The Great Cessation
posted on 7/2009 By:
So, you like it heavy, huh? Heavy enough to make it hard to breathe, or just smashed into a patty of bone, sinew, and offal? I’d make the strong suggestion that The Great Cessation is exactly the fix you’re looking for. If anyone thought for even a brief moment that doom veterans YOB would come out the other side of their disastrous name change to Middian and back by playing the whimpering victims of a cutthroat music industry, then they’d be sadly mistaken. This is the sound of vengeance, collected in five songs. The rumbling, psychedelic catharsis of The Unreal Never Lived, or The Illusion Of Motion is most certainly not being administered in large doses this time around, since this is undoubtedly one of the more infuriated albums you’re going to hear for quite some time to come, much less this year.
YOB don’t make things difficult for their listeners to understand; it’s just a merciless assault that only gives fractional opportunity to catch a breath of stale air (briefly in “The Lie That Is Sin”) before the killing begins again. We’re talking half a step away from pure ugly, except there’s still a certain peculiar grace woven into all of this. “Silence Of Heaven” alone is over nine minutes of dissonant, tortuously methodical dementia that simultaneously, somehow, exudes a sinister vibrancy that must be heard to be understood, and isn’t far removed from the barren churn of SunnO))). The lead-off track “Burning The Altar” is about as painless as it’s gonna’ get, being accessible to unaccustomed ears to a limited degree, jam packed with cool groove, all the while showing a masterful display of the most fundamental and beautiful aspect of great metal. Of course, we’re talking riffs, folks, and a lot of them.
It’s those thundering, potent guitar riffs that collaborate with a brain-jarring rhythm section, which are then topped off by Mike Scheidt’s utterly inhumane vocalizations bringing forth a sound that’s even more expansive than ever, resulting in this nasty, bitter brew. Roars from the void, screams from the depths, with trademark warbling cleans that sound neither cleansing nor comforting are firmly intact and pushed to the breaking point of arguable album highlight “Breathing From The Shallows” a tune that shows YOB indulging a riveting mix of dynamics and oppressive riff heft. Yet as commanding as the first four songs are, the towering 20+ minute conclusion is the band’s crowning glory, that would be the signature monolithic title track to The Great Cessation, and what a monster it is…
Deception is an occasionally seductive weapon of war, so despite its pensive beginning, teeth steadily begin to gnash, grind, and puncture to the point of bloodletting. It’s a heartless tease that starts to show its true face about four minutes in, as a sorrowful Converge-like guitar and sullen vocals float from the mire and eventually bloom into thick power chords, with a pained voice harkening heroin enhanced Mustaine. They sound spent, and nearly defeated, yet as the eleven minute mark rolls around, YOB unleash a final strike, bringing more mass casualties. The combination of steady repetition, calculated build, and powerful restraint closes the album with a sense of total completion, like a death well deserved and fought for, and not one moment of this concluding twenty minutes suffers filler. Scheidt, Reiseberg, and Foster really have given it their all.
The Great Cessation is absolutely exhausting on every level imaginable, and at times makes The Unreal Never Lived sound like a kitten playing with fallen leaves under a tree in autumn by comparison thanks to producer Sanford Parker's magic fingers and ears. I can’t even bring myself to call this “epic” in the classic sense, because there’s no feeling of release, ascension, or reflection at any point throughout the disc. They only want to do damage, and they do so, leaving an inordinate amount of wreckage behind. The troubles with Middian left in the past, and freshly signed to Profound Lore, the rebirth and revitalization of YOB could turn out to be the comeback of the year, and you will never realize how much you missed them until you properly allow this superb hulk to run roughshod over you. I cannot find a mentionable flaw anywhere, and if you can, then we might not be listening to the same album. A must-have return, and yet another Top 10 Year End dark horse that may just surpass them all.
Long live doom.
posted on 7/2009 By:
These last couple of years have seen an inordinate number of veteran metal bands getting back together, with mostly lukewarm results amidst a couple of noteworthy efforts. But if there’s one reunion that's really had my hopes up in 2009, its been YOB’s reformation following Middian’s solid but unspectacular one-album run which was mired by frustrating legal issues. While one can only pray for the classic bands of yore such as Pestilence and Cynic to even vaguely recapture the essence of their long-past glory days, YOB was only put on hiatus a couple of years ago, and The Great Cessation is proof that the dark forces that inspired some of this decade’s most brilliant doom outings are still very much active in the hearts of these three guys from Oregon. As if we had any doubts to the contrary.
I’m glad that Jim and I are both covering this release, because in many ways my opinion on this album’s role within the band’s catalog is the opposite of my colleague’s. To these ears, The Great Cessation is possibly YOB’s most atmospheric work to date, and sees the outfit trading in a bit of their earth-shaking stomp for a more desolate, ethereal touch. Lengthier than either of the band’s prior two outings, this is an album that aims to crush you with its sheer size initially, than gradually take you down through darker, more psychedelic tunnels. Mike Scheidt’s vocal approach favors his heavily layered clean singing slightly more than his howling growls this time around (though both make ample appearances), and the depth that this man has added to his vocal melodies is an important part of The Great Cessation’s atmospheric appeal. There is also a prominent, though by no means overbearing, use of clean acoustic buildups, further augmenting this album’s emphasis on mood in addition to pure sonic weight.
That’s not to say that the band has shied away from the heavy by any means; aside from the interlude-esque meltdown of “The Silence Of Heaven," The Great Cessation stands proudly alongside the rest of this band’s discography as an exhaustingly powerful listening experience. “Burning The Altar” possesses all of the traits we’ve come to expect from a YOB opener: a moody intro, a titanic main riff, and the haunting, desolate croons of Scheidt all whirled into a tune so huge its hard to believe how catchy it really is. Things only get murkier and more ominous from here on, with the lumbering swing of “The Lie That is Sin” and “Breathing From The Shallows” paving the way for the devastating yet hauntingly beautiful title track, which closes the curtains by bringing things down to a distant, murderous crawl. Scheidt’s vocals are just amazing on this song, leading the listener through a dark maze of towering doom ambiance before exploding into a wash of destructive noise. YOB has a history of exceedingly epic closing tracks, but “The Great Cessation” might just trump them all, and considering the excellence of songs like “The Mental Tyrant,” that fact alone should be all the encouragement you need to pick this album up.
It would be a monumental task to even begin to replicate the genius of works like The Illusion of Motion or The Unreal Never Lived, but YOB has answered the call about as triumphantly as we could have expected them to with their much-anticipated comeback. The Great Cessation revives the outfit’s patented take on doom and splices in some refreshing new twists while staying true to the sound that gave these guys their name. This album may not equal or top the previous two efforts (in large part due to the rather ineffectual nature of “The Silence of Heaven”), but it certainly comes pretty damn close, and even more importantly it signals the beginning of a rejuvenated future for these legends of the doom world. Brace yourselves.
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