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YOB, Bell Witch, We The Undead @ 89th St. Collective, Oklahoma City, OK (USA)

YOB/Bell Witch/We The Undead
in Thursday, 14 June 2018 at 89th St. Collective
by Dave Nowels

Thursday night saw doom/progressive innovators YOB debut their “Or Raw Heart” tour in the intimate confines of the 89th St. Collective in Oklahoma City. Perhaps it seemed an odd choice for a starting point. After all, Oklahoma is often referred to as one of the “fly over states”. Yet, several bands, of many different genres, have recently chosen OKC as their tour opener. So maybe we’ve become the willing guinea pigs for bands to drop new material on first. I’m good with that. Especially a sonic assault of which YOB anointed us with Thursday night. It was pretty magical, and definitely memorable.

Local Oklahoma City Doom/Sludge band, WE THE UNDEAD, opened the evening’s festivities with a three-song set of their own. Often in shows like this, the local bands selected have little to offer other than filling time as the audience builds anticipation. Not true of WE THE UNDEAD.
While not necessarily as polished as YOB and BELL WITCH, they certainly stepped up to the intimidating task with an impressive set. And to add to the intimidating task, the band had YOB’s Mike Scheidt observing them from front and center for a portion of their set. They never missed a beat. A two-piece band, WE THE UNDEAD is Sam Tiger on guitar and vocals and Philip Banta on drums. They opened with a brand new song of which I didn’t catch the title, and followed with “Seppuku” and “Severed” from their EP “Ashes”, available via BandCamp. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for them playing around town as I’d love to see them play an extended set.

BELL WITCH, the preeminent force in the genre of funeral doom, were nearly equally as impressive.
Also a two-piece band, consisting of bassist Dylan Desmond and drummer Jesse Schreibman, you don’t even notice the band has no guitarist. Playing a six string bass, and a massive board of pedals and effects, Desmond creates an impressive arrangement of lead, rhythm and fills.
All while Schreibman mans impeccable percussion on a simple kit, and shares the chant-like vocals with Desmond.
Indeed, its simplicity at it’s finest as the band played what I counted as three songs in their forty-five minute set. The songs just seamlessly meld together with seemingly no beginning and no end. Rather, it seemed the songs were themes, comprised of haunting and loneliness, yet strikingly beautiful all at the same time. A good portion of the audience was there to see BELL WITCH equally as much as YOB. It was definitely a powerhouse lineup and one that continues at a break-neck pace through July 14th, playing some twenty-seven dates in thirty days.

It’s odd to me to see musicians of YOB’s or BELL WITCH’s caliber lugging around and setting up their own equipment. Yet, I suppose it’s somewhat fitting. After all, these gentlemen are truly masters of their instruments and their crafts, and not afraid to get their hands dirty and hump gear as well. Just prior to their 9pm start, guitarist and front man Mike Scheidt was making final tweaks to his pedal board, and spent several minutes adjusting his in ear monitors in an attempt to get everything just exactly perfect. At one point Scheidt joked that they didn’t have “any cool tuning noises, like other bands do”, to which bassist Aaron Rieseberg noodled off some quick bass runs.
YOB's set was a showcase of their brilliant new album, “Our Raw Heart”, just released on Relapse Records.
Opening with the albums first track, “Ablaze”, YOB proceeded to plow through five of the album’s seven tracks. Only “Original Face” and “Beauty In Falling Leaves” were omitted. The latter of which, was disappointing as it’s a stunningly beautiful song in its complexities. Speaking with Scheidt following the show, he explained that much like “Marrow” from 2014’s “Clearing The Path To Ascend” on Neurot Records, “Beauty In Falling Leaves” would take some time to work into the setlist.
A highlight for me was “The Screen”. The song is built upon the crunchiest of riffs, intricate progression changes with growl and clean vocals. Towards the end of their set, Scheidt thanked the audience for being there, and indicated how proud the band was of their new material, stating, “hours are spent honing this new material, and sharing it like this is where it all becomes real”. The set closed with fan favorite “Burning The Altar” from 2009’s, “The Great Cessation”, on Profound Records. Following the conclusion, Scheidt placed himself cross-legged at the stage edge and greeted fans, posed for photos and signed items.
Much has been written about Scheidt’s recent brush with death, and I won’t touch on that here, but I will say that Scheidt, bassist Rieseberg, and drummer Travis Foster are some of the nicest, most down to earth musicians you could ever be fortunate enough to get to talk with. 

Promoter: NH Productions
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