(Andy Synn returns to the golden path to praise the new album from Dvne, out this Friday via Metal Blade)
As anyone who’s been following this site for more than a few years will be able to tell you, I absolutely love Asheran, the 2017 album from Scottish Post/Prog Metal prodigies Dvne.
Not only is it one of my favourite albums of all time, but it’s also one I legitimately consider to be among the best full-length records of the last decade (and I know quite a lot of our readers agree).
So when I found out that the band were not only working on a follow-up but had been snatched up by Metal Blade at the same time… well, as you can imagine my excitement levels went through the roof.
And now that the moment of its release is (almost) upon us, there’s just three questions about Etemen Ænka which need answering.
- Is it as good as (or even better than, if that’s possible) Asheran?
- Will it help the band reach a whole new audience and get them the attention and acclaim they deserve?
- Could it possibly, maybe, one day supplant its predecessor in my affections?
Well, the answers to those questions are, in order, “yes”, “I hope so”, and “only time will tell”…
If there’s one thing that quickly becomes apparent about Etemen Ænka (apart from just how good it is) it’s how much more confident and comfortable in their skin the band sound this time around.
That’s not to say that the group’s previous releases were in any way lacking, but there’s a real sense that Dvne have truly “found themselves” on this record, and this newfound confidence is apparent throughout the album, beginning with the decision to kick things off with “Enûma Eliš”, which acts both as an (almost) instantaneous crowd-pleaser and attention getter while also setting the scene for bigger, better things to come.
This sense of self-assuredness extends far beyond the opener though, and touches on practically every aspect of the record, from its impressive length (clocking in at just over sixty-seven minutes it’s an album which demands a significant investment of time, but is well worth every second) to its immersive, cinematic scope and full-spectrum, wide-screen dynamic.
Indeed, it’s the boldness with which the band engage with and allow the quieter, calmer parts of their sound room to breathe and blossom at their own pace, in the certainty that the songs will be all the better for it, which really demonstrates just how far the group have come in the last few years, as while Etemen Ænka certainly isn’t lacking in bombastic moments (just take a listen to the insistently hypnotic, psychedelically melodic strains of “Sì-XIV” if you don’t believe me), it’s the more poignantly progressive and atmosphere-heavy sections which really make this album.
That’s not to say that Dvne have abandoned their roots or altered the core of their sound. These guys have, after all, been referred to as “the UK’s answer to Mastodon” on more than one occasion, and the blend of rugged riffage, restrained power and electrifying melodic energy which underpins songs like “Towers” and “Mleccha” certainly offers a welcome reminder of just how well-earned this comparison is (even if it does still sell the band short somewhat).
It’s obvious however, to my ears at least, that there’s also just as much latter-day Isis influence in Etemen Ænka, especially in the band’s use of light and shade and negative space (most prominently during tracks such as the mesmerising “Court of the Matriarch”, “Omega Severer”, and climactic closer “Satuya”) where the quiet parts enhance the heavy parts and the heavy parts enhance the quiet parts in an endlessly (r)evolving feedback loop.
But, even though these comparisons are certainly valid (and, in fact, you could dig even deeper and point out some clear Pink Floyd/King Crimson under/overtones to the band’s sound as well) there’s definitely far more going on here than meets the eye (or the ear, to be more accurate).
In particular the increased (but not overbearing) use of synths – ranging from sweeping sci-fi soundscapes to subtle, borderline subliminal, waves of ambient radiation – shows just how much effort has been expended in adding all these extra layers of character and creativity in order to make these songs their own, regardless of what influences and inspirations may have played a role in their construction, not to mention the high level of attention to detail the band have lavished on absolutely every aspect of the album.
And, make no mistake about it, Etemen Ænka is very much intended to function and flow as a complete, cohesive album, one meant to be listened to and experienced in its entirety, from start to finish, where even the purely atmospheric, interstitial tracks like “Weighing of the Heart”, “Adræden”, and “Asphodel” (which I was initially sceptical about) play a vital role in the overall structure and sequencing of the record.
It’s always gratifying when a band manages to not only live up to your expectations, but potentially even exceed them. The only problem is how to explain this, and explore this, without sounding like a raving fanboy who’s thrown any and all notions of (or attempts at) objectivity out of the window.
Thankfully it won’t be long until you can all hear, and judge, for yourselves, as it’s only a few days now until Etemen Ænka is released. But it’s my hope that, in some small way, I’ve intrigued at least some of you enough with what I’ve written here that you’re going to give this band, and this album, a try. They deserve it, they’ve earned it, and if there’s any justice in the world then their efforts here will reap huge rewards.