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Dvne - Etemen Ænka review

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Band: Dvne
Album: Etemen Ænka
Release date: March 2021

01. Enûma Eliš
02. Towers
03. Court Of The Matriarch
04. Weighing Of The Heart
05. Omega Severer
06. Adræden
07. Sì-XIV
08. Mleccha
09. Asphodel
10. Satuya

Patience is a virtue, particularly when it's rewarded with delights such as Etemen Ænka.

Dvne's Asheran was one of the strongest metal debut records released in the 2010s, with the Edinburgh 5-piece combining prog, sludge and stoner metal styles, amongst other influences, to quite tremendous effect. As such, when the group signed with Metal Blade Records in late 2019 and announced that their sophomore would be released in 2020, it quickly become one of my most anticipated records of the then-upcoming year. As we all know, many things didn't go to plan in 2020, and the release of the album we now know to be titled Etemen Ænka was ultimately delayed until 2021, with only a two-song EP in the form of Omega Severer to bridge the gap. However, now that I've finally heard Etemen Ænka, I can say that it is more than worth the wait, as it completely justifies all the anticipation I had for its eventual release.

For those that are unfamiliar with Dvne (and if that is the case, do yourself a favor and give Asheran a listen - you can thank me later), I guess 'progressive sludge metal' partially works as a genre description for them. However, that tag also applied to Barishi's Old Smoke, a record I also wrote a rather glowing review of last year, but whilst both records feature busy, convoluted guitar work, there's not a huge amount of overlap between them otherwise. Said busy guitar work that is a feature of both bands is probably in each case at least partially indebted to Mastodon, and like Mastodon, Dvne also draw fairly substantial stoner metal elements into their sound. Nevertheless, whilst Dvne are likely quite heavily influenced by Mastodon (and potentially Elder), they take whatever influences they draw upon and use them to craft a sound that sounds very distinctive and highly compelling.

Opening track "Enûma Eli" acts as an impressive opening showcase of the group's guitar skills, with some exciting guitar leads early on. Beyond that point, there's some hefty mid-tempo riffs combined with harsh mid-ranged vocals, which are nicely contrasted with cleaner sung vocals throughout Etemen Ænka. Dvne bring a lot of weight to their heavier riffs, with a really brooding intensity to the opening minutes of "Towers", but never venture into the harshness that Barishi spent significant portions of Old Smoke in. Even in its darkest moments, there's always some guitar electricity or a melodic break close around the corner. That melodic break occasionally comes courtesy of keyboards, which are a new feature in Dvne's sound following the addition of Richard Matheson to their line-up in 2019. They're by no means an ever-present feature on Etemen Ænka, but when they're brought to the fore, whether adding tasty flourishes to a particularly epic section midway through the immense "Towers" or leading the way on the interlude track "Adræden", they contribute very positively to the band's sound.

Listeners that checked out Omega Severer will recognize one of the songs on Etemen Ænka, as the EP's title track is the centerpiece of this record ("Of Blade And Carapace" is not featured here). It's a quite fantastic song, nicely juxtaposing melodic and harsher sections across its runtime to make for a multi-faceted and highly dynamic journey, but it's just one of many brilliant compositions that can be found on Etemen Ænka. "Towers", as already indicated, is a real early highlight on the record, whilst "Sì-XIV", released as the first single on the album, has an exhilarating instrumental midsection that sees some of the post-metal influences on the record come to the fore in spectacular fashion.

Post-metal influences may also be found on the next song, "Mleccha", as the opening to this track bears a slight resemblance to "Garden Of Light" by Isis; this song also has an awesome instrumental midsection, one that also owes a lot of its impact to drummer Dudley Tait, whose laser-speed hi-hat work during "Sì-XIV" is matched by his tom workout on "Mleccha". This song is one of the softer ones on Etemen Ænka, with some beautiful melodic guitar work, but also shows how adept the band are at judging when and how to use the alternating vocal styles, with an early switch from sung to harsh vocals maximizing the impact of the instrumental transition that it accompanies.

