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Danava – Unonou

Kemado Records, 2008

There’s a gentleman ascending a staircase that leads to what has to be a neo-futuristic paradise.  He looks very confident with his place in life as he smiles triumphantly towards a yellow-clad vixen in a glass room.  On the back cover, a young guy with a mini-bullhorn in his hand gets ready to slip into the driver’s seat of a silver car that looks like it has melted under some intense sun.  Needless to say, this record was looking like a real gamble when I picked it up recently.  I thought for certain it was going to be an absolutely tedious experimental record (note: I hate the stuff) but I just couldn’t let this one go.  Thank goodness for risky spending!

Like the record cover, Danava evoke a true retro sound that harkens back to those jam it out seventies.  The first song of “Unonou” immediately gives off an impression that Carlos Santana is manning the lead guitar and is ready to just go on forever with a guitar solo.  Suddenly, an Ozzy disciple named Dusty Sparkles delivers an oddly appealing wail that adds some tension to the aggressive track.  The combination works very well and it wonderfully sets up the record.  “Where Beauty & Terror Dance” has a fantastic moody riff that culminates in a pop and stop chorus, only to continue its dominant presence with added style.  The song eventually gets a bit majestic, but that can be forgiven since the band clearly is not willing to be caught up in too much predictability.

No matter which song gets played in your stereo, Danava’s sole intent is to electrify you with some great long rockers.  There is a track or two that, despite their intentions, manage to stumble around the edges due to an unfortunate musical element.  On “The Emerald Snow of Sleep” there is an excellent, pensive synthesizer opening that sounds as if the song is going to be some sort of epic Who track.  However, the vocal approach by Sparkles on this track is just not strong enough to carry the tune.  To further diminish the potential, Sparkles double tracks his voice with a falsetto version that sounds like an annoying version of Marley’s ghost.  The song just never gets going after that introduction, so ultimately it’s a waste of nearly eight minutes.

Throughout the record, it is apparent that Danava are not just going to go quick and heavy through every song like, say, Motorhead.  They are willing to go mid tempo on “A High or a Low” as well as take their creative time on the thirteen minute epic “One Mind Gone Separate Ways”.  What I’m essentially trying to say is that these guys are not the typical blast it rock band, but instead come across as a more intellectual and crafty group of musicians.  The fact that they are willing to deal out a few long players on a rock record, which is practically unheard of now that we’re forty years beyond those classic rock days, makes them that much more interesting.

Thank goodness these guys will allow you to slip back into your tight leather bell bottoms and listen to gripping rock n roll for free on their MySpace page.  Yesssss!

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a long time, but this record certainly gets the Golden Dollar for effortless ability to stir up some good feelings.  I’m just glad that these guys didn’t turn out to be the experimental electronica that I felt just emanated from the cover … whew!  The group is still together and have updated their website consistently enough, so there is hope that a new record of Danava’s will be out soon after a few years of waiting.  I look forward to seeing if they can top the peculiarity of this album’s cover.  Perhaps some awkward alien sex in a parking lot?  Hmmmmm.

    October 18, 2010 at 4:17 am

    That peculiar cover was done by Syd Mead. If you’re not familiar with his work you should look into this man. You’ve seen Blade Runner or Tron I’m guessing. THere’s much, much more. The band chose this artwork to turn the packaging into somewhat of a lobby card depicting the perfect life a giant corporation would love to sell you. Seeing as these illustrations were comissioned by U.S Steel many years ago, I think the artwork was used for the same purpose. It’s funny how these images evoke some terrible “electro” band to you. It was these very images along with others that really were very important in introducing many of the following decades’ presentation of what the future might look like. I can only hope you might investigate Syd Mead so that the unfortunate “electro” connotations that put you off might dissappear and give you clear sight into the reasons why the band chose his work. It should be noted that this is the first album in history that Syd Mead’s fantastic work has appeared on.

    • -evan-
      October 18, 2010 at 5:11 pm

      Hey, thanks for the comprehensive post about Syd Mead! Indeed, I shall have to check out more of his stuff. Like I said in the post, it was more of a first impression that I got when I saw the cover. I definitely didn’t expect a rock band from the casual look of the artwork. Honestly, one can’t really determine what these guys would sound like from this Mead work. Since I was in a basement, likely on a busy day around town, I skimmed ‘experimental’ from this and was gladly surprised when Danava turned out to be an excellent find. Maybe there’ll be more good finds with Mead in the picture.

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