Asira – Efference (Album)
Post Black Metal from Reading, England Asira are a five-piece with a debut release in the shape of this album. The line-up is: Jack Reynolds (vocals), Martin Williams (guitars / vocals), Ethan Bishop (guitars), Sam Greenland (drums), Chris Kendell (bass).
At first the soft pulsing and symphonic melodic nature of the instrumental Sanguine gives the impression that Asira are a chart Indie group with serious pretensions but the listener is swiftly unburdened of this delusion with the first of the songs Crucible Of Light. A shock barrage disrupts the silence, Black Metal influences married with a monumental pop / rock attitude: the mixture is a cornucopia of aural delight. Amongst delicate melodies the savage and brutal (post) Black Metal rage creates an absolute diversity, a symphonic drama – where others chop and change, this group readily fuse together into a wondrous sound scape. Crucible Of Light keeps at its centre a melodic structure which is untouched by the liquid musical approach of the quintet, as if some other had composed the music and this is the groups interpretation. Title track, Efference, takes the listener through a shadow drenched dream view – everything softened with guitar and vocal seeming like tangible wisps of smoke. A turn is taken when the full group takes up the song, quickening the pace and sharpening the delivery but still soft before falling away all too quickly to its previous state. When the full group does come in again it is with a more electric feel turning over the languid tones for sturdier Heavy vibes but not to the point of decimation. Jack Reynolds vocal changes from the softest to the most raw and the rest of the group keep the balance in the final quarter – a commercial but serious Heavy Rock tainted approach (similar to Paradise Lost). As the song reaches its climax the tension becomes palpable rather than just a confirmation that you are hearing an album by a group from the heavier side of the tracks. The fourth song, This Hollow Affliction, carries the light airiness from the previous piece – an effortless and essential bridge to make a necessary change in the mood. But the build, although gradual at first, becomes an overwhelming and morose affair that transmogrifies into a twisting and tortured soliloquy full of graceful vocals and then barbed screams, the melodies turning from full-on thrashing attacks to finely structured melodic interludes (I must stress that this is not some disjointed Frankenstein monster but a well thought-out direction this group have taken). Asira love their haunting vocals and make use of them in the last part of this song as the wash of synths die away. The ghostly vocals continue as the heavier side of the group’s musical influences take over in an almost contemplative way as if this piece is finally scouring away the affliction which the title speaks of. Of Dawn truly marks the second half of this magnificent opus – recalling the amorphousness and drifting qualities displayed in the first half. The vocals sailing effortless over the whole with little to distinguish what is being sung – a quality creating a mystique around the music. But the surge towards the electrified climax is swifter and contains more soul than Sanguine: the Blues tainted solo providing an emotional edge. Phosphorous shakes the foundations of this tranquillity and delivers an acid anecdote of primal Metal countered by what, for all intents and purposes, is a coda using the theme from Of Dawn. The symphonic Black Metal of Asira wins out though striking throughout the rest of the song. At last we hear more of the harsh musical side of the quintet and it is a joy with all the atonality associated with that area of Metal removed: and yet it remains intense, indeed impassioned, even as it thrashes out. From the halfway mark it ‘settles’ down to a more easy pace and hinges on a simple chord progression which continues to the end, building by subtle touches here and there. The penultimate track, Whispers Of The Moon, opens with ethereal delicacy which continues into a heartfelt modern folk song. Again the use of lighter Rock sounds is used effectively – added life in the shape of an increasingly tense and orchestral instrumental passage which holds within it echoes of classic Progessive Rock. As much as Jack Reynolds is the voice of the group, we are given the opportunity to experience some beautiful and uncomplicated music. The closer to the album The Mortal Tide is another epic. From synthetic washes into rhythmic guitars and those intertwining, clear-voiced vocals which are swept away by the thunderous barrage. And out of this anger-stricken state rises a hypnotic section with the lead melody carried by Jack Reynolds and ending as voiced by guitar. The theme is carried through into a darker area before being swept away to make way for more of that luscious soft-edged Rock which imbibes this album with a counterpoint to the extreme side equally evident throughout. The finale to this song is a bringing together of the Metal and Rock influences that Asira draw on and reaches its climax drawing on soft textures which initially introduce this album.
Picking out the individual sources of influence throughout this album would encompass so much and yet the point is that Asira have brought it all together in one single place. All the grace of This Mortal Coil mixed with the solid Black Metal of Bathory and anything else in between. So the range of people who should give this group is also quite wide – notwithstanding that not everyone will enjoy the mixture but this does need to be given its due: an eclectic, dramatic album with the heart of poetry at its core. Even though there is great maturity within the 52 minutes it isn’t as if you’re listening to something which fans of, shall we say, ‘sensible’ music will uncontrollably clutch to their hearts: there is too much aggression here. Herein lies a remarkable feat of amazing skill and bravery: they have made it possible to listen to an album that should have been made years ago but no-one would take the step. Until now. Stunning.
Post Black Metal album is the debut release without comparison and full of maturity - one of the exceptional releases of the year which stands out because of its audacious approach