Some music is all about power, power, power. Absolute power (shoutout to Tech N9ne) – whether in how it’s executed or the way it plays with mood and themes, there’s just something conjuring about it. The power transitions to you in a number of ways, like you could see yourself belting out the lyrics like the singer is, or maybe you feel more physically empowered by it all. Yashira‘s got that going for them with Fail To Be, but in a way that not all bands are capable of pulling off.
I wasn’t familiar with the quartet prior, so I did a little research after a few listens, quickly unearthing a tragedy from two years ago – the band’s former drummer, Seth Howard, had died. Upon learning this, it contextualized a lot of what I felt in their music, related to power and otherwise. Loss like that can take you to a very dark place. I’m lucky enough to assume most of that based on others’ experiences since I have yet to lose someone very close to me in my life, but I feel the manifestation of loss deep in Yashira‘s music.
Whether in the careening sludge metal sections of “Shards of Heaven”, or the foreboding atmosphere of “Kudzu” or “Narrowed in Mirrored Light”, there’s a specific prowess of heaviness that that I haven’t heard much of this year. It’s a kind that’s consistent first and foremost, making it easy to coast from song to song on the same mighty high dealt out by precise instrumentation and caustic vocals. Yashira‘s own vocals in “The Weight” mirror this approach well: ‘These machines steam with speed/On track endlessly, as they creep between the walls that keep it all moving.’
Full of Hell‘s Dylan Walker even gets in on the action with Yashira on “Shades Erased”, his unique wretch combining well with the more bellowed vocals of the band (three of the four members contribute vocals, so it’s hard to place who exactly is responsible for a newcomer like me). It’s a great song, but with it sandwiched between two harder songs, “Impasse” and “Amnesia”, it almost comes across as a calm interlude rather than its own bowl of iron ore for you to munch on. I don’t say this to critique so much as get across that, with the exception of the couple of slower sections present on Fail To Be, the album has two modes: heavy and heavier.
This is going to end up being one of my shorter reviews (I know, feels weird for me too) and it’s all in the name of the music being the best way to experience it – show, don’t tell, so to speak. Fail To Be is a metal mammoth, doing the kinds of things with heaviness that encourage placement among greats like Old Man Gloom (who, coincidentally, also had a similar tragedy with their loss of bassist Caleb Scofield years ago). It’s an exorcism of grief by way of forging this reflection of what this music means to you all, and paying tribute to that feeling. It’s subtle, but rewarding when tapped into and made this album significant in a sea of contemporaries. It’s a good album and y’all should listen to it.
If I may, Yashira, if you’re reading this – although this is my first foray into your music, I know you dedicated Fail To Be to Seth, your friend, and his family. Given the gravity of it all, I must say that this album surely does the memory of him proud based on my experiences. This album is a wrecking ball of intensity, uncompromising and surgical with its catharsis so that we may all feel it to varied degrees. Many bands have done it before, but your expression is unique, as your relationship with each other was unique. I hope it was a healing endeavor to push through the pain, make these songs, and put them out for us all to understand and take what we can from it. That in and of itself is a powerful notion that not many others can pull off in such a dignified manner, and it shouldn’t ever be disregarded or undersold.