Hemisphere of Shadows
posted on 11/2011 By:
Despite my having next to no exposure to their recorded material, Danava is a band that has nevertheless established a little outpost for itself in the back of my brain. I first heard them on Kemando Records' 2006 Invaders compilation and then -- and here's why I still think about Danava despite never hearing any of their albums -- I saw them play what might have been the Saddest Gig in Rock'n'Roll History.
I know that sounds like hyperbole -- but if there's any way to quantify the sheer pathos of a performance, then attendance has got to be your metric, right? Well, Danava's audience at the Vaudeville in Tucson, AZ on Oct. 29, 2006 consisted of fucking me. That's it. This gig was actually part of a three-week-long co-headlining tour with Witchcraft -- the band I had made the trek to an abandoned downtown Tucson to hear. What I learned when I arrived at the gig was that Withcraft had visa issues and couldn't make the trek to the States and what I deduced was this: Everybody else who learned that Witchcraft wasn't on the bill when they got to the Vaudeville? They left.
So, I stand by my claim that Danava's set at the Vaudeville in Tucson, AZ on Oct. 29, 2006 is The Saddest Gig in Rock'n'Roll History.
With Hemisphere of Shadows, though, the Portland quartet proves that if you're the kind of person who shows up to a Witchcraft gig and doesn't at least stick around for a little Danava, well, you're kind of an asshole.
While not on par with a latter-day classic like Firewood or even 2011's contender for retro rocker of the year -- Hisingen Blues -- Hemisphere of Shadows is a confident little riff basket that dusts off some interesting old tricks and doesn't overstay its welcome.
The template here is proto-NWOBHM (a bit of a departure from the band's previous psychedelic leanings), and Hemisphere of Shadows scores when Danava delivers taught guitar harmonies (think Tull, Allman Brothers Band) at a snappy Diamond Head canter ("White Nights of Murder," "Hemisphere of Shadows," "The Last Goodbye"). This is the type of album that often sounds a lot faster than it really is, thanks to the momentum the players are able to put behind the better tracks. Fast? Not by modern standards -- but damn quick.
What's lacking, though, are the sort of homerun hooks to bookend Danava's instrumental excursions. While the band has the sense to keep the chains cranking for the duration of the album, frontman Dusty Sparkles (whose got some serious debts to Sean Harris) either lacks the command or inclination to draw stark vocal demarcation lines across Hemisphere of Shadows. For all of its rollicking vitality, scarce are the type of moments on this album that invoke clenched-fist, crooked-neck invocations of a fucking wooden cross and a timely crucifixion.
What Danava is missing, I think, is no measure of talent, but probably some sort of quirk to rally around -- to elevate those spitfire riffs. For now, though, Danava remains the type of band I'm not likely to seek out, but one for whom I'll gladly stick around and drink a beer.
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