Yob Song By Song: Burning The Altar

We’re putting the band back together.

We’re not on a mission from God.

Wherefore in the Year of Our Lord nine and two thousand, doom would be upon mankind, not in floods and plagues, nor in thunderbolts and smitings, nay, but truly Yob did sayeth ‘Dudes, we’re putting the band back together, we got a new album coming out, it’s called The Great Cessation, Sanford Parker from Minsk recorded it for us, it’s gonna be totally sweet’¹. And the shepherds from Profound Lore did sayeth, ‘Niiiiice, man’, and did go forth with CDs/vinyl/medium of choice into the Promised Land.

And, wherefore, The Great Cessation, as it was told it would be, was Yob’s great recommencing. (OK, enough of that). With Yob having disbanded in 2006, drummer Travis Foster contacted Mike Scheidt in 2008 about reconvening. They played a few gigs, then decided it was time to really crush some hopes and dreams and start dispensing the doom again.

Burning The Altar is the track that began Yob’s second coming. Howling wind is interrupted by a bass slide into a guitar tremolo–picking with lots of reverb, discordant and thick whilst underneath the bass lumbers along with the drums. The following main riff is a semitone movement (think of the Jaws theme tune – te/doh/te/doh), a one–fret movement between Bb and A with heavy palm muting and open stabs on the downbeat. After a scream, the vocals enter Ozzy–style; ‘Burning eyes brim with tears/Heavy heart clenched like a fist/Grasping hope with hands in flames’ before the screaming starts at the chorus with ‘Burning the altar/Ashes billow across the sky’. Life is suffering, but closer to something like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road² rather than the first of Buddhism’s four noble truths:

The ignorant rule the weak
With iron law and wrathful deeds
[…]Trumpets to the fall
Hollow psalms
The drums of war
Beating the stretched skin of the fallen.

Tyranny, despotism, death, war, inhumanity – this song may as well have been called Burning The World. The riff that follows on from 7.08, which utilises an Arabic–sounding scale, features a sick descending hammer–on pull–off flourish that sounds like it’s echoing up from a stone vault. Over many listens these lyrics, combined with the lurching semitone riff and creeping lead guitar, reminded me, besides the aforementioned The Road, of :

[…] somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs
[…] what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Comparing a song largely consisting of two chords to W.B. Yeats’ The Second Coming might sound improbable, but think of this comparison on the basis of the theme of horror; the movement of these chords, combined with the apocalyptic imagery, conjures the image of a colossus ominously trudging its way to reshaping the world. Indeed, the album artwork for the remastered version that Relapse put out in 2017 is of a celestial plane being plunged into turmoil, with lightening bolts flying around and birds/winged monkeys flying up out of an abyss.

Verily, most mightily pleasing a commencing for that of a great cessation.


²’He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the interstate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe.’ The Road, Cormac McCarthy.