Double Play: Toxic Holocaust & YOB

Two reviews for the price of none!

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson



Profound Lore Records

Pacific Northwest doom gladiators YOB are more a slow burning experience than a straight ahead metal band. Most groups jump right into what they’re doing and explode off the first track. YOB live to be slower and more methodic. If standard metal were the psychos who went into a mall guns blazing, YOB are the killers who slay many and live quietly just under your nose. The music on the band’s newest release Atma doesn’t play out so much as it oozes over you like black tar. Things occur at their own pace, YOB rushes for no man, yet when the album is done you’ve been consumed by it, enveloped in it and drenched with its sound.

Doom metal as a genre is notoriously slow and plodding. The thin line between the avant garde and the incredibly boring is a hard one to walk. Most bands fall to the latter without even realizing it. YOB avoids that dilemma by striking each note with purpose. Nothing on the album feels like filler, even the repetition of the riffs comes off with a specific idea. Everything here feels constructed, with each layer built off the other to form a solid mass of sound. YOB doesn’t just write slow riffs, they create slow universes that become ethereal nightmares. “Prepare The Ground” takes a serious groove riff and reduces it to a quarter of what it was. Instead of just some slow riff, it’s a thick groove bastardized into their world. It allows the opening track to step out of genre without losing touch with it.

I get excited when bands try to do new things. YOB approaches the title track the same way you’d create a fishbowl. They build a structure of repetitive riffage that will hold solid and then fill it with all kinds of guitar trickery and pound rhythms. The song is held by one riff but alive with so much more. The real accomplishment on Atma are the two final tracks, “Before We Dreamed Of Two” clocking in at sixteen minutes and “Adrift In The Ocean” which lands just shy of fourteen. Fast and brutal tunes this long can get boring, so imagine the difficulty in writing Doom metal tunes that step boldly into this arena. Some bands, like Sunn 0))) or The Obsessed can do it with ease, others find their songs just fall apart. YOB again takes the road of construction, building everything with such tension that the peeks and valleys keep the songs interesting. It’s clear YOB like the idea of the ocean and resting listeners atop their particular ocean, trusting the band will keep us afloat. The results stretch from the dreamy to the violent and those extremes help keep YOB above their peers.

Vocals. Let’s talk vocals. Many find YOB vocalist Mike Scheidt to be the worst part of the band, while some love him. I tend to fall with the latter simply because Scheidt is at least attempting something different. Part fucked up Geddy Lee, part dark and sinister storyteller, Scheidt seems to put real effort into his vocal styling rather than just lacing it with the standard vocal tricks. I understand why it makes some people sick, for me it just adds to the weird nature of the whole project. Atma has layered songs with real depth, a terrific use of negative space and silence and even some solid grooves to boot. All in all a killer job from a band I’ve come to expect a lot from.


Check out Toxic Holocaust on Page 2!


Toxic Holocaust

Conjure And Command

Relapse Records

Taking the speed levels from below zero to Mach 3 is Toxic Holocaust a band that uses elements from punk and thrash metal to create consistently great records. For the most part Toxic Holocaust has been the brainchild of Joel Grind who would write all the music and play all the instruments on the recordings. The band’s newest studio blitz Conjure And Command comes equipped with a full band for the first time. I don’t know if that has anything to do with this but Conjure And Command is the best thing Toxic Holocaust has done thus far. This isn’t a subtle record or an album filled with nuances. This album runs up behind you with a baseball bat and doesn’t stop beating you until you’re dead.

A band that does something simple, which rises above simplicity, is never an easy thing to find. Look at AC/DC, who have made similar records since their inception but each one kicks ass. How many bands have tried the same formula only to be talked about as boring. Toxic Holocaust isn’t using a particularly complicated formula here. It veers between high-octane blasts of heavy punk to mid-tempo thrash grooves. This is music to bang your head to and, when you see it live, do your best to knock all those who come close to you across the dance floor. Like AC/DC but in the world of thrash, the simplistic way Toxic Holocaust attack their songs work. I don’t know why it works better than others, it just does.

I also have to give a nod to the production, its total old school thrash where the high-end exists but not at the cost of the bass. Most of the modern metal, outside of Doom or experimental, forget about the bass and how important it is. With thrash seeing a re-birth in the metal scene the stacks of bands trying this formula gets higher everyday. Most of those bands just sound like they’re ripping off a by-gone era where as Toxic Holocaust bring their own ideas to a sound they obviously love. I guess it comes down to song writing. No matter how short or uncomplicated, a great song is a great song and Toxic Holocaust have mastered that craft.

It also has to do with a vibe. Most of the music we love takes us to a happier place, no matter how violent or aggressive. Conjure And Command calls up memories of when thrash and punk met and made some kick ass babies. You can hear traces of Nuclear Assault, SOD, early Corrosion Of Conformity and even Slayer and Anthrax. Toxic Holocaust’s music is not only good it also brings about those feelings of being seventeen armed with a skateboard and a band shirt. You’d sit the giant radio down and practicing your grinds and kick flips while the soundtrack of thrash played in the background. All of us metal heads know those times and clearly so does Toxic Holocaust. Conjure And Command is a testament (no pun intended) to how and why the sound of thrash continues to be a tent-pole sound in the world of metal.