Though the seed of Echtra germinated for some time before its entry into corporeality, the project was explicitly given Life in the winter of 2002. Arising out of a desire to create a metal music germane to the process of meditation, influenced by the trance-inducing sounds and nature mysticism of Black Metal, Echtra was initiated in order to use sound in furthering spiritual practice and to create a deeper sense of connectedness with the Earth. Taking its moniker from an Irish mythic form from the Druidic past, a renewal of the Celtic spirit was another guiding light of these early days. The word Echtra comes from the Irish language, and references a kind of story commonly told in which the hero spontaneously and unexpectedly finds they have entered the Otherworld.
Echtra has always been a vehicle for ritual performance, and using the recorded works as a soundscape for performance events has always taken precedence over creating releases for public consumption. The first such performance to occur in Echtra’s lifespan was during Unburied, a night of rituals and exhibitions that took place in Olympia, Washington on June 6th, 2003. Also featuring performances by Alethes and Sacrificial Totem, Unburied was an initiation into what is possible when one dedicates themselves to their craft, and brought many souls further along in their journey towards transcendence. Billed as “Trance-Inducing Cascadian Black Metal”, Echtra manifested with the assistance of many others, using movement, sound, and ceremony to create a world unto itself. As with all Echtra performances, this required months of extensive preparations and involved the incorporation of many different ceremonial and performance modalities.
In 2004 Echtra self-released the material from this performance (titled simply “Echtra”), three songs recorded on a 4-Track machine and each precisely 23 minutes long (this was to become the template for the length of all Echtra songs). The packaging was a unique paper fold, created out of hand-screened art paper holding an insert and a hand-screened CD-R, all offered in a manner borrowed from Sacrificial Totem. This artifact was offered as a gift to a select group of individuals in a limited edition of 76 and quickly disappeared.
Two other performances were offered over the course of the year 2004, both utilizing songs from the original collection of Echtra pieces. One occurred in the wilderness of Northern California on July 30th, part of the Autonomous Mutant Festival, and another at the Manium Warehouse in Olympia, Washington on November 11th. Both performances featured extensive use of non-traditional performance elements, a consistent theme of Echtra manifestations.
Work on the second collection of Echtra pieces also began in 2004, utilizing the same 4-Track recorder as before. Though with the first album Echtra had intentionally chosen to work with the limited sonic palette of grim vocals, drum machine, and distorted electric guitar, this second approach to immersive song craft found the project integrating acoustic guitar and clean vocals. Two 23 minute long songs (known at that time as “Echtra II”) were created and then forgotten, abandoned in favor of other projects that drew attention away from their completion.
2006 saw the return of Echtra in earnest, with a new collection of material recorded and reworked over the course of many months, as well as an unearthing and performance of the “Echtra II” material. This unfolded at the Manium Warehouse on September 3rd of that year, and was notable in that it was the first time that Echtra performed solely. Whereas previous and subsequent rituals usually incorporated many collaborators, often becoming elaborate thematic plays displaying mythic themes, this rite was enacted by the Seeker alone.
As for the new material recorded that year, it was surely the most complex amalgamation of elements yet, containing a plethora of vocal styles, five different guitars in three different tunings (both acoustic and electric), dark ambient passages, and a variety of synthesizer and keyboard sounds. This material, then known by the working title “Crall,” saw Echtra ascend to a higher echelon of songwriting and production finesse, utilizing recording equipment much more advanced that the 4-Track used previously. As always, the performance of this material took precedence over its release, and a ritual related to this work was unveiled as part of the Yule Gathering of 2007. This occurred at the Hall of the Woods on Friday, December 21st, and was a triumphant release of the soul from the fetters of complacency. Also occurring in the year 2007 was the conceptualization and recording of the 4th chapter of Echtra material. The initiation of the Passage Cycle, a series of 3 albums conceptualized around the death and rebirth process as known in Tibetan Buddhism, this first entry was called “Sky Burial”. Echtra here continued the approach of more complex song structures and more professional recording techniques.
2008 was a year of advancement for the project, featuring the creation of another suite of songs and two performances. The two new pieces were christened “BardO,” the in-between stage of the soul’s passage in Buddhist cosmology, and a performance of this material was offered at Orbis Nex in Oakland, California on Saturday, July 19th. This manifestation is the source of the photo seen elsewhere on this profile, a meeting between the Seeker and Pan, the symbolization of the totality of the natural world. The performance of “Sky Burial” was offered within the womb of Echtra’s spiritual home, the Yule festival in Olympia, Washington, on Friday, December 19th. As befits its title, this work explored the death of the human person, the releasing of the self, and the performance associated with this material was arguably the most intense production yet.
2009 became, strangely enough, a year of showcasing the project to the outside world. Seven years after the birth of Echtra, the spirits finally dictated that the material needed to be made available to the world at large. One of the organizing principles of Echtra before this time was that the performances were the life of the project, and the music was only created to serve as the backdrop for these rituals of sound and form. Doubting that a recorded artifact would be able to convey the power of the project, Echtra allowed the recorded works to languish, until getting a clear sense that offering this material would be of benefit to others.
This began with a re-release of the self-titled 1st album, offered again in CD-R form by French label Faunasabbatha. This time around the material was given a name: “Echtra’s Burn It All Away,” a reference to text found on the insert of the initial package, and a guiding light of Echtra’s foundational philosophy. The packaging for this rerelease, while made much more cheaply and quickly, was intended to mimic the original package and did so fairly well.
Later in the year Olympia-based label 20 Buck Spin put out a professional CD version of “Echtra’s A War for Wonder,” which was “Echtra II” in an expanded and finalized form. Adding electronic drums, keyboards and female vocals to what had been a skeletal rendering of ideas, the move into “A War for Wonder” signified a point of departure for the project. Obscurity was no longer taken to be a goal in and of itself, and a more open-handed approach towards the world was taken. A “Myspace” page and a webpage were created, plans were to laid to continue clearing out the back catalogue of recordings and release them into the world, while a trust was gained that something beneficial was to come out of this movement.
In 2011, the project formerly known as “Crall” was released by Chinese label Temple of Torturous, as “Echtra’s Paragate.” This “Paragate” is an exploration of emptiness, the thusness of the phenomenal world existent before our attributions and an immersive realm in which the psyche can roam free of our habitual associational web.
2012 saw what may be the final performance in Echtra’s existence. The final Yule gathering took place (at least in its traditional manifestation), and this time of endings was entered into by the Echtra project. The final entry in the Passage Cycle was completed, entitled “Re-Enterior,” and a live enactment offered with the assistance of one other. This performance took place on Friday, December 21st. Many of the relics sacred to Echtra were destroyed in a glorious pyre, the artifacts that induce artifice severed from their corporeal form. This was a rebirth of Echtra, the myth coming anew yet again, in a different form, a decade after its inception. A BandCamp page, offering the entire Echtra oeuvre, and a BigCartel page to disseminate the pieces of craft that have been created, were also born.
The posthumous offering of recorded works continues, with “Sky Burial,” the 1st entry in the Passage Cycle, being disseminated by Temple of Torturous in 2013. This particular album is significant in that it is the first to be released with an accompanying DVD, documenting the only performance of this work to be offered. It was thought that releasing visual documentation of the heart of the Echtra project, the performance itself, would potentially be of more value to far-flung seekers than the auditory element itself. This is to be followed by “BardO,” and eventually, “Re-Enterior.” Over 10 years after the initiation of the project, we continue to see the flame of Echtra burning bright, illuminating this devastated sphere and offering inspiration to all fellow wanderers in this darkest age.