Thursday, September 2, 2010

Danava- UnonoU (2008)

Countless bands have tried with varying degrees of success to rehash the hard rock sounds of the '70s. Few modern bands have been bold enough to do so to the extent of Danava, and even fewer have gotten away with it. Danava's vocals recall Ozzy. The guitar playing is an homage to Tony Iommi. The drums are like a split between Bill Ward and John Bonham. The synths come straight from Rush and Pink Floyd. And yet with all this, Danava somehow get away with it.

When describing Danava to people I always like to use this quote from Allmusic's review of this album.

"Danava's eponymous first album already suggested that they might be visitors from a distant galaxy, located somewhere between Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Rush's favorite black hole, "Cignus [sic] X-1"

This describes their heavy '70s influence that I've already touched on, but it is also about their unmistakable spaciness. Through all the guitar riffs, drum beats, and fuzzy Rickenbacker bass lines is the synth which almost never carries the melody by itself but is always in the background. There's a part on "The Emerald Snow of Sleep" where all the other instruments let up and an almost operatic vocal comes in and it really does take you up so you can get a better look at Danava's own little riff-filled, solo-laden planet. This spaciness permeates throughout the whole album. In fact, RYM doesn't even bother describing the band as anything other than Space Rock.

Only two of the seven tracks on this album clock in at under five minutes and only the lead single, "Where Beauty & Terror Dance" has even a hint of mainstream appeal. Three of the remaining five are over eight minutes. The composition isn't perfect; they could certainly stand to trim the fat a bit. However, this has less to do with approach and more to do with the fact that their songwriting is still developing. Danava don't sound indulgent, and they certainly don't sound pretentious. Maybe it's their blatant attempt to avoid a mainstream audience or maybe it's hard to imagine a band that is borrowing so many pre-established sounds is trying to force their own musical message on anybody. It's difficult to think of Danava as anything other than genuine. Even when they decide to start playing Led Zeppelin's "Achilles Last Stand" in the middle of a song, and then build a 13-minute-long song around it, it doesn't sound like plagiarism as much as tribute. In a lot of ways they're like the prog version of Mudhoney, another band who drew from '70s hard rock and at times seemed more interested in drum and guitar solos than writing a tune. Maybe it's not a coincidence that both bands hail from the Pacific Northwest.

I opened this review by saying that Danava rehashes '70s sounds, but that discredits them a bit. They don't rehash as much as truly recreate. They've combined these sounds and made their own fuzzy, spacey, wonderful one. Here's another quote from the same review I quoted earlier that I also like to use.

"At the end of the day, though, the biggest compliment that UnonoU pays to its creators is affirming that Danava may sometimes sound like several different bands, yet no band sounds quite like Danava."

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