I hate it when movie posters mash two iconic movies together in an attempt to describe their product; “This movie is The Dark Crystal meets Yentl! See it! You’ll plotz!” It’s just lazy writing and marketing-speak.
However, the rise of the Internet has brought about an age of music where such descriptions can be unavoidable. There is so much going on that we are now listening in on pretty much every garage band from around the world, if they choose to do a bit of home recording and throw their shit up on the net. It creates a musical landscape where most of the only remaining originality is to do a good job of encapsulating your influences – do a bad job and they’ll call you too derivative.
A lot of music these days is micro-mashings of this and that, smushing together of different bits and inspirations. It’s all been done, but the way to make it new, is to reconstruct a sound, Bionic Man-style; a bit of Mark Bolan’s chugging rock delivery, some Clarence Clemons sax riffs, maybe a couple of Tony Iommi’s fingers. Sometimes it comes off as derivative, and sometimes you find that bands actually explore sonic vistas that their influences never quite got to themselves – in some cases a contemporary band can find themselves standing on the shoulders of giants.
Enter Danava’s Hemisphere of Shadows; a Portland quartet who are alchemists of a sort, stirring together elements of influence in their harmonic chili pot. This is Danava’s first album in three years, so though it sounds like their older stuff to a large degree, they’ve also had some time to think about what they’re putting together and punched it up some.
I don’t want to name all the specific influences like a bad movie poster, but Hemisphere of Shadows is part swirling psychedelia, metal, part guitar god wanking, part pissed-up southern rock, part prog-monster, and hell, okay, I’ll say it – there’s a fuckload of Sabbath in there. It’s a brain bending odyssey of howling vocals, fat proggy bass and drum runs, down home Allman jams, careening spitfire riffs, epic organ melodies and sci-fi synth solos. There’s a little sumpin’ sumpin’ for everybody, really.
And for the most part, it glides seamlessly between these not dissimilar parts. The production, while maybe a bit obvious, compliments the songs by capturing a lower-fi, pre-digital aesthetic. Albums like this aren’t going to change music by showing us something we’ve never seen before, but some records are just fun to throw on to drink to, while you play air guitar and argue about the references with your buddies.
It’s not perfect, and it’s not at all original, but if you like The Dark Crystal and Yentl, er, I mean Sabbath and Hawkwind, then pick up Hemisphere of Shadows; it’s a good fuckin’ time. So good, you’ll plotz. Or at least play a bit of air guitar.