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Trudging through a muddy trail in Washington Park in Northwest Portland, the rain, a consistent and depressive downpour, soaked through my second-hand jacket and onto the layers beneath. The surrounding trees only a skeleton of their once-colorful foliage from the coming winter. Their vein-like branches, swallowing what light was left of the gray sky overhead. Recently relocating to Portland via Honolulu, Hawaii, I’ve only just begun to comprehend the true essence of Doom Metal and the environment that it is firmly rooted in. A genre which has always evaded my grasp from those sunny days with the warm sand under my toes.

The first time I stumbled on American Doom Metal titans, YOB, was in a small, dimly lit venue in West Hollywood. Even in that cramped room, the band seemed to expand and collapse the walls of the space at will. Vocalist, guitarist, and mastermind, Mike Scheidt had a unworldly aura about him; and the music he and his band created transcended reality and all convention. Their 2014 release, Clearing the Path to Ascend, was a monumental leap in production and songwriting, and playing that album quickly became a daily meditation for myself on long drives and even longer work days.

Now the band was coming home. Hailing from Eugene, Oregon, it would seem the entire local music scene came out for support. The concert sold out almost immediately and a cluster of fans stood long-faced but hopeful at the entrance to the Bossanova Ballroom praying that there would be a spare ticket to fight for amongst themselves.

Portland-based, Blackwater Holylight, the female-driven, Stoner Doom-inspired, Rock quintet started off the night by transporting the crowd into a dream-like trance of ominous riffs and angelic vocal harmony. Their atmospheric fusion of Doom and Psychedelic Rock, led by bassist and vocalist, Alison “Sunny” Faris, were on tour promoting their latest offering, Veils of Winter. Their haunting delivery and hypnotic soundscapes were only matched by the empowering sisterhood binding them together. As witness to this, guitarist, Laura Hopkins and synth player, Sarah McKenna, shared a unique bond on stage, leaned head-to-head swaying together during their performance. In a genre known to be predominantly male, it was inspiring to witness these five women band together as one and transcend gender stereotypes while playing the music they love with no remorse.

Before the instrumental, Psych-Rock powerhouse, Earthless, took the stage, an older gentleman, wide-eyed and clearly a child of the 60’s, grabbed me by the arm and gave me a warning about the night to come: “These guys don’t stop, so pace yourself!” Equally influenced by Krautrock and the six-string virtuosity of Page and Iommi; guitarist, Isaiah Mitchell, bassist, Mike Eginton, and drummer, Mario Rubalcaba have been creating an instrumental wall of sound for nearly two decades. With all of their songs clocking in anywhere from 5-20 minutes, the band created a tapestry of sound waves from their latest album, Black Heaven and beyond. Refusing to stop the train once it got rolling, their tenacious drummer, even kept the beat going with one hand while grabbing a drink of water and wiping off the sweat that ran down his face before flowing seamlessly into the next rock opus.

The lights went down on the venue and three solitary figures spread themselves out equally across the stage. With eyes closed and heads gazed downward, their fans stood shoulder-to-shoulder ready to immerse themselves in the thunderous soundscapes of their Oregonian Doom Metal heroes, YOB. A triumphant and monstrous riff from their song, “Ablaze” decimated the silence and the sheer vehement energy that radiated from Scheidt’s vocals shattered any possibility of thought. Like a pulverizing heartbeat, the band continued with “The Screen,” the second track off their latest album, Raw Heart. A divine spotlight from above broke the darkness as Scheidt joined his fists like an all-seeing eye above his head while drummer, Travis Foster, violently pounded his kit into submission with every crescendo in their tortured repertoire. Meanwhile, bassist, Aaron Rieseberg, closed his eyes, becoming nothing more than a vehicle for which their music flowed through.

Experiencing the crisp, chill in the air and the change of seasons for the first time in Portland has been both challenging and trans-formative. After witnessing the homecoming of the mighty Doom Metal phenomenon, I’ve finally grown to understand the Beauty in Falling Leaves within the thunderous, transcendental qualities of their music, and have come to the conclusion that above all else, YOB is love.

Raul Soria Jr.

Photojournalist - Portland

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