Very few bands seem to actually get better with each successive album over the course of their discography. On the other hand, it is more common to hear something like, "don't get me wrong, the new one is good, but it's nothing like their first one." This situation makes more sense because bands usually put their all into a debut release to make a good and lasting impression. Then when they accomplish that, they tend to rest on their laurels and the resulting albums thereafter suffer. However, when a band stays closely together and grows creatively and musically, the albums only continue to get better. YOB is a band who clearly understands this, and with their newest release, The Unreal Never Lived, they have once again raised the bar.
I was somewhat shocked when their last album, The Illusion of Motion, was released on Metal Blade, and this surprise still hasn't subsided with the release of their newest offering. Instead of frenetic metal and non-stop double bass that most of Metal Blade's bands are known for, YOB are purveyors of all things doom through and through. The Unreal Never Lived sees the band push the limits even farther, creating darker soundscapes than any of the previous releases have shown. YOB's older releases, while still containing the same characteristics the band is known for now, had a slightly more stoner-like jam feel to them. Catharsis started to show the more focused side of the band. The Illusion of Motion then demonstrated that the band could go even heavier and slower, creating some agonizingly sluggish gems of doom that barely crawled along. While the newest offering doesn't quite reach the slow depths of its predecessor, the focus has gotten even tighter, and the four tracks that comprised The Unreal Never Lived is without a doubt the heaviest and darkest thing the group has ever birthed.
The opening track begins with an eerily quiet, brief introduction that leads into an opening that beckons Through Silver in Blood era Neurosis. After that, it is all YOB, though here are comparisons if you aren't familiar with the band. There are mid tempo parts that make you seriously bang your head, similar to Electric Wizard, which transpire into slow sludgy doom in the vein of everything from Esoteric to Thee Plague of Gentlemen that then gives way to unique beautiful passages that are still very powerful. The characteristic mixture of clean and screamed vocals is still here, helping to distinguish YOB's sound from the pack. While only offering four tracks, YOB has still created a very solid and cohesive release, a true album, which clocks in at over 50 minutes.
Bottom Line: YOB have mastered the ability to ebb and flow throughout an album; to build up a song until it can't be built any higher; to craft something so powerful that it immediately transcends the records of their peers. The Unreal Never Lived is a true gem for doom/sludge/stoner rock fans, and should place them in the absolute elite of the style. If you have yet to experience this type of music, then this is the perfect place to start.