The argument that the metal scene is overcrowded in today’s day and age has been made over and over. Sure, there’s a host of bands churning out music that, admittedly, does little to musically advance the various sub-genres in the heavy music spectrum, but look hard enough and you’ll find that these crowds also bring with them an increasing number of bands doing something creative with age-old styles.
Proving this much true on debut album Asheran, Dvne blend stoner rock, post-metal, doom, death and prog without exposing any unsightly seams. A remarkably dynamic release for a band just releasing their first full-length, it demonstrates a proclivity for epic songwriting whilst impressively wielding its expansive sci-fi narrative.
Enthralled by the LP, we spoke to Dvne about its grand concepts, the influence of Japanese animation, and the importance of standing out in modern metal.
Can you give us a brief idea of the concept(s) or narrative behind Asheran?
Dan Barter (guitar, vocals): The album explores ideas behind the ongoing issues mankind has balancing technological advancement with the effect those advancements have on their environment. The tracks follow a couple of different points of view from either side of that narrative, as an advanced civilisation slowly rediscovers their homeworld, which they abandoned thousands of years before. As with most sci-fi, the concepts are based around things currently affecting the society we live in, but having that otherworldly license also leaves room for us to have some really epic moments to sing/write about!
You’ve mentioned the influence of Hayao Miyazaki on your work, could you expand upon this? Is it from an aesthetical point of view or more the messages in his work?
Barter: There’s a fair amount of sci-fi and fantasy influences from different sources that go into the writing. For example, I read a lot of Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks and Brandon Sanderson on the run-up to the lyric writing (see if anyone can spot some references!), but as well as books, we also take a lot of influence from films.
It’s hard not to love the whole Miyazaki back catalogue, but the two Studio Ghibli films that I’d say definitely had an influence when writing certain parts of Asheran were Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa [Of The Valley Of The Wind]. This came from both having stories similar to what we wanted to do, and as a really nice aesthetic for imagery portrayed in the lyrics. The beginning of ‘Viridian Bloom’, for example, takes quite a lot of influence from the Toxic Jungle in Nausicaa.
Both those films raise questions about how mankind interacts with nature, but never in a black and white “nature good, man bad” way. That really resonated with the concept of what we were trying to do with Asheran.
How have you found the response to the record so far?
Victor Vicart (guitar, vocals, keys): The response has been amazing so far and the album has only been released this week, so we’re really grateful to everyone who’s been involved, including Toni Martone at Wasted State Records for putting the record out, Graeme Young (at Chamber Studio) and Tom Dring (at Vagrant Records) for their amazing work producing, mixing and mastering the album, and Eli Quinn for providing such a cool cover artwork for the album.
I also want to especially thank my friends from France – Louis Macera, Just Aurele Meissonier and Paul Thomas for their work on the ‘Thirst’ video. They did it for free and we’re so grateful to have such good friends involved in this album process.
Your work spans a multitude of genres, who/what would you cite as an influence?
Vicart: We listen to a really wide range of stuff. Dan started playing in grind metal bands, Dudley (Tait, Drummer) in rock bands, Allan (Fry), our bassist on Asheran, was on the more hardcore and grunge scene (he’s an old timer), and I started with classical music.
But, I’d say for this album we were really inspired by bands merging different influences and styles in their music – bands like Tool, Isis, Baroness, Rush, Neurosis, Cult Of Luna, Inter Arma, Mastodon and so many others do exactly that. I don’t think any of these bands restrain themselves, during their writing process, to a specific style and this is what we want to do with our music.
The scope of the record seems to reflect the sci-fi themes, was this intentional?
Vicart: We originally called our band Dvne in reference to Frank Herbert’s novel, Dune (for those that didn’t guess). We particularly enjoy that type of literature and cinema because we like the wide range of themes we can take inspiration from and we also feel that it works particularly well with the way we write music.
We like to use progressive structures evolving from one movement to another and ultimately we want to produce something epic through the whole album. Using sci-fi themes and a conceptual storyline allow us to go deeper into that and we hope it takes our listeners through an emotional journey.
The press release separates Asheran into four distinct ‘acts’, does each act serve a different purpose conceptually?
Barter: In all honesty, although we wrote the lyrics to have an ongoing story throughout, there was never any thought about it being four ‘chapters’ until it got to the point of fitting it all onto a record. The way we’d originally planned the tracks just worked out broken up in twos like that, but then the pairings worked out pretty nicely with the general tone of where the narrative is as the record progresses and you have to flip the record, on vinyl anyway!
I’m more than happy for people to have their own take on things though, which is why we never like going into too much detail about exactly what is happening when. It’s always cool to see what people can take away from your work.
To what extent does Dvne, as a band, want to sound different from what has come before? Is innovation something you strive for?
Vicart: We fully embrace our influences and are proud of them, so some parallels between our music and that of our peers are obviously present, but we try to bring something different to the table.
The guys are also really good to write music with as they challenge a lot of the stuff I bring to practice and add their influences to the mix. So every time I’m bringing, say, a riff that is too similar to previous stuff we’ve written or too close to another band, we’ll constantly tweak stuff and work on new ideas around it until we’re confident it feels great and new to us. We’ve definitely become more comfortable with our writing style and especially on how we switch from slow and melodic movements to heavy ones.
We’ve also focused more on clean vocals on this album which I think helped a lot in making Asheran different. I always find clean vocals are more unique between one singer to another, so it definitely helps when bringing your own sound.
How important do you think it is to stand out and do something new in modern metal?
Vicart: It is key for me. You can base your music on any style you want when writing, but at the end of it, if we weren’t trying to do something a bit different, we’d get pretty bored! I think the stoner/doom scene is a good example of that, because you’ve got amazing bands like Sleep, who essentially started as Black Sabbath worshippers but developed their own unique sound from it while pushing boundaries, or a band like Inter Arma who can go from moments of black metal heaviness and mix that with hooks that wouldn’t sound out of place on Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s always the bands pushing new ideas that rise to the top and make music so interesting.
There was a three-year gap between the previous EP and Asheran, how long did it take you to create the album?
Vicart: Asheran was recorded over summer 2016, so it took us about a year and a half to write it. It definitely wasn’t something we wanted to rush just to get an album out there. I think we dropped at least two wholly finished songs during the writing process, just from not being 100% happy with them.
Getting the mixing and mastering took us a bit more time, though, because we were extremely picky on how we wanted it to sound. Compared to our previous stuff, there were a lot more layers on this album so there was a lot of back and forth for Tom (Dring) to mix. Another massive thanks to him for putting up with our shit during that process!
What have you got planned for the remainder of the year?
Vicart: Touring! We’re touring in the UK in September, Germany in October and France in November. All dates are TBC but we will have things announced relatively soon, I hope.
With this album out of the way, it’s also a perfect time to get back to writing new stuff. We had a good amount of time to take some perspective on Asheran and we’ve got plenty of new ideas for the direction of our next release.
Asheran is out now on Wasted State Records. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr