At this point, cruising towards the halfway mark of 2008, there’s a lot of retro-stoner hard rock under the prog-rock bridge. While I’m no reflexive hater of bands who plumb the depths of early 1970s heaviness, I was pretty bored by Danava’s self-titled debut. And, while the existence of groups like The Sword thankfully compensates for the horrors of groups like Wolfmother, I still think you can get a lot more mileage by simply heading directly to Hawkwind and Blue Cheer than listening to dozens of knockoffs.
Danava, however, seems to take the revisionism a couple steps further on UnonoU, almost as if guitarist/vocalist Dusty Sparkles and his colleagues have somewhat too cynically cobbled together all the expected elements. Guy with slightly nasal whine on vocals? Check. Orange amps? Check. Occasional keyboard-driven prog flourish? Check. Worship of the riff? Double check. But what’s important to remember is that, for every Geezer Butler bass break (particularly egregious on “Where Beauty & Terror Dance”) or battles-charging guitar line, you have to write stuff that’s actually memorable. And quirky combinations of questionable influences won’t always be winning.
Consider the opening title track, whose signature riffs recall KISS’ “100,000 Years” – yup, it’s that 1974, not the 1974 of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Elsewhere, parse the keyboard introduction to “The Emerald Snow of Sleep,” which, no matter how much heaviness is piled on top, sounds like Styx or the intro to “You Better You Bet.” The rhythm on “A High or a Low” – something that aspires to a more masculine Beatles, or at least something with a modicum of harmonic complexity – is stiff and stilted (as are the somewhat formulaic strings and horns that follow). And the space rock jam on the closing “One Mind Gone Separate Ways” is endless, tedious.
Bright spots are few and far between. The elephant stomp that opens “Spinning Temple Shifting” is pretty fun, and its psych freakout will please Acid Mothers Temple fans and the like. The “epic” materials on “Down from a Cloud” – complete with hot guitar licks, drifting-in-the-cosmos keyboards, and all – is probably their most successful stab at the synthesis Danava has in mind, somewhere between Rush and Sabbath. But, ultimately, the band’s chops and imagination can’t bear up to their apparent ambition.