Album Review: Clearing the Path to Ascend by YOB
Posted by RiffRaff
Stepping out of the office doors a surprisingly gentle breeze on a twilit summer city evening greets me. I glance down at my watch and see I have a bit over an hour to occupy before I have to meet my wife at the train station. She has been gone a few days on business, so I miss her quite a bit as we are rarely apart for so long. Noticing that the city is rather empty I take the opportunity to make a slow peruse towards my destination to take in some of the finer details of Milan’s center which are usually covered with businessmen, fashion models, and tourists. I make my way to the marble monolith which marks the epicenter of the city as I dig around in my pockets for my earphones. Of course I will need a soundtrack for this little excursion. Flipping through the selections I have on my phone I realize I have my yet to be listened to copy of the new YOB record sitting on there. That should be perfect; atmospheric, shamanistic, and introspective.
Standing in front of the Duomo I hit play and pocket my phone. “Time to wake up.” the record starts. Touche’ guy in my ears. After a day doing the daily rituals that makes my life corporeally viable, it is now time to awaken into the other half of my mind. Slow, deliberate vibrations guide my feet as I make my way through the square and onto a car-less road adorned with coffee bars, small shops, and pizzerias. As the viscous riffs pump into my ears I am hypnotized by the glow of advertising signs against a backdrop of old Italian buildings. I chuckle at the juxtaposition. My eyes break free of the glitter and glare down the road and lock onto a commanding castle sitting a half kilometer in front of me right as the music changes tone to something a more sinister. It’s almost as if the old Castello Sforzesco is speaking directly to me demanding I respect its majesty; I oblige it.
As I continue my slow gait YOB starts to question reality and still surrounded with medieval buildings adorned with modern signage and clothing stores, I start to question my own. It’s like I’m walking around in one of those steam punk fantasy novels I enjoy so much. Almost to strange to actually exist. In my six years living in the city I hadn’t noticed just how odd this seemed. I continue now wondering if my surroundings have just been figments of my sci-fi and fantasy addled mind. Have I been creating my own reality? The steady groove of the music continues to lull me into this strange world created around me.
Crossing the threshold of the castle the music has now changed to something much more aggressive. Thick sludgy riffs groove on and on as I roam around the castle’s inner square. Here kings were crowned, knights knighted, and criminals had their worlds ripped right off their bodies. I wonder about what kind of medieval atrocities happened here. The relentless grind of the guitars, thunderous howl of singing, and ritualistic rhythm patterns create a witch burning in front of my eyes. She is dragged up to a mountain of hay and her arms twisted around a thick wooden pole and bound behind her back. A large stone is swung and comes crashing down on her knees to secure that no running away can take place. She slumps down into the bed of hay accepting her horrible fate as she sees the torch approaching. She swallows, releases a monstrous bellow, and then all is quiet as the glowing ember is lowered. I push my way out of the crowd and towards a nearby garden not wanting to witness the end of this horrific scene.
The garden is void of bodies as everyone seems to have gone to see the extinguishing of that strega. It’s peaceful. A couple off duty knights pass by on their evening jog and a bard sits against a tree plucking away at his instrument. After that disquieting scene, plopping down on a bench and focusing on some nice relaxing music will do me good. As I hone in on his dulcet tones I begin to realize this ominous presence filling the air. Not exactly one of evil, but some kind of spirit up to no good. It makes me a bit uneasy, but I just sit there and keep listening to the music. Then, abruptly, a shattering howl shakes the ground around me. I look up and see a verdant light pouring from the castle’s inner square. The deed must have been done. As I continue to gaze up into the starless sky the illuminated mist spins and dances. It doesn’t move in a melancholic way, but in a way a griffon must as it takes its first flight. Clumsily initially, but as it quickly finds its natural talent it weaves and bobs gracefully as it feels its first taste of real freedom. It is happy and ponderous, free of gravitational confines. It doesn’t have to be anything, it can just be.
I glance down at the time and see I should start getting back on my way to the train station. I go back through the place where charred remains must now lay. Shocked, I don’t just see a pile of ash in the center of the square, but the entire square its self is blanketed in dark grey. Panicking, I stumble and fall forward. Crashes of thunder roars around me and the ground trembles. I make myself upright again and as I’m standing up I see I am surrounded by that thick light that I had witnessed dancing in the sky while I was in the garden. Composed of various colors it felt as if I were walking in the Aurora Borealis. Some of the illuminated mist gleefully danced upwards, most struggle away from the ground like there was a force pulling them against their will. Those that broke free dance even more joyously than the witch’s had. It was this perfect balance of emotion. I walk through the threshold and away from the castle.
Greeted again by old buildings adorned with electric signage relaxing tones encompass the space around me. I think of my wife. All the great times we’ve been through and a few tough as well. I think about her smooth skin, piercing eyes, and generous smile. I smile at the thought of how she makes me smile when she smiles. I admire her fortitude and drive as well as her compassion. Even if she’s been gone just a couple of nights, I quite miss her. The music of missing her is melancholic, but the knowledge I will see her in a few minutes adds a warming, uplifting feel to the music surrounding me. I look over to an Arab couple sitting on a waiting bench as I walk to her arrival track. They are elderly, but hold each other in a wondrous embrace and the man runs his fingers through her long, dark brown hair. I think about what they must have gone through together to arrive in a place where they can do such in shameless freedom. I hope I love my wife as much as that man loves his. I’m sure I do.
The music ends just as the train approaches the track and I take out my earphones. My heart starts to beat in anticipation. Then I see my angel approaching surrounded by that glorious illuminated mist dancing gleefully around her. We embrace. My reality is I am here and in love. It is what I make it as something so perfect could only come from my own version of reality. All those little negative things I put in there solely exist just to make these moments that much more wonderful. Reality is love, love is reality. Yob is love. Peace Love and Metal 5/5