YOB has never exactly been easy listening. They are masters of doom metal -- slow, heavy, ominous, forceful headbanger music with a strong appreciation of Black Sabbath (whose riffs have been a primary influence on the doom/stoner/sludge field). But the Oregon residents have managed to increase the heaviness factor somewhat on The Unreal Never Lived, which favors a generally thicker, more distorted sound than their previous releases. That isn't to say that YOB has turned into one of the many ultra-dense, ultra-claustrophobic metalcore or death metal bands that believes in bruising for the sake of bruising; even with the increased heaviness, The Unreal Never Lived is not the type of metal album that goes out of its way to be harsh. Nonetheless, the thickness factor has definitely increased for YOB -- and another thing that makes The Unreal Never Lived come as a bit of a surprise is Mike Scheidt's lead vocals. Scheidt, in the past, was known in doom/stoner circles for his high-pitched vocals; he was arguably the doom equivalent of Rush's Geddy Lee or Cradle of Filth's Dani Filth. Scheidt can still hit the high notes, but this time, he surprises you with a lot of deep, guttural death metal-ish growling -- not the sort of thing one expected from him on previous albums, but it works nicely on this 2005 recording. Despite those changes and adjustments, The Unreal Never Lived still has YOB written all over it. These guys are still doom all the way, and they continue to enjoy extended performances; "The Mental Tyrant," for example, lasts 21 minutes. Bottom line: The Unreal Never Lived is a pleasant surprise that will probably be well received by the majority of YOB fans but may help them acquire some new ones.