Random Records with Steve O
Fall of Efrafa - OwslaSteve O - November 9, 2014
So this could be the nerdiest random record post ever. Why so you ask? What’s so nerdy about a crushing, doomy, epic crust band with a funny name? Well, let’s examine that funny name. Fall of Efrafa. Any guesses what Efrafa is? Hint: it’s a literary reference. From Richard Adams’ fantastic Watership Down, Efrafa is the warren (home territory) of a police state run by a violent, dictatorial rabbit. Yes, that’s right, rabbit. As in what’s up doc. Fall of Efrafa existed for three records (and a couple other songs); a trilogy that is loosely based on Watership Down and its mythology, while also channeling their own political critiques, into a metaphorical storyline. The three records are a continuation of the same story; running in reverse order, i.e. their first record, Owsla is the end of the cycle. The records show a progression, as the finale (and story-starter), Inlé, leaves out much of the crusty, d-beat influences in favor of a slower, gloomier, doom and post-metal (how can you be post- something that isn’t time?) vibe.
Owsla, while being the end of the storyline, is Fall of Efrafa’s debut record, released back in 2006. Owsla is one of the words Adams invented for his novel, and refers to the strongest rabbits in the group, who form a sort of police/security force for the head rabbit. In the novel, the Owsla of Efrafa forms what is essentially a paramilitary unit, keeping strict control over their own group and violently forcing any encountered outsiders to join or die. I’m not making this up, honestly.
What I like about epic crust music is that it is so expansive; there’s so much depth to the music and so many different elements. It’s almost like there are different movements in the songs, much like classical music. Album, and story, closer “The Fall of Efrafa” is a good example. Starting with some simple chords, and a layering of strings – as cello & violin, yeah, those kind of strings – the over 15 minute song goes through a number of movements. Some drums join the guitar early, and they lay a fantastic groundwork for the storm to come. And it hits hard when they finally unleash it, around three minutes in, with the frenetic pace and heaviness of crust. “The warren is empty tonight, / Blood spills on toiled ground / Fur will hang in ragged clumps / Upon the hedgerows.” I told you, it’s about fucking rabbits. As the song progresses, sections have their own unique feel. A little over five minutes in, it sounds like the song could be finished, before they deliver some melancholic chords and strings, with a haunting voice telling us “the fields are covered with blood.” A perfect transition for the next blast, which gives way to the end of the storm: some calming chords, those mournful strings, and rainfall.
Give Owsla a listen here. Alerta Antifascista also has Inlé and Elil on their bandcamp for streaming. I’d recommend giving the whole trilogy a listen. I would also highly recommend giving Watership Down a read, if reading books is your thing. Definitely one of my favorite novels.