Review Summary: Your Album of the Year list was too early.
The loss that looms over Yashira is everything and nothing at the same time. On one hand, it is the premature departure of a comrade that can never possibly be replaced. There’d be no shock over the Jacksonville gentlemen exiting from the scene in this context; anyone could respect such a decision that acknowledged the inimitable presence that had been stripped away. In a separate perspective, the very same existence is the thriving heart of the quartet, each beat resonating in the pounding drum hits that were written not simply by an artist, but by a friend. An already incredible foundation remains as robust as ever per the contributions of a gifted, genuine soul, and the notes that appear inside Fail to Be
contain a sizable strength he would unquestionably appreciate. It is a record that is entirely possible due to rallying around this effort and emerging more determined than before.
On their debut, the intrepid Floridian band had a clear mission as they burst from the underground: be angry, be sludgy as hell, and crank up the volume. Their sophomore is not only an improvement in every regard, exhibiting commendable songwriting—the group hasn’t missed a single step—but it manages to be something vicious in a manner that defies prior imagination, and a manner that may have snagged the crown of 2020 right under everyone’s noses.
At the root of the collective’s sonic identity is a potent brew of post-metalcore that resides in complete darkness. Having drunk heavily from the well of sludge acts past, Yashira’s output relies upon arrangements that abuse slower tempos to the extreme, increasing their gait only to drag it to a halt at a moment’s notice. Abrasive guitars, their onslaught buttressed by the growling bass, mercilessly assail the audience. Foreboding riffs are difficult to predict, either creeping out of caverns fathoms below or suddenly rushing straight for the jugular, sparring with Comity in terms of pure musicianship. Surviving these strikes leaves one to face the approach of the percussion performance, its ceaseless march raining down upon the unfortunate individual captured for the journey. Bellowing harsh vocals successfully reach above the mire, their authoritative call omnipresent throughout the entries laid down for the release. There’s considerably less glamor to be uncovered in the subsequent collision of technicality and elongated brutality. However, where the crew prospers is precisely in that methodology; an emphasis upon calculated, dissonant forays through a flooded abyss, the listener struggling to wade through the muck, is an atmosphere few are capable of portraying. It is this sort of evocative imagery that is unavoidable when describing exactly how unabashedly hateful
the chaotic interior of Fail to Be
becomes. This particular genre is no stranger to records that seemingly possess an intense desire to smash their fans to pieces. Carving out space in the small niche that is sludge-influenced -core music is a feat in of itself, especially when Shrine
was considerably more progressive metal-minded in its structuring. A second stab at the category displays a minor conversion in sound, transforming a Zao disciple into a behemoth that can play the game of outfits of previous years and come out on the winning side.
Although the sludge aspects attain greater prominence, the slow-tempo tactics of Yashira stay largely unchanged, their purpose slightly altered to allow weighty passages to flourish liberally. Combined with a production that accentuates the controlled cacophony, the songs constructed for this latest album are able to land their blows like a legion of semis. Of the three lead singles, “Shades Erased” best illustrates the typical modus operandi of the band. Stretching across a near-five-minute span that morphs into an eternity, the tune commences with a haunting riff lurking in the background, a thunderous rhythm section wasting no time by pounding with punishing grooves that gradually settle into the recesses of consciousness. The rug is unceremoniously pulled away when proceedings suddenly accelerate—only to be wrestled to a stop once more. If the unbending heaviness wasn’t enough, the band opts to conclude the duration with a thrilling breakdown that erupts from nowhere. Full of Hell’s own Dylan Walker making a brief, albeit effective cameo appearance is the cherry on top, compounding the absolute power wielded by the quartet. Covering greater ground is the finale of the LP, “Kudzu,” which extends its impact over a 7-minute territory. Flowing between conflicting sections of desperate shouts and crushing sludge, the titanic trek pits restraint against an unrelenting tide of guitars tuned as low as the ocean floor, only a semblance of melody to cling to in the distance. A respite ushered in by light strumming is rendered to rubble by the impending doom brought forth by a mounting crescendo. Discordant strings clash amidst the commanding vocal contribution before they dissipate into the fog from which they come, receding into the shadows as the noise slowly diminishes. Yashira are evidently comfortable here, showcasing songwriting skill that exercises laudable patience in order to let numbers develop naturally rather than forcing jarring transitions.
