Flow. Like love, it’s a word that’s difficult to describe, but you know it when you experience it. It’s the feeling of losing yourself in a task or a game, becoming one with the activity, balancing perfectly on the edge between skill and difficulty. No frustration, no boredom, and no sense of time or place. If you’ve ever found yourself looking up from an activity after ten minutes and find out three hours have passed, you’ve experienced flow. Dvne have perfected flow in music form. Asheran is a singularity in time, picking you up like a tidal wave and depositing your broken body an hour later 100 miles away, yet it seems no time has passed at all.
Dvne share the aesthetics of stoner metal, with a dusting of sludge, but the music is highly progressive structurally. Wielding monstrous riffs and a gifted, emotive vocalist, the band carries the listener on a series of driving, rolling highs, starting with opener “The Crimson Path.” Opening slowly, with fade-in atmospherics preceding a shimmering riff atop tribal percussion, the first squall hits like a bulldozer, grand harmonies slamming onto the shore, mighty and destructive and beautiful. The vocals waver between a serene croon and a desperate, throaty shout, both carrying an equal power of melancholy and distress as the storm rages all around. Instead of a choppy verse-to-chorus composition, each riff leads naturally into the next, never wavering in conviction and never dropping in quality. The emotional climax is reached with centerpiece “Descent of the Asheran,” where a thin, lonely opening lead is soon struck by a billowing wall of guitars, with scintillating riffs drifting in the crowning foam.
I hesitate to call out singular performances, as Asheran may be the single most cohesive album I’ve heard this year. Every element seems to serve the others, strengthening each other into a monolithic entity of towering quality. The tom-heavy drumming punctuates the swell and fall of the thick, heavy riffs, and springboards the full-bodied and diverse bass, which lends a weighted, solid foundation to build upon. The aforementioned clean vocals are most prominent, guiding the music, pulling it up as they hover above the silent ocean, then drowning as the waves of guitars rise high and pull him under. He’s joined by a grinding, pummeling roar, a monster from below the surface that serves as a mirror to the fragile sound above. All serve to bring the riffs to a higher plane, hitting with the unrelenting crash of a breaking tsunami one moment, then retreating into glistening beauty steeped in an adventurous melancholy.
Although I’ve mentioned a few of the tracks individually, it does no justice to Asheran to single out separate selections. Each song is but a chapter in a grand epic, one that should be listened to as a whole to appreciate fully, a vast, monumental poem in music form. It drifts from poignant beauty to overwhelming storm, never faltering and never failing to engage the heart with its unrelenting intensity, always moving there with cohesive and technical excellence. To think such a stupendous achievement in all aspects comes from a debut should no longer surprise. Asheran flows from peak to peak and crashes ashore as the best album I have reviewed here yet. Dvne created one of the absolutely mandatory albums of 2017.
Tracks to check out: “The Crimson Path,” “Descent of the Asheran,” and “Edenfall.”