Failure: The Heart Is a Monster

Failure came into my life in 1992, the year their debut album, Comfort, was released. An older (and much cooler) friend urged me to listen to it, and I was instantly hooked. My first Failure show took place in 1994, when they opened for Tool in Cleveland. During their set, I was up against the stage screaming along and air drumming, while much of the crowd up front stared at me making a fool of myself. Fast forward to ’96/’97, and I was lucky enough to have seen all three Failure shows in Cleveland, in support of the brilliant masterpiece, Fantastic Planet. Then, just like that, they imploded due to well documented issues with substances, internal strife, etc. I was left to mourn their loss, like you would a childhood friend who was removed from your life much too soon, never to return.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Failure reformed in the last few years, playing select shows to rave reviews and beginning to record the follow up to Fantastic Planet. The recording process was well documented on social media, as well as the launch of their PledgeMusic campaign. With the recording completed, and Entertainment Weekly being given the exclusive rights to stream the record titled The Heart Is a Monster, Failure was officially back in a big way. This time, though, there is the added bonus of health, maturity, and perspective to bolster their chemistry as a unit.

Which brings us to the record, which is a stunningly perfect next step from Fantastic Planet in terms of songwriting and the use of new technology. Failure are masters in the studio, and it was obvious from the beginning that they would take advantage of all the new toys and tricks available to them in order to create a beautiful sonic experience. The record kicks off with ‘Segue 4,’ which continues the series of segues started on Fantastic Planet, and it’s cinematic nature prepares you for the plunge you are about to take. This leads right into ‘Hot Traveler,’ which the first thing that caught my ear was the absolutely gnarly bass tone, which is prevalent throughout the record. There are so many improbable tempo changes, subtle instances of feedback, and perfectly placed noises and sounds, that were probably painstakingly tweaked for days upon days. Other standout tracks are the Beatles and Pink Floyd influenced ‘Mulholland Drive,’ and the up-tempo burner ‘Otherwhere.’ The incredibly haunting ‘I Can See Houses,’ with its plodding, disorienting tempo, takes your brain on a six minute trip that you will want to take again and again.

Overall, this record is an instant classic that needs to be listened to start to finish, uninterrupted. In an era where “full albums” are largely shunned in favor of the potentially more lucrative singles-driven approach, all that goes out the window with The Heart Is a Monster. While the entire band’s performances are stellar, I have to give a special shout-out to drummer Kellii Scott, who gives it all he’s got on a record where there is so much diversity, it could be easy to lose your musical identity. But Kellii adapts in a way that when bashing is called for, he is up for it, but when more subtle, intricate drumming is what is needed, he steps it up just as well. As much as I adore Greg and Ken’s performances, I don’t want to overlook the fact that I don’t think any other drummer could have pulled this record off.

I couldn’t be happier that after all these years, even having given up hope, I finally got my “friend” back, hopefully for many years to come. Who knows, I may even conjure up the bravery to introduce myself next week in Cleveland and thank them for all the years of great music, something I couldn’t bring myself to do many, many years ago. I think I learned my lesson to not let those opportunities pass by, because you never know what the future holds.

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