REISSUES: YOB’s ‘Catharsis’ a doom classic; Solstafir’s fiery debut finally unearthed

YOB catharsisI have had a weird history with metal, one where I spent a long stretch of time not really listening to it. Once I got to college and starting working as a radio DJ, my tastes started to change, and I got way more into indie rock and far less into metal. So I missed a nice chunk of time.

The past decade and a half, or so, I have been fully back and immersing myself in all things metal, but because of the time I spent away, there’s still a bit of catch-up that I sometimes have to do, even for some music that was released during times I’ve been fully participating. That’s why reissues are always exciting for me when it comes to records I either missed or never got to get a proper version to appreciate.

Today we have two records that fall into that category for me, and maybe they do for you, too. Or maybe you’ve always been into these releases but would like a fresh new copy. I’m always game for that aspect, too, which is why I acquired all-new versions of all the Carcass albums when Earache did their reissue run, because I like to have the best possible copies of records that I hold dear.

YOB's "Catharsis" lineup

YOB’s “Catharsis” lineup

Let’s start off with “Catharsis,” the second record by the mighty YOB which is now being reissued by Profound Lore, the label that put out the band’s most recent two studio crushers “The Great Cessation” and “Atma.” Funny, but I didn’t get into the band until a year after this record came out when Metal Blade sent me a copy of the band’s 2004 album “The Illusion of Motion.” From that point I was hooked by this band, but it’s not until now that I’ve fully gotten to experience “Catharsis” in this manner. By that I mean, not on a substandard burned copy, not hearing someone else’s copy in the car or something. This is a remastered version of a record that’s become to be known as a cult metal classic (complete with new artwork), and if you absorb these stunning three epics, you’ll know why people who hold this record dear feel that way.

Of course, Mike Scheidt is front and center and the visionary of this incredible band, and he really stretches the sonic qualities of his voice here in a way we’d all come to expect on future releases. Added to that his guitar work not only is full of doom power but also bluesy humidity and psychedelic wonder, really letting you stretch your brain while listening. Joining him are drummer  Gabe Morley and bassist Isamu Sato. They open up with “Aeons,” an 18-minute boiler that stays in its pace and really burns over its running time. It’s a mind-altering, weird, bubbling cauldron of power, with Scheidt switching back and forth from his Ozzy-like high-pitched cries and guttural growls. “Ether” is the short one of the bunch, only clocking in at “only” a little over seven minutes. It’s sludgy, punishing, crushing, and still will warp your mind when you hear it. The soloing is molten and blazing, and the final few minutes of mauling might make you want to hit something with a hammer. The 24-minute title cut closes the album, and is it ever a mauler, taking its time to get going, with the bottom dropping out, devastation sweeping across, only to give way to calm again. The song continue in that manner, building astonishing highs, with Scheidt’s voice reaching for the tallest mountains, and returning to the guttural again, with menacing growls and chaos, building to the final few minutes where the band lets loose and speeds things up, ending the record on a crumbling crippling note. Holy shit.

If you never got your hands on this record and need to complete your collection, or you just want to hear what is, still today, one of the most forward-thinking doom metal albums in the world, “Catharsis” will open your eyes and help you see metal in a way you never have before. That’s what makes this a full-fledged classic.

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solstafir cover

On a completely different end of the metal spectrum are Iceland’s Solstafir, a band that you can witness in person at next year’s Maryland Deathfest and whose sound has become more of a post-rock-influenced style. Their most recent album is 2011’s “Svartir Sandar,” released by Season of Mist, and if that was your first exposure to the band, you might be surprised by what you’ll hear on their reissued debut album “Í Blóði og Anda.” You pretty much had to be at the right place at the right time in order to have a copy of the original version of the album, because it basically disappeared right afterward, but Season of Mist are releasing this much sought-after album, along with a second disc or record of demo and rehearsal cuts, so this tremendous album can be back in circulation.

sólstafir7“Í Blóði og Anda” (translates to “In Blood and Spirit”) does have elements of post-rock and black metal, but there’s just as much post-hardcore and classic screamo influences as well, making this one hell of an interesting mix of sounds and one of the most passionate albums in their collection. The nine-track, 56-minute album is sequenced pretty weirdly, with the shorter songs dominating the first half of the album, and longer ones, beginning with “Ei Við Munum Iðrast” and ending with sweeping closer “Árstíðir Dauðans,” complete with atmospheric passages and a female voice adding the right texture. Also in that stretch of epics is “Bitch in Black,” a folk-infused smasher rife with references to a woman with “eyes that glare like burning churches” and ritualistic activities. The front half is more immediate and to the point, with highlights coming on the punchy and fast title cut, that ends in a pocket of space rock; “The Underworld Song” that also reaches the cosmos and is played with undeniable passion; as well as “Tormentor,” that’s rife with punk rock energy.

There’s a lot to like on “Í Blóði og Anda,” and raw and untested as this band was at the time, clearly they were onto something and had the heart and drive to make it so. Having this record available—finally—on wide-range basis is something the metal world needed, and it’ll even make you see this band a little differently. Perhaps another benefit is younger bands might finally hear this record and understand how to deliver music with honesty and passion, something so sorely lacking today.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

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