The bass which opens DVNE‘s second release Asheran is just fucking magnificent. Coupled with the mesmerising drums, it smashes into the fuzzy crush of the guitars, serving up. But to expect this to be DVNE‘s signature sound is foolish, with the song (and album) subsequently morphing in pace, power and attitude throughout, serving up what I consider to be one of the albums of the year in metal.
Hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, DVNE play a fantastic blend of prog metal, stoner doom, post-rock and death metal, which merges together without obvious borders. Soaring vocals drop into blackened doom, as punishing chords are followed by psychedelic riffs. It’s tricky to pick a favourite song out of the many strong ones, with an extremely high standard found right through the 60 minutes of enchanting material on offer. Fans of bands like Gojira, Elder, Mantra and Pallbearer will certainly get along with this album.
The aforementioned “The Crimson Path” is certainly up there, its introductory riff being one of the musical highlights of the year so far. I thoroughly enjoyed the way this song undulates, as you get glimpses of the band’s proficiency at switching up their style. The riffs reprise time and again, the vocals succinct but powerful, an ethereal growl which makes you want to shout along. From this first track, it is very easy to tell that the band follow concepts with their releases; this time they’re telling the story of the struggle mankind has with finding the way to handle technological advancement and its impact on the environment. As made clear by the front cover, this is of course a sci-fi tale, and it’s very easy to hear those influences within the music.
Following the epic opener comes “Viridian Bloom”, entering with prog-driven acoustics and that rolling crunch of the bass. The hypnotic vocals which join soon thereafter sound similar to bands like Sumer and Pallbearer, yet certainly tip the more epic end of that comparison. The backing vocals used later in the song remind me of Between The Buried And Me‘s gang vocals in The Great Misdirect, with the band either drawing inspiration from many sources, or having impeccable taste in their songwriting. “Viridian Bloom” is what I love to hear in tracks: A subtle but driven escalation in tone, leading into a majestic finale.
I really like the switch in pace into “Thirst”, a more thrashy, scatty sound emanating from the quartet, the unleashed side of them not yet experienced. However, like you will find all throughout this album, the style changes almost effortlessly, with a huge crash from the cymbals and a slow winding riff, into a post-rock driven climax, a beautiful prog solo screaming in the background. One very noticeable thing about this album is the huge amount of time spent without vocals, and it’s a testament to the band’s abilities to keep the listener interested. I found this song to be extremely similar in structure to The Contortionist‘s “Flourish” (a favourite of mine), yet this time with a lot more doom, and no djent.
What follows is certainly my personal favourite from the album. That gorgeous bass is back in the opening to “Descent of the Asheran”, another tantalising post-rock section morphing into a light psychedelic rock/doom section akin to Elder. Around the three-minute-mark, there is a sublime groove which leads into an even heavier one, the drop certainly worthy of opening the pit up to live. Battering doom vocals break into a reprise of an earlier chorus, the ecliptic chords perfect to sing along to. This song is a never-ending saga, one that truly keeps on giving, with the climaxes getting heavier and heavier throughout. The heaviest vocals get ferocious and bleak, like those of Insomnium or Omnium Gatherum, during this song. The solo in the finale takes this nearly ten-minute song to its conclusion, but I can ensure that you will find new and interesting features to this song with every listen.
The lads in DVNE really know how to open and close a song, and the instrumental “Sunset’s Grace” is a good example of that. In comparison to some of the other songs, it is an interlude in length, but not in quality. It’s hard to put pen to paper on the quality of the riff which leads it’s way through the song, but I certainly think people who enjoy bands like Cloudkicker and Intronaut will get along with it. After a very black metal opening to “Rite of the Seven Mournings”, the listener is treated to a wonderful blend of doom and prog metal. Said song keeps the frenetic pace of the intro alive, before ultimately dropping into an experimental cavern of sound, this subtle drone rising into a mesmerising finisher, with multiple switches thrown in to wake you up out of a haze.
Missing out a description of a single song would feel like cheating on this album, and it’s hard not to talk about the second to last song of this journey, “Edenfall”. It opens up with a bleak, drone-y doom riff, akin to something out of Palehorse/Palerider‘s catalogue, before DVNE are joined by Jenni Sneddon for a brilliant duet on the vocals. The impassioned vocals really got me during this song; I thought them intriguing and sombre, yet powerful and emotive at the same time. After another upturn in sound, and another great duet, the song crushes into a heavier version of the aforementioned drone riff, closing out a brilliant song and setting the listener up nicely for the final titan of a song, “Scion”.
This number screams space metal, from the title through to the frantic drums and the overpowering doom of the guitars and bass. “Scion” gives you a sense of foreboding to begin with, and that emotion is toyed with as the song moves into a slower, more ambient phase. At this point I would like to praise the mixing of this record. Listening in 7.1, this album sounds unreal, with obvious attention paid to the location of the band in the mix, giving you a real sense of immersion. I found the bass to be rooted dead centre, the guitars whimsical and the drums enveloping; something not hard to find in the genre, but not to this quality and with such aural range on the guitars. The album finishes off with a multi-layered climax, the band’s post-rock tendencies showing again as a winding guitar seals the deal on a brilliant 60 minutes.
I really love this album. I still look forward to listening to it, and whilst it’ll be my third 10/10 this year, making my final choice even harder, I believe when music speaks to you on this level, you have to give it the rating you feel it deserves. Objectively, some might say that the songs can be repetitive and drone-y on first listen, but like with many albums in this genre, you have to be patient and unlock all their secrets to truly understand Asheran. It also developed immensley on their debut Progenitor, with the techniques and mastering on this record far superior. Go and pick this up from their Bandcamp and be amazed. Also, go check out the lads on tour when they hit the UK, Germany and France between October & November. They are yet to drop dates, but keep an eye out on their social media for information!
Notable Tracks: “The Crimson Path”; “Descent Of The Asheran”; “Edenfall”
FFO: Elder, Gojira, Pallbearer, Mechina, Cloudkicker