Reading’s Asira are part of a genre that hinges on careful balance. Post-metal treads a fine line, its identity split between two admittedly disparate and very individual musical groundings. Too much of one will see this balance tip. When a genre as individual and willfully unrestrained as Black Metal enters the mix, the balance becomes even more key. Interestingly, Asira’s latest album, Efference, doesn’t find itself balancing too far into the murky, abrasive darkness of its black metal influences – if anything, it balances too far in the opposite direction.
Opener ‘Sanguine’ swells with melancholic synths, uplifting with bright, airy guitars slowly rising upwards until they soar. ‘Crucible Of Light’ rushes in with a blast of black metal, icy tremolo guitar lines curiously grasping on to major chords, not minor. It maneuvers through relentless drums and rasping screams, emerging into a very clean, prog-infused section with lots of satisfying bass meandering. Twisting again through wandering vocal melodies, it morphs into a stabbing groove, ending with a lush guitar overlay.
‘Efference’ itself comprises mournful, breathy clean vocals and dreamy guitar layers that build to jangling acoustic chords and jazzy uptempo drum licks. There’s a decent, swinging bass undercurrent buried under fragile solos, rising clean guitars and buckets of reverb. ‘This Hollow Affliction’ echoes almost endlessly into the negative space surrounding it, evoking Opeth with its flair for high-register vocal dramatics, before ripping away with furious double kicks and snaking guitar solos. ‘Of Dawn’ whines in with backmasking, phasing, meditative guitars adding an otherworldly, ethereal lilt to the track.
‘Phosphorus’ slices in with atonal chords and juddering tom fills, locking into a stomping main riff, cut through with sweeping, pacey guitar lines and Enslaved style glossy vocal melodies. ‘Echoes Of The Moon’ is a earied, subdued run peppered with bright, wistful synths and restless drumming, dragged down by slightly trite lyrical themes despite showcasing the bands’ strong rhythm section and ascending, tremolo picked guitars. ‘The Mortal Tide’ carries us home with a riff that rises from the sound of the wind, sultry vocals and urgent blast beats dropping into a climbing run that breaks down into staccato stuttering, crashing like a wave into a foam gentle guitars and soft synth.
Whilst Asira nail the meditative and gentle side of post-metal with their airy, buffeting composition, and evoke genre stalwarts with their melodramatic take on black metal. Sadly, what they lack is any true dynamic heft. The moments of ‘heaviness’ are sparse, and when they do appear they almost seem token. Not through a lack of talent or conviction on the bands’ behalf, but perhaps because of their focus on the lighter elements and themes. As such, there’s an air of the cloyingly saccharine here, a lack of a bitter tang that would offset the soaring uplift. While some will be enthralled by the spiraling, ethereal grace Asira conjure on Efference, still others will feel like the band are too obsessed with looking skyward.