Hailing from Reading here in the UK, ASIRA are a five-piece outfit on the cusp of releasing their first ever piece of music as a band, Efference. Taking influence from the likes of OPETH and ULVER, the post-black metallers are keen to smash genre boundaries to create their own unique sound. However, this is a tough feat to accomplish, so does Efference stand up to the challenge?
Starting out with Sanguine, a heavy post-rock influenced ambient track with minimal guitar, the track lulls you into a tranquil state before exploding towards the end. Despite being only two minutes in length, it’s an emotional opener for Crucible of Light, which picks up the pace and displays the band’s influences and style clearly. Mixing from an all-out black metal barrage with atmospheric touches to an ethereal symphony of beautifully clean vocals and uplifting guitar, it’s a highlight of the record. Simultaneously haunting and blissful, Crucible of Light shows what ASIRA are doing to black metal. Building on the base of atmospheric black metal and continuing to experiment, it builds upon previous attempts to incorporate black metal into ‘softer’ genres, and works very well.
The title track of the EP features soothing cleans along with a soft guitar in the background behind a glorious solo, and again illustrates the diversity of this completely new band. It’s rare that you hear such solid experimentation from a new project, and it all seems to pay off in Efference. This Hollow Affliction opens with a slow and touching guitar piece, before taking a slightly darker turn with haunting vocals that are strongly reminiscent of OPETH. Almost immediately, the track changes its nature entirely and becomes a chilling black metal track, with incredible drum work from Sam Greenland over ethereal cleans and malevolent rasps from Jack Reynolds and Martin Williams. The track takes a slightly odd turn towards the end, with some progressions sounding slightly out of place, as if they belonged in a different song entirely.
One thing that is utterly striking about Efference is how diverse it is, and how gracefully it shows this. The perfect example of this is between the tracks Whispers of the Moon and Phosphorous, the former an atmospheric, almost tranquil and complex journey, the latter a barrage of ferocious black metal. Instead of sticking to one particular sound, ASIRA ride across the entire palate of atmospheric and haunting flavours. The odd slip up with experimentation taken a little too far is almost expected in a new project, and will only improve over time as these guys persist with their ideas and continue to try and find their sound.
With nods to the likes of AGALLOCH and ALCEST at every turn, while maintaining their own sound as they shift from rasping vocals and ferocity, to the grace of ethereal progressions and soothing vocals, Efference is ‘post-black metal’ done right. The only gripe of this album is that it feels as if ASIRA hasn’t quite found their sound entirely. They’re certainly on the right track, but little bits here and there seem out of place and in need of refinement. Being their first record, they have plenty of time to fine-tine what they’re doing and iron out any teething problems.
It’s incredible to think that this is ASIRA‘s first effort as a band. It’s seldom seen for a group of musicians to have such a solid foundation to build upon from the offset, which makes this a very exciting project indeed to keep an eye on. An incredible example of pushing the limits of black metal and being as experimental as possible in a way that pays off elegantly for the most part, Efference could be the build-up to one of the best things to happen in black metal and all its sub-genres in quite some time.
Efference is set for release on April 7th via self-release.
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