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Artist: Danava

Album: Danava

Label: Kemado

Review date: Oct. 1, 2006


Take a listen to college hell, even mainstream radio sometime. The 70s rock revivalism sluice gates are stuck wide open. Unfortunately, there's more than an acceptable trace of sewage runoff in that frothy plume, with a good many bands content to simply recycle, reuse ideas that really just weren't that hot the first time around. We are then treated to a net result that really just sounds like slightly different versions of the same mid-90s Lenny Kravitz jam.

At first listen, Danava does not appear the type of band to serve up Led Zeppelin redux with nothing new for you. Although, so it is noted that guitarist/vocalist Dusty Sparkles is prone to his share of Plant-esque vocal acrobatics (aside from having a Sweet-worthy name). A precocious debut, Davana's album stands as a rock and roll Piltdown Man of sorts. Such an artifact of faux antiquity could have been the missing link between 1974 Budgie and 1974 Magma: dark, bombastic, obtuse, but still rockin'. And what's more, captured in an almost crackly, midrange-rich mix that steps up the bewildering anachronism of it all.

On record, Danava lopes onward as if the last 30 years of music were but a dream, blasting without ado into "By the Mark" with a three-part guitar harmony sure to appease the Thin Lizzy/Black Sabbath Volume 4 bloc. Although Sabbath's influence is undeniable (for that matter, not just upon Danava but for every heavy rocker now and forever after) Danava neither erects riffs like monoliths nor pours them on thick and heavy as concrete galoshes. Rather, Sparkles, followed by busily walking bassist Dell Blackwell, casts nimble-fingered unison and harmony runs a la 1980s Iron Maiden like skipping stones, to the swinging, prog-informed drumming of Buck Rothy. Synthesist Rockwell in addition to keeping with the quartet's mysterio-rock naming trend keeps things on the sinister side with patches that slither, swish and snarl around the ankles of his cohorts, only occasionally rearing to take center stage. Rockwell does just that for the Italo-horror atmospheric intro of "Eyes of Disguise," a 13-minute space oddity that is a vague harmonic kin to Men at Work's "Be Good Johnny" and Ozzy's "I Don't Know. "Quiet Babies Astray in a Manger" finds his synth pinging and sweeping like a chilly (hawk)wind as Sparkles and Co. scrape, pack and fire up a shooter-sized glob of NWOBHM residue. The galloping "Maudie Shook" recaps what we've learned thus far, complete with a chaotic, power-trio/sinewave collage traffic jam interlude, and winding down as Sparkles simultaneously channels Iommi riffage and Mercury operatics before it all cascades gently into a simple, minor-keyed piano figure. That track alone might have been Danava's ticket to permanent support-actdom for Blue Oyster Cult, ca. 1976.

Although the band claims a distinct desire to transcend labels, the "progressive" tag is going to be hard to dodge, with the album's shortest track clocking in at six chops-engorged minutes. Perhaps in a bid to their masters, the strenuous jams are never permitted to obscure the song itself, and as such are relegated to intros, interludes and endings. Prog or not, Danava succeeds in presenting an intriguing artists' rendition an age-advanced photograph in reverse, if you will of how out-there 70s heavies could have gotten if only for an extra five years left to their own devices, chemicals, repeat viewings of "Logan's Run, lewdly illustrated fantasy novels, etc.

By Adam MacGregor

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