Yob Song by Song: Asleep in Samsara

asleep in samsara

The circle of riff/life

The definition of ‘Samsara’, although seemingly as subject to variation as any other philosophical term, is roughly the concept of all life and existence moving through cyclical change. One definition I found (via the internet, mind you) was ‘cycle of aimless drifting, wandering or mundane existence’. Although I don’t think it’s aimless, nor mundane, and is a bit too heavy to think of as ‘drifting’, Asleep in Samsara does fittingly conjure the sense of meandering along through its 17 minutes.

Throat chanting, panning left to right and back again repeatedly, is joined by a fluttery, slow–funk wah guitar. A bell rings lightly. The wah riff drops the wah, stamps on the fuzz box, is joined by the rhythm section, and plays that same riff for over 11 minutes, with a couple of variations. This heavy repetition and sluggish pace leaves little to say about Asleep In Samsara in terms of technical aspects or specific characteristics. Although this main section bridges into a slow galloping riff after 13 minutes, accompanied by an unsourced quote that posits ‘Religion is a poison’, the appeal of this song lies in how it bubbles away, the sense of tectonics shifting, and of a power lurking just beneath this surface, helped no end by the tactile guitar tone.

One effect of listening to a lot of heavy metal, which, let’s not forgot, most people think is weird music, is that sometimes the notion of a song actually lasting for 17 minutes is taken for granted. Like how the preceding track Pain of I is too ugly a song to introduce someone to Yob with, Asleep in Samsara is too long a song to win over a potential fan, and admittedly patience is required to enjoy how long Yob take sometimes. As mentioned, this track is one to be swept along with and sunk into, rather than be looked to for a sense of pace or push and pull, and in this way it defies being pored over. Many of Yob’s long(er) songs derive from a search for meaning, but I think with this one it was a case of we’ve got a sweet riff or two, it’s the last track, there’s no hurry, let’s have fun.

And thus concludes Elaborations of Carbon: something simple in its base form taken beyond into something complex and deep. Compared to later albums, it’s a little more bluesy in the Master of Reality sense of the word, with none of the big, sad songs that Yob would place on later albums. It’s a bit raw, and overly longer at points, but nonetheless a distinctive and idiosyncratic album. Next up: Aeons, the first track of album #2, Catharsis.



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