Yob Song By Song: Revolution

We have been brought up to experience ourselves as isolated centres of awareness and action placed in a world that is not us, that is foreign, alien, other, which we confront. Whereas in fact, the way an ecologist describes human behaviour, is as an action; what you do is what the whole universe is doing at the place we call here and now. You are something the whole universe is doing in the same way a wave is something that the whole ocean is doing. This is not what you might call a fatalistic or deterministic idea. You see, you might be a fatalist if you think that you are a sort of puppet which life pushes around. You are separate from life but life dominates. That’s fatalism.

Heavy music inspires people to headbang, throw the horns, start a pit, cut the sleeves off denim jackets and sew Motörhead patches onto denim jackets, but there’s not a lot of metal which truly inspires meditation. Doom metal – which let’s not forget, is named after the concept of the cessation of existence – is the genre most explicitly connected to existential pain. Ever since Ozzy first wailed about that figure in black most heavy bands have had quite a glum take on things (notable exception: Torche), but the best doom bands have tended to be the ones who have channelled this sense of suffering through a philosophical desire to understand why it is taking place. Scheidt’s interest in Eastern mysticism has steered Yob’s music and lyrics towards a more positive, new age take on this trope, and whilst the three songs covered thus far have suggested this, Revolution underlines it.

After what is essentially a five minute introduction, with two layers of guitar shifting like sand dunes, it drops into a solitary track of wah guitar before a single snapping snare drum kicks it back in and Scheidt declares ‘Oh yeahhhhh/Alllrighttt’, and off we go; we’re on a journey here.

The lyrics, even with some furrowed brow listening, are largely indiscernible. What I could make out (‘…brand new way…all the demons in my mind…truth…I feel the ground beneath me…you cannot see what is going down…time we have a revolution, yeah…revolution, yeah yeah’) wasn’t particularly poetic, nor did it provide much narrative sense. The only word that initially comes through clearly is ‘Revolution’, which is a broad, and in many ways, abstract phrase. If anything, it seems a little as though it’s pandering to the lowest common denominator; ‘revolution’ sounds cool, right? Turn up, tune down, play slow, smoke this, and the revolution will begin. The atmosphere of the song goes some way in alleviating this – after all, there are great songs with less than great lyrics (…Megadeth) – but when placed within the context of the next section they are invested with a deeper meaning.

After an echoing, wah–inflected solo, the track descends through a swung, descending riff into feedback, then the solitary track of wah guitar comes back in. A synth that sounds as though it may have been pilfered from The War of The Worlds enters, then a clip of philosopher Alan Watts quoting the above passage from his book Tao of Philosophy, positing on the connection between all living beings and the world, underpinning Yob’s leanings towards a new age, spiritual perspective. Among shimmering guitars it concludes a whole minute later with a slower, triumphant variation of the main riff in 2/4 crashing; enlightenment arriving via amplitude. That this interlude doesn’t arrive until 12 minutes is what makes this song work. It has been built up to, the listener journeying along with the song before wisdom is found.

I found myself wondering why so much doom metal and its variant of stoner metal is made up of long songs. There is an obvious correlation between songs being slow and taking longer to finish – speed is equal to distance divided by time – but I think there is more to it than that. Songs of these lengths (the average Yob song is 9 minutes and 55 seconds long) by their nature ask that they are listened to in the moment, that past and future are discounted for what is within that present moment; they become their own world. Yob are not the only doom band to play long songs slowly (Sleep’s Dopesmoker is known for being an hour long), but at least on an implicit level they seem to understand the subtext of playing in this style, which some doom bands do not. I am no Zen master, but from my understanding, this centring of the present moment can be a form of meditation. These riffs draw you in, looking inwards before outwards. The titular revolution is one of the mind.

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