7th April 2017 – Self-release
02. Crucible of Light
04. This Hollow Affliction
05. Of Dawn
07. Whispers of the Moon
08. The Mortal Tide
Black metal is going in all kinds of directions; as a longtime fan it’s great to see so many new ideas developing, and at such a fast pace – but new takes on the genre don’t necessarily mean brand new sounds or textures; occasionally there’ll be a band that takes an established sound and twists it in their favour. This philosophy is obvious for Asira, whose take on Deafheaven‘s shimmery production and classic prog metal tropes feels fresh and exciting.
Asira’s black metal is bright and present, laced with prog undertones and peppered with warm vocal sections. The brighter moments are airy and expansive, lovely modern-sounding post-rock; they remind me in particular of *shels and Ancients, or even some brighter, pop-y electronic bands like Purity Ring. The warmth is carried over to the intense black metal sections – here they often don’t have the bite of their more frostbitten cousins, but they are a commanding, intense presence. Importantly, had they messed with the production and made the heavier bits thinner-sounding, this wouldn’t hold together at all. As a result, the bleaker segments are successfully incorporated into their wider aesthetic without losing their power.
After the sparkle of instrumental opener “Sanguine“, the band really flex their black metal biceps on “Crucible of Light“, never quite letting up but separating harsh screeching with long Alcest-y vocal passages. “Efference” continues the vocal play with some clean, pretty guitar work. By the midpoint, tracks like “Of Dawn” really showcase the swooping atmospheres; here the guitars are really allowed to shine, with some Gilmour-esque work present before “Phosophorous” emerges, possibly the fiercest of all the more aggressive tracks. Closer “This Mortal Tide” flirts most brazenly with some Opeth-like folksy vocals and guitar play; Akerfeldt’s spectre looms throughout the record, and here it has an obvious presence.
There’s a fairly obvious comparison to bands like Deafheaven to be made, but this comparison is only really skin-deep; Deafheaven’s harshness shines through their icing sugar coating, whereas the textures are much thicker and brighter on Efference. The intense sections aren’t afraid to go fully embrace their warmth, a risk that paid off; I feel like Asira have really nailed their entry into the post-black metal field without sounding too much like the stalwarts. This sits comfortably with the Sunbathers and the Kodamas without slipping too much into their costumes.
The bottom line for these guys is that the shoegazey sound and production is bright and present enough to be a defining feature, which really brings out the progressive elements; there are a lot of fun, interesting ideas on display and Asira’s subtle creative decisions have helped to display these tastefully. Warm and summery, this is just the thing to shake off a harsh winter and likely to be a end-of-year list candidate for many.