Etemen Ænka is a really fantastic album; it perhaps doesn't feature as many instantly memorable songs as Asheran did, but there's an additional maturity to the writing here that arguably makes the featured music even more rewarding than that on the debut album. It's also a very dynamic record; the heavier moments are perhaps more frequent in the earlier songs than those towards the end, but there's a healthy range of moods across the album, ensuring that the consistently dazzling guitar work doesn't become overwhelming. Perhaps the only criticism I might give the album is that the mix is perhaps too dynamic; there's three quieter interlude tracks on the album ("Weighing Of The Heart", "Adræden" and "Asphodel"), and I found myself having to adjust the volume each time one of these arrived in order to hear what was going on during a lot of them, which isn't really ideal.

However, if having to adjust the volume is my biggest issue with the album, it should be clear how incredibly impressed I am by Etemen Ænka. It's a lengthy album (like seemingly everything I review these days) at 68 minutes, but despite its typically frenetic nature, it doesn't feel long, and there's certainly no fatigue setting in when the lengthy closing spectacle "Satuya" arrives, a grandiose, measured track that gradually intensifies and evolves towards a thrilling climax dominated by some wonderful complex dual-guitar harmonies. It makes for a stellar conclusion to a stellar record, one that fully lives up to the huge promise of Asheran and should be heavily involved in Album of the Year discussions come December. It might be a year late, but Etemen Ænka was definitely worth waiting for.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Production: 9

Written on 16.03.2021 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 11   Visited by: 194 users
16.03.2021 - 22:56

I didn't even finish half the review before going to YouTube to check them out. Very impressed.
16.03.2021 - 23:47

Written by Lanthros on 16.03.2021 at 22:56

I didn't even finish half the review before going to YouTube to check them out. Very impressed.

Nice, hope the rest of the album similarly impresses! Although I think it's consistently great throughout so I would hope it does
16.03.2021 - 23:59

Written by musclassia on 16.03.2021 at 23:47

Written by Lanthros on 16.03.2021 at 22:56

I didn't even finish half the review before going to YouTube to check them out. Very impressed.

Nice, hope the rest of the album similarly impresses! Although I think it's consistently great throughout so I would hope it does

I have to say too, of what I heard, while the core sound stands alone the atmospheres reminded me alot of Uneven Structure's Ferburus (spelling?) album.
17.03.2021 - 01:56

Wow, I was already looking forward to that one because I loved their first album, but I'm even more hyped now! I'll listen to it the moment it lands on Spotify.
Great review
Ben's history in music

"overrated" is a word for the arrogants!
17.03.2021 - 03:01

So glad this got a great review, one of the best releases of this year to be sure.
"Nullum unquam exstitit magnum igenium sine aliqua dementia [there was never great genius without some madness]."

Best of Metal A-Z:
17.03.2021 - 14:27
Dudeist Priest
Great review, man. Really dug the last album as well.
That rug really tied the room together, did it not?
17.03.2021 - 17:52

I have no idea how this band passed me by - I can't thank the reviewer enough for correcting that cosmic flaw! I went through their entire catalogue (well, they don't have too many releases but still...) on the back of this review. Bloody hell, aren't they outstanding! And hat's off for a great review!
20.03.2021 - 14:52

This album is fantastic, discovery of the year so far for me!
Another example that sometimes, we have to overlook a tag/genre to find gems.
Germain Morin
21.03.2021 - 00:12
After a couple of listens no song tops "Omega Severer" for me. "Court Of The Matriarch" and "Satuya" also stand out. I am generally not a fan of this style but Dvne are way too good to ignore.
21.03.2021 - 16:52

Great album. Great review. I listened to this yesterday and was totally blown away. Satuya is an absolute masterpiece, but frankly so is the whole album. I had never heard of these guys until now, and I went straight to their first album after finishing this one. Such an impressive band.
27.04.2021 - 23:21

The guitars man, some of those groovy riffs just slays.

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