I’m eternally thankful that YOB have been able to release a new album.
At one point, the thought of a new YOB album was secondary. In 2018, Mike Scheidt was approaching death’s door. Following a painful period of suffering with acute diverticulitis, they had to operate. A three-hour operation ended up lasting over six hours. During the operation, they played Mike’s music (especially Yob) to act as an anchor for him. As it says in the press release for Our Raw Heart, it brings new meaning to the phrase “music saved my life”.
As part of his rehabilitation, together with bass player Aaron Reiseberg and drummer Travis Foster, Scheidt created a new YOB record, Our Raw Heart. This is their eighth-studio album and their fourth since reforming in 2008. Our Raw Heart is released on Relapse record, produced by the band with longtime producer, Billy Barnett. The cover work by Orion Landau is one of the most stunning pieces of art I’ve seen in years. Similar to Clearing the Path to Ascend (the B.G.M. review to this album is linked here), it is one that is open to interpretation. Different people will find different meanings, it is such a beautiful piece of art.
I was lucky enough to be able to send some questions to Aaron Resieberg as part of this review.
It was an honour for me as a fan to be able to do this, as Yob are a brilliant band. I’m grateful that they had to time to answer the questions and here are the results:
B.G.M.: You are approaching the release of your latest album Our Raw Heart. Upon my first listen I was blown away by the texture and sound of the album. The depth of the noise (a great YOB attribute) and the titanic feeling behind the music are stunning. These feelings remained upon further listens, what impact has this music had for yourselves?
Aaron: There is a strong sense of growth we’ve gotten after making this record and I’m very proud of it. It feels like the 3 of us grew musically in some ways that are pretty evident on the record. The time we share working and performing this music is very invigorating and all the way stoking. While it is pulling with some very heavy emotion it Is also balanced with power, buoyancy and triumph.
B.G.M.: Over the course of Our Raw Heart, you’ve been able to bring together the heavier and lighter sides of YOB’s sound. The main riff of “The Screen” for example is quite possibly the heaviest on the record. Whilst later in the record on “Lungs Reach”, there is a feeling of tranquillity and calm at the beginning of the song. How important is it for you to have those different aspects of your sound?
Aaron: It is very important. This time around it was a goal to go further in the scope of the entire album. I think dynamics has always been fundamental for YOB but it was taken a step further on this turn. We have been performing “In Revery” and “Lungs Reach” back to back as one song so when we play it live it feels like a crazy dramatic dynamic.
B.G.M.: In 2017, whilst having an operation for acute diverticulitis, vocalist Mike Scheidt had an out of body experience. Also, during the operation, the surgeon played YOB songs, which acted as an anchor for Mike. This was obviously a massive experience for Mike and by extension for YOB, but how much influence did this event and the aftermath have on Our Raw Heart?
Aaron: The influence of that experience was large. Mike’s healing process and these songs were totally intertwined and made strides together. He wrote and played as much as his body would allow him to which made for a huge amount stuff over the 6 months where we didn’t practice. The songs we had been working on pre-surgery were more fleshed out as well— Trav and I were supremely stoked on all the progress and hungry to start working on stuff.
B.G.M.: During Mike’s recovery, he noted that both you and drummer Travis Foster helped him during his recovery in many ways. This was a beautiful thing to read, showing that there is a deep friendship in the band. At that point, did you ever think you would get to a stage were YOB or any other project would be something you would all do again?
Aaron: Yes, Mike and Travis are very close friends and we have been like family to each other for a long time. At first, all that mattered was Mike getting better as fast as humanly possible. The thoughts of working on music pretty much vanished for a couple months and the future of the band laid uncertain. It was a shock when it all came on, especially for Mike of course. We 3 stayed in close contact and once Mike’s insides healed enough to allow him to play, glimmers of hope and determination flowed with that.
BGM: For Our Raw Heart, you’ve once again worked with Billy Barnett. How has that relationship with him and the band evolved over the years?
Aaron: Over the period making Clearing the Path we had developed a great working relationship as well as friendship in general. We built a level of trust and communication over those sessions that really lent itself to (the) recording of Our Raw Heart. He is an immensely talented engineer that loves to experiment and he understands what we are going for. It was truly the most enjoyable time I’ve had in the studio.
B.G.M.: The sound quality of Our Raw Heart is both similar and distinctively different from your last record, Clearing the Path to Ascend. There is a new tone to your sound and almost euphoric edge to the sound. Was there a concise choice for that sound, or was it something that happened organically?
Aaron: This time around we wanted to have some more openness + air and to give more colors to the sound. I think it was basically a lot of small incremental decisions we made to get a different sound than Clearing the Path to Ascend while recording in the same rooms with the same engineer. There was also that organic nature in the way we played together as a band. We were very thrilled to be there and to be making another record and I hear that in the way we executed as a unit.
