Chinese Democracy, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct and Tool’s next opus – if that ever arrives – are the more well-known examples of albums that take an age to be released, but the debut from Reading duo Asira is right up there, tracing its roots back a decade.
“The first riff that appears on this album I wrote about nine years ago,” says guitarist Martin Williams, who formed the band alongside vocalist Jack Reynolds from the ashes of various projects they’d been in in the Reading metal scene. Having had such a long gestation period, the pair’s evolving tastes and experiences have helped shape a wildly ambitious yet expertly coherent album in the form of Efference, which broadly falls under the progressive metal banner but is difficult to succinctly categorise. As Martin explains, “Eight years ago I listened exclusively to metal but we’ve both branched out into everything. I think that’s what makes the album so diverse. Jack and I have changed so much as people in that time. This album is a journey across that and branching out into different forms of music.”
Having had the album actually finished for two years, the band now consists of a lineup of musicians who possess the technical prowess for the white-hot Phosphorus and the gorgeous ambience of This Hollow Affliction, and also have the management and agencies to help Efference get the traction its incredible sonic palette deserves.
With a core of ferocious but gorgeous progressive black metal in the vein of Enslaved and Alcest, coupled with the opulent breadth of Opeth’s myriad sounds, Efference spreads out into every conceivable direction from bluesy lead guitars, neo classical structures and harmonies, beautiful, ethereal choral vocals and even immediately effective pop hooks that are somehow all meticulously harnessed into a cohesive, thematic journey. As both Martin and Jack state, it’s their breadth of influences that they’ve acquired over the years that form the heart of their writing process and result in their unique sound.
“In the writing process there’s less of a focus on nailing an overall sound for the band and what’s going to serve the song best,” Jack asserts. “If that means we go off on a diversion into different territory that doesn’t get visited again that’s OK, nothing is out of bounds.”
While discussing the themes and lyrics of the album that broadly cover loss, but with a positive and hopeful approach, the enthusiasm and joy the pair have for their art is palpable. “I would like to think you hear more moments of pure joy on this album than you might get from most metal releases,” Jack concludes. It shines through in a way that should appeal to anyone who is lucky enough to embrace the journey.
Efference is out on April 7