Yesterday Was Everything Directed by Matthew Mixon
Published Jul 06, 2017Perhaps more so than any subgenre of heavy music, the vastly varied yet distinctive din of metalcore left a mark of mutation on both the underground and mainstream, provoking both resistance from purists and appreciation from a broader audience than its earliest practitioners would have ever thought possible.
Despite this irrefutable cultural impact, the many peculiarities of the era were largely self-contained and seem like another lifetime to those that grew up in the thick of it all — festival tours that sold out massive venues, all-ages shows being the standard rather than an aberration and music that fused both the accessible and chaotic, sometimes infuriatingly.
Regardless of the sepia tint that singes the edges of many genre enthusiasts' memories, though, a handful of acts from the period managed to not only weather its scattershot rise and fall from oversaturation with their integrity and songwriting chops intact, but existed in a near-total vacuum from criticism — a result of the vividness and sincerity of their approach to stylistic conventions, which their contemporaries mostly failed to engage with effectively.
In this sense, the comfortable place Misery Signals occupies in this motley pantheon make them the ideal candidate for having their story preserved on celluloid in a format beyond the standard slapdash music DVD, of which there were no shortage produced in the period they emerged. That said, Yesterday Was Everything functions on many more levels than as a time capsule of the arguable death knell for full-time touring metalcore bands, and is an emotive testament to the personal struggles and relationships that have defined the band's aesthetic and historical trajectory since their inception from the ashes of 7 Angels 7 Plagues, Compromise and Hamartia in 2002.
First and foremost, it's an exploration of companionship, tragedy and catharsis, with the centrepiece of the narrative being the devastating accident that killed two members of Compromise and sparked the formation of the band upon the subsequent collapse of the original 7 Angels 7 Plagues lineup. While this story will be familiar to most fans, the skilfully spun latticework of interviews and sharp direction of friend and former 7A7P vocalist Matthew Mixon manages to offer both a wealth of detail previously unrevealed and a clarity of storytelling that will easily immerse the uninitiated.
What will be more illuminating for those seeking out the former are the chapters preceding and following this midsection, which focus on the band's recent reunion tour with their original vocalist Jesse Zaraska (also formerly of Compromise and a survivor of the aforementioned crash). The details of his initial departure from the band have been a source of speculation for many, and the film leaves very few stones unturned in its depiction of the dissolution of what many would consider their classic line-up.
Viewers will feel the earnestness of each member's versions of events, as they're crosscut with tastefully assembled tidbits of live footage and candid backstage content, to the extent that the fragments left to the imagination never truly annoy and seem skirted over out of necessity and respect for both the living and dead.
While the same cannot be said for the missing pieces of the less thoroughly explored later stretch of the band's existence, the structure is resolute in its focus on the relationships between this core group of early members, and is that much stronger for it. Zaraska's ongoing torment regarding the fate of his former bandmates in Compromise and anxious efforts to balance his home life, personal recovery and band responsibilities are palpably felt in his interviews, especially when contrasted with the equally potent but differently expressed creative drive of brothers Ryan and Branden Morgan on guitars and drums, with second guitar player Stu Ross and bassist Kyle Johnson playing the pragmatic foils to the clashing desires of their collaborators.
It's easy to grasp how a unit that grew out of such challenging circumstances could both flourish and erode with such ferocity, and the intriguing question mark of where the reunion tour will shepherd the band's future leaves the door enticingly open for a potential sequel (new album, anyone?).
Ultimately, the film is a success on all fronts, and fills a void in a genre that has remained largely unchronicled in documentary format. Much like its namesake, the now-defunct festival organized by the band as a tribute to their fallen comrades, Yesterday Was Everything reflects the strengths and vulnerabilities of a community altered forever by its own experiences and idiosyncrasies, and further cements the legacy of its figureheads.