9/29/18 - John Fisher
Writing album reviews is an interesting hobby.
An old friend (one of the funnier people I know) called it a “sublime endeavor” in a Facebook comment (after cutting my teeth on Desolation by Khemmis earlier this year). I would say reviewing albums is more of a lonely endeavor. I have revisited fun hobbies from my childhood again in my mid-to-late 30s, which is kind of laughable (this may be the old me talking…a devotee to a certain subtle ‘toxic masculinity’ that I was formerly oblivious to but well aware of now)…
…I’m realizing that my chosen hobbies are even more enjoyable than I remembered in my younger days. Part of my newfound joy in rediscovering, in my 30s, old hobbies I liked, including golf, surfing, hiking, mountain biking, music albums, and drawing, for example, lie in the fact that these are hobbies I will most likely enjoy ALONE going forward. Some can be explored with another person (for example, my daughter - drawing & hiking) or, two or three other people (e.g. golf or surfing – enjoyed with a few good friends), but, in my late 30s, there is an understanding that “going it alone” can be utterly enjoyable. I suspect there might be a correlation, in finding that in my older years I have finally learned to love these things, with the fact that they are now explored in a small or solitary social environment. (IT IS SO F’ING ENJOYABLE TO REDISCOVER COMFORT IN SOLITUDE).
I suspect that I would have more enjoyed what I chose to devote my time to in my younger days if I had simply put up walls and kept a smaller social circle. I’m unsure but have so many questions. Does it maybe make sense that our social circles should be larger when younger, and smaller when older? After all, I was much more pleasant and accepting of the masses when I was both a kid and teenager. I was, however, undoubtedly more concerned with what people thought. However, my years and years of conditioning could be starting to set in, as it seems more important to me now, at age 36, to be less accessible.
Writing album reviews can be an intrinsic solitary treasure, and one I see as a potential powerful medium for connection. It’s possible to combine multiple hobbies (writing & over-analyzing music) to share with others. Putting words down on paper captures musical enjoyment in a unique medium, and selfishly provides the autobiographical, journalistic snapshot of what can coincide with one’s journey.
I find myself cringing while reading my own words though. Despite an introspective back and forth, I ultimately feel relief that my pressure to subscribe to some toxic masculine ideal is fading away rather quickly and being replaced with a desire to be more communicative. Perhaps having a daughter was the reason for the masculine-ideological-worship to fade, or maybe it is a function of the change in sociocultural norms we are witnessing, providing a sliver of hope that honesty will not go underappreciated.
Ultimately, I aspire to write as if I am in my own head, without any pressure to conform. I’m sure grandstanding will inevitably creep back in though. For now, this is almost a pressure-free medium. That being said…I am posting to a website…so this is grandstanding in its purest form. Here is my review of Asheran by Dvne…
I’ve spent a month with Asheran and was fully expecting to write a pretentious review connecting the band (Dvne) to a book I hadn’t read (Dune), but of course heard many times was one of the best science fiction books of all time. This is actually the second metal band I have thoroughly enjoyed based off the famous book, the other being Shai Hulud. Shai Hulud signified the transition from my new school punk fandom to hardcore and metal. Shai Hulud was (apparently) the name of the worm from Dune, and again, forgive my ignorance for further story, but I have not read the book and I am not going to try to act like I am a Dune expert only weeks after I pressed “Add to cart” on Amazon. Dune strikes me, though, as the next potential Lord of the Rings trilogy that post-millenials may be able to call their own (hopefully with a James Cameron-quality director at the controls). Knowing I was planning to write this review, I did order Dune, and look forward to 400+ pages of sci-fi exploration. Despite not knowing the story (other than chapter 1 at this point), it is clear that this album by Dvne, Asheran, is a concept to be enjoyed from start to finish, yet does not require extensive Dune knowledge for enjoyment (though I can only imagine would likely add so much).
If you can’t dedicate a full hour, give a full 10 minute listen to Descent of the Asheran. You will hear something I only discovered when opening the gorgeous vinyl (the art album cover is good) to read the lyrics…a Scottish clean metal singer (more on that below)!
If 2018 is anything to remember in my monthly album selections, it will be the year of the vocalists (e.g. Car Seat Headrest’s original vocal climax in “Famous Prophets” or…the black metal setup in “Flesh to Nothing” by Ben Hutcherson of Khemmis, or the grief in Phil Eleverum’s [aka Mount Eerie] “Now Only”, or… the style from DiSalvo in ELDER!). Dvne is no exception.
DVNE is an original Scottish metal band, tough to “genre-classify.” It is a treasure to find originality in metal, as each metal avenue seems to have already been done over-and-over with so-called “artists” stealing nuances. The good news…metal is quite possibly the least mainstream genre, one in which true originality, when discovered, is undeniable and worshipped, and spread among loyal, appreciative metal fans. The gift of metal lies in its honesty. If the musicians are truly creating, without plagiarizing, each song is like DNA code. Originality stems from creativity, with a clean slate, respect, and clever allusion to influences (even obvious worship is tolerated, as long as it’s not plagiarized). You can connect the dots of influence for DVNE, yet this debut album is insanely original.
Why is Descent of the Asheran my recommendation for new listeners? Read the lyrics! You’ll hear, if you are like me, the first Scottish metal vocalist you would not know was Scottish if you weren’t following along with the lyrics. My advice to embrace this band? Get to this part of Descent of the Asheran…
“Nimbus, tinted brilliant crystalline…
Cosmos…provides no reassurance,
Guilt preserved in amber…
Cursed, we gather in pools of moonlight,
Questing, our eyes turn skyward bound…
To watch our kin arrive!”
This refers to the Asheran people returning to their planet (I’ll let you search the meaning of it).
After this song, you may be willing to jump into the concept, the connection to Dune, and the full album. It may even make you a sci-fi fan if you’re willing to put in the time. This is not an album that deserves a one-listen write off. I’ll leave other moments to you, but here are a few hints after a month listening … The instrumental Sunset’s Grace is gold and will make other metal bands jealous who understand the importance of intermediary songs. Rite of the Seven Mournings – the intro riff is so sick (aggressive after the instrumental, Sunset’s Grace) and…the authenticity of that first breakdown is powerful (it is tough to develop an original breakdown in 2018). The vocal finish of Viridian Bloom is memorable. “Scion” has an introspective worthy ending that justifies the (juxtaposed) aggressive album-opening bass line from The Crimson Path.
When Scion ends?
This album leaves me craving more.
After a month listening to an EXCEPTIONAL debut full-length album, Asheran, I can’t wait to see what Dvne has in store for us in 2019…