Asheran, the debut full-length from Scotland’s Dvne, seemed to go underappreciated when it dropped back in 2017, but perhaps it was simply the case that nothing short of universal acclaim would seem sufficient for such a thunderous debut, because the attention it did garner was enough to see them signed to Metal Blade for the follow-up. Though unrefined, Asheran managed to channel the progressive power of early Mastodon (and currently do a better job of this than the ol’ boys themselves), and on top of that combine it with moments of stoner metal, post-rock and even death metal.
A dynamic energy and a passion for exploration was at the heart of Asheran, and whilst that sense of sonic adventure continues on Etemen Ænka, the record is also a more cohesive effort. Where Asheran seemed to switch styles on a dime, giving it a sense of scope that was nigh-on overwhelming, its successor surges onwards through its various movements, drifting from genre to genre in a manner that feels more natural. From the off the music seems more compressed and less raw than the band’s past material, something that may not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly suits Dvne’s intense but proggy style.
It also makes for a record that’s easier to digest, especially since its tracks are generally better at easing you into their grand ideas, often starting with massive Cult Of Luna-esque riffs before branching off into weirder territories. Minus a few shorter interlude pieces, the record launches into a sequence of epics early on, all boasting some combination of gargantuan riffs, shimmering prog and dramatic anthemic crescendos, all of which are more than capable of leaving you breathless.
At the midway point, the heavy synths of ‘Adræden’ mark a slight change in direction in the form of ‘Sì-XIV’, which lurches out of the gate with a steamrolling groove, interspersing these moments with soaring cleans to inject a palpable tension into the track’s runtime. The album opens up even further on its final tracks, however, with the expansive ‘Mleccha’ proving to be perhaps the highlight in an album lined with them, largely by virtue of the way it keeps you waiting for the driving riff that sits at its centre.
Closer ‘Satuya’ is perhaps the quintessential distillation of everything Dvne do well, though. It’s the album’s longest track at eleven minutes, with an intro that just keeps building and building, setting the stage for a song that somehow ups the ante again and again. The guitars in the track’s latter half hammer down like a flurry of blows from Cthulhu. It’s a good thing the band can’t tour right now, because this moment is surely capable of causing tectonic shifts. Even the album itself has to take a couple minutes to simmer down after the riff slowly begins to fade. A mesmerising finale to quite a phenomenal record.
Asheran is out now on Metal Blade Records and can be ordered here.
Words: George Parr