I swear that, out of the myriad of things that I love about music, watching a band grow is still my favorite. There’s something about the dual image that forms in your head of them, of how they used to be and how they now are, and the tension between those two images that just tickles my brain in all the right ways. With Dvne, this tension is very much there. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Asheran; hell, I spent thousands of words analyzing its lyrics and concepts. But it also seemed to me to suffer from the same limitations that the entire sub-section of metal music it belonged to, namely progressive death metal spliced with stoner and post-metal elements (the most prominent example of which is Anciients, where’s our new Anciients record by the way?). Those limitations included problems with album progression, as similar ideas, tones, and compositions kept repeating as the album went on, without too much to set them apart from each other.
On Etemen Ænka, Dvne have strived to dig deeper into this formula and to make it more varied, complex, and dynamic. They’ve done so in two ways: first, quieter and more contemplative passages have been introduced to ease the transition in between tracks and to set the heavier segments of the music in starker contrast. You can hear it right from the get-go: opening track “Enûma Eliš” collapses near its end, lead by beautiful vocals, into this contemplative, psychedelic outro that wouldn’t be out of place on any of Elder‘s album. The color and texture of things is shifted just a bit more in that stoner, smooth, explorative rock direction. Of course, this is all a foil for the heavy passage that comes right after; “Towers”, the second track, has one of Dvne’s most crushingly heavy passages in the form of its opening riff and the vocals which grace it.
In previous releases, the two tracks would have mashed together, hitting the same spot again and again with little reprieve. But here, everything gets space to breathe, to settle; our ears can rest and digest what’s come before, only to get ready for what is about to happen. This isn’t all though; we still have that second innovation to cover. It manifests within the heavy segments themselves; they are way more progressive and intricate. Don’t get me wrong, some of them (like the opening of “Towers” which we touched on above) are aggressive and straight-forward. But more of them, like the closing few minutes of “Towers”, are way more intricate than what we’ve grown used to hearing from Dvne. They have scintillating synths backing up the guitars, twisting compositions, odd time signatures, and some of the best, most agile drumming work I’ve heard on an album of this sort in a while.
It all comes together to channel a vibe that’s decidedly Dvne’s but also touches more on comparisons to bands like The Ocean. I’m only using the “comparison stick” here (that’s totally a thing, shut up) to get that sort of heavy-but-complex-but-also-evocative-as-hell feeling that the best of this very specific genre can get across. And Dvne’s Etemen Ænka should definitely be considered among the best of this genre. It’s an intelligent, challenging, and ambitious next step in Dvne’s career and exactly the step they needed to take. It’s one of the first albums released in 2021 that I expect to take with me into the future; it has no limit on the amount of layers and meanings that can be focused on and derived from it.
Dvne’s Etemen Ænka was released on March 19th. You can head on over to their Bandcamp page to grab it. Have a look at their merch while you’re there; it’s pretty sick.