By the time I’d got to the second track of this album, I could see why this album was touted as being for fans of Anathema, Ulver, Opeth and Alcest. This is achieved by the abrupt changeover between the first and second track “Crucible of Light” which launches into ferocious blackened metal after the initial ambient piece. The track goes through a number of changes of atmosphere. A haunting, pagan-style harmony emerges and re-emerges. “Crucible of Light” is full of ideas but it’s as if Asira want to pack all of them into six minutes. There’s a complete gear change as the sleepy title track begins. The guitar work is gentle and lush. I thought a couple of times that “Efference” had died a death but it picked up again. After the black metal of the previous track, my mind was numb when listening to this angelic song. It’s nice enough, and the instrumentals cannot be faulted, but I was struggling to find my level with this album. “Efference” eventually builds up post-metal style into an echoing growliness for a short while before finishing in ambient mood. Acoustic dreaminess marks the start of “This Hollow Affliction”. This reminded me strongly of Opeth’s “Damnation”, but let’s face facts here: no-one does it as well as Mikael Akerfeldt and his pals. As torpor was setting in, the clouds thickened. Form so far told me it was all going to change, and sure enough the music turns black and the weary-sounding harmony, which is overused and sounds less authentic each time, kicks in. To be fair, this time the melancholic pitch has impact and leads into a further burst of fire and ferocity. Changing atmospheres seems to be what Asira are about. We now enter a windy tunnel where a choir sings. Very nice and it’s more than just a cameo as it lingers while the fire starts up again.
Acoustic ambience and a pleasant bit of guitar virtuosity characterise the short “Of Dawn”, then it’s a complete switch to growly black metal as “Phosphorous” begins. From nowhere a Spanish-style guitar rhythm comes in. These illogical and unsubtle interludes are something I don’t like about this album. As if nothing had happened, the growly black stuff resumes and graduates to fiery ferocity, complete with the oft-used atmospheric harmony. It’s all like a series of unconnected motions. In what I guess is meant to be another twist in the unclear tale, the mood becomes reflective. “Whispers of the Moon” is slow burning and melancholic, but does expand into a progressive dream world. Although this isn’t in a style that I would listen to by choice, I did appreciate the fact that “Whispers of the Moon” was the most co-ordinated song on this album, and one where Asira play to their strengths without having to fire off in different directions. The ambience continues on the harmonic “Mortal Tide” but it was all too good to last, as blackened growls rise from the quiet landscape and take over. Asira now seem to be engaging in the pointless task of trying to prove they can do everything as we go from a moany nothingness to a distinctly Opeth-type aggressive assault and more blackness. A quieter dreamy harmony ensues. I found myself guessing what’s coming next. The immediate answer is an acoustic rhythm. It’s soft and eerie, and inevitably broken up by brief fiery blackness, with progressive punctuations. “Mortal Tide” has too much going on for it to have any impact. For me, it lost any purpose or direction, and summed up my overall impression of this album.
The other day I was discussing the subject of forward thinking footballers with a friend. I was reminded of this when I read a description of this album as forward thinking. A forward thinking footballer passes the ball into a space to a player who isn’t there. I felt the same about “Efference”. As a listener it’s hard to appreciate which direction it’s going in. It seems to be a case of a typical debut album. For me Asira try to do too many things here at the expense of considering whether the listener might be engaged with it.
(5/10 Andrew Doherty)