|Poster by Stavros Giannopolous. A few copies are still available for $20 apiece.|
It was shortly after my period of disappointment (I think it was late May at this point) that my red-bearded compatriot by the name of Jeff (he filmed my interview with Mike Scheidt, FYI) told me of the upcoming YOB concert for, what, A NEW ALBUM? With new Profound Lore act Dark Castle? Fantastic. I was finally going to see YOB. On top of that, I was able to secure an interview with Mike Scheidt, so July 8th was shaping up to be quite the unforgettable evening.
I had never been to Subterranean before, but I was rather surprised at the size of the venue. Was everyone going to be able to fit? It didn't really matter, I suppose; I was already in. To commemorate this monumental event (me seeing the first doom metal band I ever got into), I decided to splurge and ended up picking up a copy of Catharsis on vinyl, as well as some patches (Yob and Dark Castle, to be precise).
After securing a spot up-front and center, I waited.
I've seen Chicago heavyasallhell doom stalwarts Indian a handful of times and, to be honest, I didn't really get them the first few times, but, perhaps due to the addition of second guitarist Will Lindsay's harmonies, the last 4 or 5 times have really stuck with me. The key word for Indian's set is heavy, which they execute beyond perfectly; gigantic, plodding doom sections peppered throughout thick, trudging, atonal riffs and crazed, screeching vocals from both guitarists Will Lindsay and Dylan O'Toole. What stuck with me the most throughout Indian's set, other than the horrendous fear of going deaf, that is, was drummer Bill Baumgardner's heaviest handed drumming. Watching him as he put every ounce of strength in his body into every drum hit and seeing his teeth clench as he smashed into his cymbals was intense to a degree I've never really felt before. Indian's latest offering, Guiltless, has proven itself to be one of the heaviest albums this year, and the fact that they can recreate such hateful, angry sounds in a live setting sets them as one of the better Chicago bands today.
Oh man, Dark Castle sure is something. It's amazing how these two-person, bassless doom metal bands like, say, The Body (whose shirt frontwoman Stevie Floyd wore proudly), end up heavier than most full doom metal bands and, of course, Dark Castle did not disappoint. As they trudged through a few of my favorites at seemingly half-speed, Floyd's brand of eastern-influenced, off-kilter doom, paired with her signature throaty scream and drummer Rob Shaffer's cymbal-heavy drumming created an atmosphere as unique as it was heavy and enveloping. In my opinion, the best aspect to Dark Castle, aside from the qualities I had just listed, are their shorter song lengths. Most doom bands try to create their magnum opus with each new song they create, getting longer with each new composition. It's almost as if these other bands have forgotten how to make an effective song without having to pull all the bells and whistles. Modern doom bands should take notes.
Oh, did I mention drummer Rob Shaffer is in French doom band Monarch? Because that's absolutely awesome.
Oh man, I still can't believe that I saw Yob live. I believe my friend Jeff put it correctly when he referred to it as a "religious experience." Be glad I'm not doing a video review of this or else it would turn out a bit like fellow pressman Anthony Fantano's "I SAW SUNN O)))" video, which I turn to time and time again for a good laugh (sorry, Anthony!). An exciting and intense tour de force, the jam-packed audience witnessed Yob pummel through "Quantum Mystic," Atma opener "Prepare the Ground," "Grasping Air" with Dark Castle frontwoman Stevie Floyd on vocals, "Burning the Altar," "Atma," and, as a surprise, all twenty-three minutes of the epic "The Great Cessation." While remaining solemn and reverent during the first two songs, probably due to the sheer shock and awe of seeing Yob perform, the crowd seemingly exploded during "Grasping Air," leaving me to fend for myself; holding my own ground (and camera) whilst pushing against the monitors onstage. The low bass rumble, the kick-in-the-chest drums, and Mike's signature thick, raw guitar tone created something that I have described to many people as "Infinitely. Fucking. Heavy," and, as has been demonstrated with the chugging ferocity of the title track "Atma," is a monstrously positive indicator as to what Atma will be.
Frontman Mike Scheidt's humble personality would show between energetic bursts of song through raising a beer and toasting to the audience or, my personal favorite, what he told the audience before the last song. As it turns out, this new Yob lineup isn't fully familiar with too many Yob songs but, as Mike so eloquently put it, "We are yours." Just before he quietly eased into the delicate introduction of the mighty "The Great Cessation," Scheidt informed, "We haven't rehearsed this one too much, so sorry if we mess up."
It was perfect.