It’s another overcast afternoon in the Willamette Valley, and Mike Scheidt is talking about growing up in Springfield, Oregon, and discovering heavy metal, punk rock, and the very real tension between those two scenes.
“I was 13, getting into it all at once, but I also loved new wave because I wasn’t a jock. I was more of a sensitive person,” says Scheidt, the songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist for Eugene metal giants Yob. “So Depeche Mode made sense to me, but so did Black Sabbath and Black Flag. I liked all those different things and I felt caught in the middle. The fact that there is more openness around it [now], that’s a lot closer to where my heart’s always been.”
For Scheidt, discussing the divide between metal and punk is a nice diversion from the topic everyone’s been asking about: his life-threatening bout with diverticulitis (inflammation of the digestive tract; Scheidt’s intestine was perforated) in early 2017, and how that experience informed Yob’s monumental new album Our Raw Heart.
“I’ve done probably 60 interviews on this [album] so far, and at about interview 50, I was talking about my illness a lot and I started getting depressed about it,” Scheidt says. “I had to take a week off from talking about it, reset, and refocus. I didn’t realize the effect it was going to have on me.”
Our Raw Heart is Yob’s eighth LP in 22 years, and it might just be their best yet. Sonically speaking, it’s a clear evolution from 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend, which found Scheidt, bassist Aaron Rieseberg, and drummer Travis Foster augmenting their crushing, slo-mo doom metal with chiming guitars, pretty melodies, clean vocals, and other lighter elements.
Similarly, Our Raw Heart has its share of hissing sludge (“The Screen”) and gnarled doom (“In Reverie”), but its back half is a crawling collision of big guitar riffs, life-affirming beauty, and Scheidt’s mystical wisdom and wonderings. “Temple to a nameless soul, beckoning my restless ghost,” he sings on the title track. “From holes in my gut to love from miracles.”
He may get tired of talking about his near-death experience, but Scheidt also recognizes the many ways in which it’s impacted his life and his band.
“Big parts of me have changed. My perspective has changed. Having gone through that, it’s all real and true,” he says. “Did it inform our new music? Certainly. But this isn’t the ‘sickness album.’ It’s not ‘Diverticulitis, Inc.’”
In fact, Scheidt says Yob is still moving in the same direction it has been since he started the band back in 1996. It’s still built on the relationship between the three men, and that relationship has only strengthened over the past couple of years.
“It wasn’t just my survival. It was our survival,” Scheidt says. “And the survival of something that has been a profound part of our lives.”
Now it’s up to Scheidt, Rieseberg, and Foster to take the lessons they’ve learned, the perspective they’ve gained, and the strength they’ve drawn from Scheidt’s health scare and pour it all into their lives and their music.
“We’re still growing as a band and as artists, and this experience is something that has given us some fuel to take off and go to the next place,” Scheidt says. “The journey is still happening.”