20 for ’14: YOB – Marrow

Part 1 of a 20 part run down of my favourite tracks from last year

A lot of people had YOB’s Clearing the Path to Ascend at the top of their metal AOTY lists (and a fair few went further and had it as their outright best of the year) and I’ve a suspicion that’s down to closing track Marrow. Whilst the other 3 epic length numbers that make up Clearing were all fine slabs of doom (and in the case of Nothing to Win very Neurosis-esque metal) for me they didn’t quite do enough to make it AOTY material for me. Then Marrow comes along and steals the show and becomes your defining memory of the record and makes you forget about what went before. And hey, it takes up a full 18 minutes, so why wouldn’t it?

It takes a lot of work to justify that kind of track length, even in the slowly-does-it world of stoner and doom. YOB achieve it through almost transcendentally beautiful heaviness – the main riff that makes up the bulk song is reminiscent of Jesu at their most sublime. The vocals seem deliberately washed over, blurred together, rendering the lyrics unintelligible unless you strain to listen to them, rendering them as an invocation of feeling, the kind that mere words can’t quite grasp. The words really don’t matter. It’s the kind of blissed out heavy majesty that could happily last forever – in headphones it surrounds you, embraces you, refuses to let you go.

When the song finally drops out and the low somber vocals come in it sounds more than a little Pink Floyd – a comparison that the following solo does nothing to dispel. Despite the running time the solo isn’t given time to outstay it’s welcome – it isn’t long the song soars back into that monstrous refrain, more insistent than before. The path is clear. It ascends, seemingly reaching new heights with every repetition. When the song comes full circle to that same opening arpeggio you feel exhausted and you almost worry they’re starting over, planning another assault. Then when the silence comes you almost wish they had. It’s the perfect manifestation of that strange alchemy doom sometimes strikes in creating something euphoric out of sorrow. It’s an example of masters at work at. 18 years on from YOB’s inception they may have just reached their peak. How much higher could they possibly ascend?