching him; his choice of chords, his phrasings – everything was just weird and bizarre. But it all sounded so good, so unique, so original. It was heavy, of course, but there is a dynamic at play YOB’s music that is sorely lacking in many of its contemporaries and peers.
The Two Distinct YOB Eras
YOB was never meant to be a big band. Mike Scheidt has said as much in interviews. He just wanted to create music, play a few shows, and live a normal life as a father and a husband. YOB first hit the scene during 1996 and that incarnation of the band lasted until 2006 – this was when I first encountered them.
Mike Scheidt announced the band was splitting up in 2006, after almost 10 years. I remember reading the press release. I was gutted. I knew this band had greatness in them. I knew their first few records, while impressive, hadn’t quite matched up to what their latent potential was. This does happen, though. Plenty of amazing bands split before hitting their stride (bands like ISIS). Being in a band – especially a metal band – is a tough way to live.
Mercifully, YOB reformed in 2008 and continues to this day. And just like I’d assumed, the band’s best work was yet to come. The first new LP from YOB during its second phase was The Great Cessation, a brilliant album that began to show just what this amazing three-piece was capable of. Next came Atma, its first truly incredible record. Then Clearing The Path To Ascend, my personal favorite, and finally its latest album, Our Raw Heart.
Mike Scheidt has always been at the forefront, however, in the driving seat. It is his vision that has evolved the YOB that was stated in 1996 to the YOB that we have today. His influences, his playing style – it really is something else – and his tone and overall philosophy are what make YOB not only a great band but something I feel we’ll be talking about in the decades to come – like The Beatles, Tool, Radiohead. Special bands.
What’s The Best YOB Album?
For me, the best YOB album is Clearing The Path To Ascend. I love this album more than any of their other ones for purely subjective reasons. It is crushingly heavy but it has moments of such pointed beauty, like in tracks like Marrow, that completely unravel its labeling as just another sludge band.
Clearing The Path To Ascend was a critically acclaimed album; Rolling Stone adored it, as did plenty of other mainstream music rags. And remember: up to this point, YOB was cast as just another sludge/doom band. This album showed the world that, like TOOL or Rush or Mastodon, there was way more depth to YOB’s music.
YOB’s newer records are definitely the best place to start with the band, though, if you’ve never listened to them before. YOB’s first records are great but they lack the maturity, scope, and finesse of its second-era albums, Atma, Clearing The Path To Ascend, and Our Raw Heart. You can hear the potential on its earlier records but YOB didn’t hit its stride, artistically, unlike the release of Atma. From here, the band just got better and better.
We Have To Talk About Mike Scheidt’s Guitar…
After I’d acclimatized myself, about 20 minutes into the show, I started studying YOB’s gear in an attempt to find out how three guys – a guitar, a bass, and a drummer – could create such a massive sound. I’ve seen Slipknot, there are nine people in the band, and YOB made them sound like a two-piece warming up in a practice room.
One of the first things you’ll notice about YOB, if you like guitars, is Mike Scheidt’s ridiculous/amazing/beautiful/monstrous guitar. After leaving the show, I knew two things: I had to find their records and I had to find out what guitar Mike Scheidt played. I did some googling and found it without too much hassle.
Mike Scheidt’s Guitar is a Monson Nomad. Brent Monson developed a new guitar model that used a zebrawood top and featured a 40s style neck (spoiler: they’re huge). Monson asked Scheidt if he wanted to try it and Scheidt immediately fell in love with the Monson Nomad. The Nomad uses Lace Nitro-Hemis pickups.
As for the rest of Mike Scheidt’s rig, here’s the man himself detailing the exact gear he uses to create YOB’s insane guitar sounds:
I have two 4×12 Mammoth Custom Cabinets made by Tom Mucherino, who also plays in the excellent Sea Of Bones. They are the best cabs I’ve ever owned and are stunningly beautiful. For amplification I have Hovercraft Falcon loaded with KT-88’s that absolutely levels. I also have a Reeves Custom Jimmy that is a reproduction of Jimmy Page’s Hiwatt that he used in the early 70’s. Add my Monson Nomad (my favorite guitar ever) and Quantum Mystic pedal…these are things that I cannot do without. I also tour with TC Helicon Voice live pedals. I don’t tour with as much gear as I used to. I used to use two full stacks at every show. I’ve paired it down to give our soundman something to work with and not fight against. Now we consistently have drums and vocals that can be heardMike Scheidt Interview
When is The New YOB Album Coming Out?
YOB’s latest album, Our Raw Heart, came out in 2018. Since then, the band has been touring extensively. COVID saw an end to that, however, in 2020, although YOB is now touring in the United States at this moment, so if they’re playing near you make sure you check them out.
YOB’s latest tour is in support of the re-issue of 2011’s Atma. Here’s a statement from the band on what’s new in the reissue of Atma:
When we first recorded Atma, our aim was to have a raw production, lo-fi and punk, and we did get that sound. Over the years, though, we wondered what it would be like to have Billy Barnett remix Atma, allowing him to give it Gung Ho Studio’s scope and thunder, as he has on The Illusion Of Motion, The Unreal Never Lived, Clearing The Path To Ascend, and Our Raw Heart.”
Due to our busy schedules, this idea sat on the back burner but when the pandemic hit, we had the time to not only approach the project, but approach it with this goal: to keep everything in Jeff Olsen’s amazing raw-punch production while having Billy make it volume-wide and monolithic in detail and space. We’re thrilled with the result and hope you will be, too!
I have no idea when the new YOB album will be coming out but given that the band couldn’t tour in 2020, I’d assume plenty of writing happened. This could mean work on a new album is actively underway. Three to four years between albums is about par for the course with bands like YOB.
Whatever happens, YOB already has plenty of albums to get stuck into if you’re new. My advice? Start with Clearing The Path To Ascend, then Atma, and then Our Raw Heart. They’re all brilliant albums, but that’s the order I would recommend to any newcomers to the band.