Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BEST OF 2011: Part 8!

Meadow's smart drunk phone strikes again. Danava at East End circa 2011.

Hemisphere of Shadows
(Kemado Records)

I'll be the first to admit that I hadn't been paying much attention, but since their modest inception in 2003 as a Goblin cover band these local longhairs have been carefully honing their craft and building a cult following with tours across the U.S. and Europe and this third LP is a charm! Like the uppity shape-shifting demons of Hindu lore from which they take their name, Portland's Danava have magically metamorphosed in recent years and are ready for revolt on Hemisphere of Shadows. Singer/axeman/keyboardist Greg Meleney is writing some of the best material of his life right now and he ain't afraid to go tell it on the mountain with nasally highs that recall the days when Ozzy was just another disaffected bloke scarfing down rat salad and sweet leaf. He can belt it out with the best of 'em and on stage the man is something to behold. Like the bastard child of Dan McCafferty and Wendy Carlos (don't think about that too long), Meleney oozes sinister soul from every pore and when he lurches up to the microphone the realms of Patala tremble! Which brings me to my only complaint about this LP. It sounds weird. I didn't even notice until I put a song on a mix tape for a friend and heard the production juxtaposed with other recordings but the vocals sound like they were recorded behind damp drywall in the downstairs apartment. Fortunately the songs outshine the D.I.Y. production and nothing can hold back contagious jams like I Am The Skull (with its eerie snyth interlude), Riding Hood (with all the swagger and hustle of the ol' Witchdoctor Woman...remember her?), and masterful Slowbone cover with its proto-Iron Maiden harmonies building to one of the best choruses that jolly 1970's England had to offer. Hemisphere of Shadows is the epic here but the boys gracefully bring it on home right at the six minute mark and close with a creeper. Ignore the inevitable "hipster" and "faux retro" bullshit that might follow in their prism-colored afterglow (these dudes got their start with former Engorged vocalist Ben "Mustapha Akkad" Vargas, a devoted Krishna in the Cro Mags tradition who christened the band without a trace of smirking irony) and enjoy some righteous 'banging. While I'm waxing poetic about Kemado Record's smartest signing, be sure to grab the Electric Voyage 7" they also released this year (thanks to Greg Meleney of course). Total smoker! In the words of my favorite cross-dressing enemy of censorship, "You can't stop rock 'n' roll!"