I normally make a point of ignoring Facebook adverts. “I won’t be a victim to consumer culture!” I say to myself; “you don’t know me!” But the omniscient algorithms which now compose the base of all our interests and spending habits were once again validated. Promising progressive post-metal, eye-catching artwork and a group local to me, Asira‘s Efference beckoned with a sultry finger. And while I may have chided myself as I hit play on the single, I learned to re-love myself by its conclusion. This début is beyond impressive for a first try and is only slightly short of something really special. Maybe I should just bend over to my binary, digital overlords and accept a load of consumerism in the future.
Opeth are the perennial lazy comparison drawn when one tries to describe a progressive, flowing sort of metal but I will once more invoke them. Efference’s influences are similarly diverse and its writing full of contrast, dynamism and fluid transitions. Asira don’t just write songs but weave a rich tapestry traversing progressive delicacy, post-rock’s waves, and furious but melodic black metal. Seemingly conflicting passages are adjoined but they’re interwoven beautifully. While the structures may evoke Opeth, the sound is more like Alcest. Vicious shrieks sit happily alongside smooth cleans while the tremolo-picked guitars and blast beats often give way to a piano, acoustic guitar, and synths. Serenity and cathartic aggression may sit at opposing ends of the emotional spectrum but perhaps that’s why Efference works so well: both remove me from whichever activity I am currently engaged.
Asira make a valiant lunge at the crown for best builds in metal. “Efference,” “This Hollow Affliction,” and “Whispers of the Moon” all start slowly and continually develop through their durations. While brief periods of brutality offer moments of satisfactory release, you’re made to wait for the real headbang n’ horns passages. The delicate and subtle addition of layers and crescendos are very compelling. These builds deploy the almost tidal feel which I think best characterizes Efference. There’s a sense of ebb and flow, rolling in then out. This corresponds to the heavy parts too, like a storm disturbing the regular tide. The awesome guitar solos are driftwood from which you can cling and tastefully diversify the sound with a style that recalls David Gilmour.
Though all tracks flow well within themselves, there’s a tendency for the slower parts to repeat. This contributes to their hypnotic feel but at times they’re overly protracted. Compounding this is that these passages are frequent which means that they can blur, even between tracks. More variety in the tranquility would mitigate this effect, as would giving more minutes to the blackened blasting which is very good. The guitars are hooky and melodic with a solid tone and the shrieks are probably better than the singing. While the linear material is almost irresistible the deliberate patience is just a touch wearing across the entire record. So while Asira may not attain the mastery of builds sought, the result is still highly commendable.
My thoughts on Efference crystallized as I crossed Westminster Bridge on my daily commute. It was one of the first sunny days of the year and the Sun was sinking lower over Parliament. And in that moment the album progressed to the outright beauty of its title track. It was a reminder that while the Thames is polluted to borderline syphilitic and the adjacent houses of politicians are no better, the world can be a wonderful place. Any album capable of eliciting such a joyous reaction is worth hearing and while there are limitations, it is a remarkable début. Could Asira be the next Big Deal? Maybe.