Down-Tune DUVAL

February 22, 2017
by
5 mins read

Metal, when done right, is like chocolate mint, the Grateful Dead, and even war. There is no in between and when you’re “all in,” you invariably stay in. Metal is the true music of the aesthetically marginalized. That is to say, metal shall forever be considered uncool by the self-appointed tastemakers, i.e., flinching, music critic snobs. Viewing metal from some clinical, “dissertation”-style standpoint entirely misses the point altogether. Yet metal consistently offers the preferred flavor for musicians and acolytes who believe in high-volume defiance, transgressive lyrics and finding a weird holiness within hopelessness

Metal is the music for eternal teenagers written by evolved teenagers. Maturity is demanded. Metal demands nothing. Like punk and noise, metal taps into an almost-genetic need to express intensity without the filter of responsibility or age. Permanent hearing loss is a small price to pay for temporary release.

The undisputed architects of the sound and even look of metal are Black Sabbath. Elements like drop-tuning, exploring melodic tritones and chromaticism, toying with religious imagery, even all-black clothing and making long, greasy hair a kind of menacing hippie coiffure, were all created by the Birmingham four-piece. Among some (this person included), the music of Sabbath is as immediately recognizable as The Beatles’ — if not preferred (this person included).

In the Nov. 25, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone, protean-rock scribe/loose cannon Lester Bangs wrote of Sabbath, “Rock & roll has always been noise, and Black Sabbath have boiled that noise to its resinous essence. Did you expect bones to be anything else but rigid?”

Local metal four-piece Yashira does its part in boiling down that essence even further, emulsifying metal, thrash and rock into a molten, molasses groove that breaks a few bones in the process. Formed in July 2015, the band — consisting of Luke Barber (bass and vocals), Dylan Mikos and Connor Anderson (both guitar and vocals) and drummer Seth Howard — is savvy to this. “Black Sabbath created a thing and made it really difficult for other people to really break ground,” says Mikos, of Yashira’s de facto metal forefathers. “Now with so much online, it’s also difficult to create something that no one has heard.”

Standing squarely in the middle of the loud lessons of the past and possibilities of the present, Yashira is an adherent to the somnambulant doom/drone/sludge sound that has permeated, if not completely altered, the contemporary metal scene. Ancestral forbearers like Sabbath, St. Vitus, late-era Black Flag, Neurosis and Melvins codified the roadmap. “Post-metal” bands like Earth, Isis and Mastodon pointed out new pathways. Current artists like Yashira seem intent on erasing any lingering boundaries.

“One common thing is that we all really like is music that is like that,” Barber explains, of a writing process he describes as both “supernatural” and spiritual. “None of us are really Christian, but there’s definitely something spiritual involved. We just keep throwing out ideas and grab on to what we like and hold on to that.”

Released in 2015, on the crucial local-metal label Southern Druid, Yashira’s EP We Find Ourselves in the Grief of Others  (yashira.bandcamp.com) features two, sidelong tracks on the 10” vinyl, picture-disc version. The nine-and-a-half-minute, “Alluvion (Succumb to Cycles)” opens with 30 seconds of feedback and dissonance, eventually morphing into a grinding march, drumbeats that zip from double-bass pummel, hardcore cut time and blast beats, with all three vocalists tearing into the verses. Barber explains that the band’s lyrics use anatomical and spiritual imagery as a launching pad. “It focuses on the world as it relates to the body.” Recorded at Converse Rubber Tracks studio in Brooklyn, New York last year, the band’s latest cut, “Surmise (Descend),” features the same kind of long-form lurch at which excel Yashira, benefiting from the production of Will Putney, whose analog-heavy sound is in high demand with deathcore bands like The Acacia Strain and Thy Art is Murder.

“Drone or doom metal is easy to interpret on your own. It’s not a ‘surface-style’ kind of music; it’s more of an art piece to me,” says Barber. “You can dig deep into it and explore and we really like the fact that we push the limits of our songs, and also what we can do.”

Yashira band members are pleased that this limit-free range is helping them attract essentially non-metal fans as well. Metal, punk and noise have always enjoyed a shared space. All three are disregarded, misunderstood, open to innovation and inclusive. The term “metal” now encompasses everything from Iron Maiden, Saxon and Megadeth to Bathory, Thrones and Sunn O))). Accordingly, adherents of today’s metal scene have again changed because the music has yet again changed. “We get people who are looking to be aggressive at shows and they see that no one else is really acting out,” says Barber. “So they get in line with the vibe.”

The band has experienced — both as fans and musicians — how this new eon of slower, avant-garde twisting of metal is altering everything. “The more we play, the more the shows are actually becoming that way,” says Mikos, of the decrease in mosh pits and audience members no longer feeling unsettled more by the offstage violence than the onstage music. “And, realistically, that’s how we like it.”

With a median age of 22, Yashira is really at the ideal age to hone post-adolescent fury into a seriously heavy, adult dose. Locally, the band has played at clubs like the now-kaput Burro Bar and Underbelly, 1904 Music Hall, Rain Dogs and Nighthawks along with a regular booking to play at house shows. They’ve opened for bands like Crowbar and High on Fire; in May 2016, Yashira underwent a 10-day, East Coast tour with Savannah punk band Without. “It gave us a better idea of what we want out of a tour,” says Mikos of that run of gigs. “While playing those shows, we really experienced how the crowds can be varied and mixed in a really encouraging way.”

Whether in a gallery space or shot-down bar, art mirrors culture. Metal is no exception. The Reagan-era gave birth to a weird duality of thrashcore and hair metal, giving birth to Poison Idea and puking up Poison. While Yashira’s songs deal mostly in the metaphysical/mystical, they acknowledge that the crazed ascendancy of President D.R. Trump has been met with a rising tide of youthful metallic resistance. “It seems like there’s already a huge wave of new bands fired up about him and now the older bands are deciding to take a stance,” says Barber. “If they weren’t political before, now they are totally putting their foot down and stepping forward.”

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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