June 7Yob, “Our Raw Heart”Having a near death experience is certain to alter any perspective, let alone the creative or artistic perspective. On Yob’s “Our Raw Heart,” their eighth studio album, guitarist and vocalist Mike Scheidt was dealing with just that. Shortly after the release of their last album in 2014, a masterpiece in its own right, Scheidt found himself on the operating table thanks to acute diverticulitis, a notoriously painful disease that can easily overcome the body. Instead of succumbing, Scheidt channeled that pain into an absolutely transcendental and mesmerizing slab of doom metal. Clocking in at almost 80 minutes, “Our Raw Heart” demands your attention and your investment, but the journey is worth the time invested. What follows is one of the most dynamic, headbanging, psychedelic, and well-produced records I have heard in a very long time. Scheidt’s voice shines, in both his guttural growls and wavering high-pitched clean vocals. The final track, the 15-minute long “Our Raw Heart,” carves out a wonderful space of cosmic wanderings, and when the guitar riffs finally kick in, it is a catharsis that only the best art can achieve. The guitar work is absolutely triumphant, and even the most casual listener will find themselves holding a fist aloft to channel it into something palpable. Yob has done the unthinkable, and has actually topped what was probably my favorite doom record of all time. I am very thankful that they are able to still give us music.
Zeal and Ardor, “Stranger Fruit”Zeal and Ardor shook the metal scene something fierce with their first release, “Devil is Fine,” in 2016, a dizzying blend of black metal, blues, gospel, and spirituals. Many of us in said shook scene were very curious to see how Manuel Gagneux would follow up such a revolutionary sound. Would he merge one way or the other? The first single, “Gravedigger’s Chant,” made it seem like it would be merging more toward the blues side of his sound, and while that does seem to be the case for the record as a whole, it is an oversimplification. Every one of the 16 tracks on “Strange Fruit” is different, at times melding chants and blastbeats, and others melding black metal vocals and foot stomping rhythms with industrial droning horns. “Waste” took me by surprise at how unabashedly weird it was. Acts like Zeal and Ardor are part of the evidence that extreme music is at the forefront of creativity in the music world. “Stranger Fruit” will continue to surprise and reward with more and more listens, and it is an absolutely wonderful record.
Also releasing this week are records from Lily Allen, Tremonti, Dance Gavin Dance, Ne-Yo, Spock’s Beard, and the long-awaited new record from The Dave Matthews Band.