Not every entry abides by this format; aforementioned technical expositions introduce themselves over the 41-minute record, their startling appearance aiding the diversity of the disc while refusing to sacrifice a grain of the intensity. Nowhere is this clearer than the devastating force that is “Shards of Heaven.” The stage isn’t set a la “Shades Erased,” with the group instead launching headfirst into a direct assault where not one element is held back. Drums take off at a sprint as winding guitars chase after them, the amazing dynamic struck by both instrumental units creating a hellish landscape that could smash an Amia Venera Landscape show to pieces. In the second half of the track, the invasion is scaled back slightly as the militaristic precision of the percussion dominates, eerie guitars practically yelling behind the kit as it pulverizes those that stand in its path. Similar to its fellow single, “Shards of Heaven” decides not to fade—an uncompromising, bass-fronted breakdown will see that no neck survives the song’s ending. The urgency depicted by this venture bleeds into the latter “Inertia Mines,” a frantic sensation permeating throughout the midtempo formation as it evolves into a more fearsome beast. Intertwining melodies dissolve into the static-laden depths, their menacing tone made all the more sinister by the boundless energy of the drumming, its position as the herald of Yashira’s style reasserted. After minutes of anticipation, the gates finally burst open at the band’s will, the flurry of percussion sparking a revolt as the number runs off the rails, rushing towards its finish with an unstoppable, quickened rage. Much like the slower tunes observed throughout Fail to Be
, these creations are far from aimless; the way individual components are implemented speaks to a heightened aptitude in compositions. All members have a voice, and their parts are consistently engaging, cooperating with one another to forge frightening heaviness or dizzying technical portions.
A hefty passage or two in of themselves cannot lead to an atmosphere that could be labeled as ‘hateful.’ What binds these excursions into a cohesive experience is a commitment to an aesthetic that is conducive to the growth of an intimidating ambiance. Though it may be transparent enough to allow the band to feature their separate additions, a noise-esque bravura causes the guitars to grow fuzz across their fretboards, an imposing wall of static exploding from the ground on demand. Special attention is placed upon the timbre of the riffs as well as the necessity to distinguish them, crafting a range that balances limited and full-on maneuvers. Two different progressions can coexist; “Narrowed in Mirrored Light” spends considerable time in quiet, while the preceding “Amnesia” advances piece by piece. How they excel is in how their eventual result complies with the overarching theme of negative emotion outlined in the critical lyricism. Ominous thrumming preludes the onset of the second instance, its warning lost once the drumming enters the fray, a siren cry of a riff snaking its way into the forefront. The threatening air that intrudes the tune is nearly black metal in its character occasionally before diving deeper into sludge-infested domains, the volume augmented to a maximum. The former declines to show its hand early, remaining in a surprisingly calm area sporadically encroached upon by melancholic clean vocals and shouts. Only in the closing seconds of the song does it abruptly switch tactics, hastening itself on a dime as raucous instrumentation kicks down the door, the delightful insanity pulsing into an up-tempo race to the culmination. Substantial weight is plentiful, yet Yashira spread out the peak of this sound by employing effective changeovers to connect apexes. A production filthy enough to blacken but clean enough to illuminate every moving part is the perfect pairing.
If there were any doubts over the continuation of the Yashira project, Fail to Be
is a declaration of longevity; the aspiring collective have committed to this album something more than a mere flash in the pan. It is a convincing statement of intent that the fight to break through the underground endures without a single member left behind. The spirit of the entire band is alive in the contents of the sophomore opus, striving valiantly to exceed the expectations of a primary disc that already held considerable potential. No longer trapped in the possible pigeonhole their Zao comparisons pointed them towards, the group has broken the mold, their amplified expertise propelling them to the ranks of peers like Conjurer—good company to keep for fellow younger acts hungry for a product that is fascinating as it is destructive. Attempting to make such a resonating effort at the tail end of a calendar year is a bold choice given the market’s propensity to frequently ignore the month of December or even November. As sure as Yashira are of their objective to forge ahead, it is certain that the Florida crew have taken advantage of a quiet release cycle. This despairing, fuming, aggressive voyage is one that cannot be found easily in post-metalcore, let alone an LP that can flaunt about bulky odysseys that are smoothly integrated, consistently engaging, and artistically pleasing. Despite all climbing up the mountain that is ‘Album of the Year’ being almost entirely shut down, these gents managed to sneak up a path while most were busy compiling lists. To even be in the conversation after the circumstances the band faced is an accomplishment. Everyone who was involved in the process, present or not, would or should absolutely be proud.