B.G.M.: As with any YOB release, the songs are lengthy numbers, but whilst I’ve been listening to the album, I tend to lose track of time. Whilst listening to such tracks as “Beauty in Falling Leaves” and “The Screen”, it feels like they’ve passed in the blink of an eye. But at the same time, you know you’ve been on a journey. How does YOB as a band approach the writing process?
Aaron: That’s very cool to hear. We try and write parts for the songs that keep us engaged throughout— hopefully that speaks to other people as well. Mike tends to write big huge songs and has a vision that we see through together. When he brings the raw skeletons to practice the 3 Of us experiment with the arrangements and flesh them out.
B.G.M.: The artwork for Our Raw Heart is by Orion Landau is another beautiful YOB cover. Like the sound of YOB, different people will interpret this with their own meanings. For example, I keep noticing the theme of three in your covers. Do you have your own view on it?
Aaron: Orion never ceases to amaze me which what he comes up with. As far as a theme with the covers I guess I don’t really catch one. This time around he presented a rough idea with these themes and we collaborated on adding and taking away certain elements.
B.G.M.: You guys are about to tour again, playing dates around the US, how are you preparing for these shows?
Aaron: We have been rehearsing heavily on our own to relearn what we laid down in the studio (haha) and then getting together for full band practices and focusing mostly on just the Our Raw Heart material.
B.G.M.: I didn’t touch on this before, but whilst Mike was recovering from his surgery, there was a GoFund campaign set up to help with medical expenses. The outpouring of support for him and YOB was a wonderful thing to witness. Is there any way that people could still contribute (apart from purchasing Our Raw Heart)?
Aaron: Damn. Yeah, that was monumentally awesome. Never ending gratitude for the community, our friends and family for helping Mike so much through those times. The only thing I could say is come see us!
Our Raw Heart is a stop still moment for me.
For me, I find this album overwhelming, the emotional attachment has been instant. It was an instant, primal reaction I experienced upon my first listen. In metal music, I’ve only ever had this reaction twice before. The first was Burn My Eyes by Machine Head, the second was Ocean Planet by Gojira. For those albums, it was the instant attack mode of each record, the thrill of the guitars, the joy of a new band and the unexpected clout of a record.
For Our Raw Heart, there is a slight difference in my response. I’ve listened to YOB many times before. My first experience was Clearing the Path to Ascend, in 2014. That record is a beautiful piece of art, which I reviewed for my other blog. On that review, I called it one of the most impressive releases of 2014, something I still stand by. It was such a spiritual experience that I’ve been in awe of their work ever since.
With Our Raw Heart, YOB has put Clearing the Path to Ascend in the shade.
I’m not saying that to be flippant, blasé or to blow smoke up YOB’s collective backside, it’s not my style. But I want to illustrate how great Our Raw Heart sounds, the impact of the record. When you listen to an album, you are only every capturing a band at that specific moment in time. If you’re lucky enough to see Yob on their forthcoming tour, you’re not going to be listening to the same band as last time. It’s the same people, but they would have experienced new things, new trials and tribulations since the record button stopped.
At the time of Our Raw Heart, Yob were in healing mode. This was Mike’s way of expressing what had happened (directly or indirectly). It was Aaron’s and Travis’s way of supporting their friend. It was producer Billy’s job to document this healing processes. This record is bathed in emotions. It feels like a raw nerve, it contains something which is beyond comprehension. To be able to understand it, you need to have experienced something similar. But most of all, this is a towering statement of how music can heal you.
Obviously, as Aaron confirm, Mike’s illness and recovery formed the backdrop for YOB and Our Raw Heart.
If it wasn’t for the trials YOB have experienced, could Our Raw Heart exist? I don’t know if a song such as “Beauty of Fallen Leaves” would exist. Would “In Reverie” would have contained that same impact or sounded different? Maybe the atmosphere of “Lungs Reach” could have changed. Who knows, these are “what if” questions. All I can tell you about is my own reaction to Our Raw Heart. By the time you reach “Our Raw Heart” at the end of the record, you feel relief and joy. But to be honest, it’s as if no time has passed at all. I’ve found myself reaching for repeat each time I’ve listened to this record, it’s just a stunning experience.
Our Raw Heart is one of my favourite of 2018, full stop. Time stands still when it’s on.
Owner of more Frank Zappa music than one human needs, two cats and looked after by an Angel, Eddie Carter thinks about music more than a Geordie should. Hailing from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, Eddie spends most of his time surrounded by CD’s and records. He also writes for All The Time I Was Listening to My Own Wall of Sound, his beard is grey and not long enough – also, he wants a pint.