Album Title: Etemen Ænka
Label: Metal Blade Records
Date of Release: 19 March 2021
Having been recommended this record via several sources on social media, I had a listen and took to my own social media accounts to profess that I wasn’t really feeling what I heard that much. To my ears on an opening listen, much of the music was a little bit underwhelming and not my ‘thing’ at all. Ok, so there were some nice melodies that caught me immediately and some moments of calm serenity to be heard. But the rest of the time, it felt like Scottish quintet Dvne were just making a bit of a post-metal-influenced racket.
Fast forward a week or two and, having given ‘Etemen Ænka’ more time and attention, including on headphones during a quite spectacular walk with the Dog of Much Metal in a heavy April snow shower, I can now say that my initial take on Dvne was misplaced. I honestly can’t see it quite landing a spot in my end-of-year ‘best of’ list, but it won’t be far off, especially if it continues to grow in the way that it has already over the past fortnight. I do try, wherever possible, to publish reviews prior to their release but occasionally, I’m not ready and the music deserves that extra time and for my thoughts to be fully coherent. As such, I’m bringing this review a couple of weeks or so after it saw the light of day via Metal Blade.
I have to say that even now, ‘Etemen Ænka’ is a touch too long. At well over an hour, it’s a hefty body of work, especially when you consider the kind of music you’re listening to. However, it is also fair to say that this sophomore release does its very best to take the listener on that most cliched of things: a journey. It’s a fitting thing to say here though, because the contrasts within the music are so pronounced, and the influences are so varied, that Dvne really do take you on a journey. And, being Scottish, it is fitting that the journey takes us on rugged terrain up to high peaks and low troughs along the way. This definitely isn’t an amble across The Netherlands or my flat home county in East Anglia, that’s for sure. We get post-metal, prog, a smattering of doom, and moments verging on ambient territory. And that’s just keeping things as simple as I can.
To illustrate my point, you need to look no further than the opening track, ‘Enûma Eliš’. I’ve lost count of the times that I checked whether I have pressed play properly because the song starts off so quietly and slowly. But after around 38 seconds, the contrast could scarcely be more pronounced as a flood of strong riffs and commanding rhythms kick in, creating a barrage of post-metal power. Add to this a mix of clean vocals alongside surprisingly abrasive gruff growls and the experience is rather intense. But all the while, the music doesn’t feel impenetrable, and it comes full circle to close in a quiet, serene fashion.
‘Towers’ is next and it wastes no time in taking charge. A dense almost claustrophobic affair from the start, there’s also an understated complexity at play here. The song smoothly and effortlessly ebbs and flows, shifting from one idea to another succinctly. The drumming is great, full of fills and exuberance, whilst the bass really comes to the fore too. And then, at the five-minute mark, out comes the first show-stopping melody as far as I’m concerned. The track continues to drive forward impressively, but cloaked in a glorious melody that then releases into an epic crescendo , complete with singing lead guitar solo. But the song isn’t done, as from there, it deconstructs gently, to end in a quiet, subtle manner.
Assisting with the ‘journey’ are a couple of well-placed interlude pieces, ‘Weighing Of The Heart’ and ‘Adræden’. Both are quieter, more atmospheric compositions that allow the keys to come right to the fore, to create some interesting, occasionally disturbing, and dark electronic-driven soundscapes, especially within the former of the two. And let’s not forget the penultimate track, ‘Asphodel’ which is predominantly a folk-imbued female vocal and guitar composition, adding yet another arrow to the band’s collective songwriting quiver.
With the benefit of time, I have to say ‘oh my goodness’ to the opening of the near ten-minute affair that’s ‘Omega Severer’. Another show-stopping melody complete with really lovely clean male vocals is interspersed by heavy, jagged riffing, eventually swallowed whole by the more aggressive sounds. And yet there’s room for plenty more gentler passages, complete with more delicate female vocals that descend into near-tortured wailing to introduce a return to more metallic climes. The dynamics of this track are incredibly impressive, particularly given how expertly they coalesce despite being so disparate.
It’s hard to ignore the elegance of ‘Mleccha’, which floats on a beautiful cloud one moment, before delivering some of the album’s heaviest riffs and lung-puncturing rhythms the next. Again, the variety within the vocals adds another clever facet to the music, as do the extremely subtle keys that add texture and increased richness to proceedings. And I love the killer lead guitar line that features within the album closer, ‘Satuya’, a repeated line that only grows in strength with each passing listen.
If I’m being completely honest, had it not been for the amazing artwork that adorns the cover, I may never have given ‘Etemen Ænka’ the time and attention that I have. Something that looks this good must contain music as equally beautiful, right? And pretty much, this statement has turned out to be true. Give Dvne’s music the time and attention that it deserves and what emerges is a quality collection of ambitious compositions that come together with surprising smoothness and eloquence. I shall, as a result, no longer remain a stranger to Dvne; instead, I shall keep listening to ‘Etemen Ænka’, keep making discoveries within it, and thoroughly enjoy the experience.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: