When Mike Scheidt is asked how preparation for his band Yob's new album and mini-tour is going, his response is at once dramatic and a massive understatement.
"We're taking it slow and careful," he says. "Yet at the same time, I began 2017 in the hospital almost dying, and at the end of the year, we had a new record. That's kind of wacky."
In 2016, Scheidt, the godly voiced frontman of Eugene's acclaimed doom-metal vets, was diagnosed with acute diverticulitis, an extremely painful disease that inflames intestinal walls. His intestines were such a mess that he required surgery and a nine-day hospital stay. Doctors told him that waiting any longer to check himself in probably would have killed him.
What was the hardest part of returning to writing, recording and performing music in the wake of such a traumatic experience? "All of it," Scheidt says. "Any conceivable part of it."
And yet, he jumped right back into it, starting to write Yob's upcoming eighth album almost immediately.
"We had a few ideas that we had been throwing around, but it wasn't until surgery and post-surgery that it came into focus," he says. "By the time the band could actually get together and practice, I had most of the album written."
Perhaps if Scheidt played in a more lighthearted band, it would have been more difficult for him to snap back. But compared to their doom-metal peers, Yob has always prized mood over 'tude. Scheidt's emotive voice invokes passion and spirituality, and his epic-length compositions often stir in elements of psychedelia and post-rock.
Lately, the vibe in Yob's music is that of long, painful paths that conclude with catharsis.
"I feel like there's generally a sense of positive process in our music," says Scheidt, "meaning that the magnifying glass of the moment is on something heavy and depressive or angry or what could be conceived as negative, which I don't think is actually negative. We're not just putting it on, like, terry cloths that stick to us and living in that vibe. It's a process where we're moving through it and the goal is to get to a better place by the end."
That sort of arduous journey defined Yob's last album, 2014's soul-cleansing Clearing the Path to Ascend, which focused on Scheidt's recent divorce and chronic depression. This time, much more of the strife in Scheidt's life is in the physical realm.
"My body definitely has gotten better, but sometimes I'd hit a wall," he says. "I would feel good, energy-wise, within boundaries of being careful, then all of the sudden my energy was just gone and it was almost like I mentally shut down. It wasn't by choice, it just happened, and I would have to slow down and rest. Building my voice back up was also a challenge, because if I bore down too hard, I could herniate at incision sites, so it's been a process."
Yob was able to reunite for a string of shows last summer, less than six months after Scheidt's surgery. Since August, they've taken a break from the road to record their still-untitled eighth album, and to give Scheidt the chance to play some solo acoustic sets. Yob's upcoming concert in Portland, at the first night of the Crystal Ballroom's annual Sabertooth Micro Fest, will be their first date here since Scheidt's diagnosis.
Scheidt is relatively opaque on the themes explored in his new songs. But longtime fans of his past records' metaphysical quests may be able to read between the lines.
"What would be maybe termed as 'dark vibes,' to me it's like positivity," Scheidt says. "There's another part of this picture that's integral to our ability to argue about mustaches or even our breath, the very fact that we're alive, that we can love. This is stuff that gets overlooked and seen as insignificant and yet, without it, we're literally nothing. So that's what I like to write about."
SEE IT: Yob plays the Sabertooth Micro Fest at Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., with Coven, Conan and Pillorian, on Friday, Feb. 16. 6 pm. $25. All ages. Go here for tickets and complete schedule.