Etemen Ænka

Written by: KW on 20/01/2022 23:03:37

The very first review I wrote when I decided to take a stab at this reviewer role was by none other than the Scots in Dvne. Their monumental début album ”Asheran” caused tremors in the progressive sludge metal space much like the sand worms in the eponymous sci-fi universe created by Frank Herbert. “Asheran” was the perfect blend of a thick and engulfing atmosphere, stunning melodic work, and seismic riffs — a cinematic journey through a barren wasteland — and now, four years later, it has become one of my favourite albums of all time. Following up such an effort was always going to be exceedingly difficult, yet the band’s sophomore outing “Etemen Ænka” shows that Dvne are hellbent on staying in the upper echelons of progressive music.

The same impenetrable production and soaring melodies are back, the long-winding song structures that never lose their catchiness in spite of most tracks clocking in more than eight minutes are intact, and most importantly for the genre, the buzzing, sludgy riffs have made a return as well. The aptly titled “Towers” looms over the listener with a massive scope right off the bat in a nine-minute, ever-changing voyage, which continues where “Asheran” left off sonically. Tempos constantly change, while lead riffs swirling with reverb and tremolo effects give way to a grandiose flurry of synth arpeggios in the gigantic, melodic finale. Generally, it seems like the focus on electronics has been amplified to further the immersive nature of the record and in many ways, as “Etemen Ænka” is even more cinematic in execution than its predecessor, not to mention musically more coherent and streamlined. “Court of the Matriarch” might not have the most memorable riffs or melodies in the beginning, and is composed mostly of clean vocals by Victor Vicart, but it all serves to build up to one of the most satisfying, heavy tapping riffs I’ve heard in ages. A fantastic conclusion that more than makes up for the longer road to get there.

“Omega Severer” comes in as the middle-point highlight of the record and features some outstanding guest vocals from Lissa Robertson, who appears in multiple places throughout the record. The track is the perfect blend of dramatic and dark, yet it is also somber and mesmerizing — a constant battle between opposites that elevates the tension to new heights — and the added vocal feature is nothing short of spine-tingling, giving a clear nod to the legendary vocals in “The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd, as Lissa Robertson wails beautifully behind a thundering guitar solo. That’s about as high praise as I can give any vocal feature, and I actually wish the vocals were way louder in the mix because of the sheer intensity of them, though I understand the aesthetic choice of keeping them buried and crying out for help. “Sì-XIV” is by a pretty large margin the heaviest offering on “Etemen Ænka” and uses dissonance and rumbling bass to deliver a tremendous track, which especially shines in the mountain-crumbling, final two minutes. It is a challenge in itself to keep a steady head when this drops and as such it quickly became one of my favourite moments in music of 2021 and still is many months later.

Yet the aforementioned heightened pursuit of cinematic qualities also happens to be one of the only downfalls of the record for me. “Etemen Ænka” includes several longer synth-infused interlude tracks that I understand the purpose of, but do not find particularly interesting — instead, they unfortunately end up breaking the momentum of the record in my book. The only one of these that I thoroughly enjoy and do not skip unlike the others is the return of Lissa Robertson’s silky-smooth vocals on “Asphodel”, an understated interlude of singing and otherworldly guitar that leads into the album’s conclusion “Satuya”. “Asphodel” works so wonderfully to set the mood that I actually think it should have just been an integrated part of “Satuya” instead of its own track. And what a way to end the record this is; just like the phenomenal last moments of the previous record, Dvne once again show that they are masters of writing epic album finishers, and if there is something I am a huge sucker for, it is exactly this type of massive conclusion. “Satuya” is captivating, atmospheric and thunderous, and a worthy send-off from this momentous new chapter for the brilliant Scotsmen of Dvne.

While “Asheran” has not been dethroned for me by this new entry in the Dvne discography, “Etemen Ænka” is still an amazingly satisfying and complex listen, which further cements their seat at the high table of progressive metal with grit. When bands release a début as impressive as “Asheran” was, you cannot help but fear that it was all lightning in a bottle. But Dvne has put those fears firmly to rest with another fantastic batch of progressive greatness. For Dvne, it seems like only the sky's the limit, and I for one cannot wait to continue on this odyssey they have mapped out for themselves.


Download: Omega Severer, SÍ-XIV, Satuya
For the fans of: Anciients, Khemmis, Mastodon, The Ocean, Psychonaut
Listen: Facebook

Release date 19.03.2021
Metal Blade Records

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