Dvne – Crafting Sci-fi LandscapesTuesday, 2nd March 2021
An exciting aspect of metal is the idea that an album can take you on a journey. Tying in a concept to all of it, and really playing up the dynamics – without falling prey to genre confines – is often the best way to portray this. Dvne may be a newer act, with only one previous album to their name, but their upcoming sophomore effort Etemen Ænka manages to hit all of the above marks. An intriguing sci-fi story, a solid mix of heaviness and melody, and above all, that feeling of escaping into a new realm when you listen. We spoke with drummer Dudley Tait about all of these things in regards to the new album, his thoughts about the new Dune movie, and some more general sci-fi talk.
Dead Rhetoric: What was the band doing in the years between 2017’s Asheran and the new release?
Dudley Tait: We had done a few festivals off of the back of Asheran. When we returned from the touring, we went right into writing the next album. We wanted to capitalize on the momentum from Asheran. Me, Victor [Vacart], and Dan [Barter] just went to the drawing board and starting writing.
Dead Rhetoric: Was there anything you really wanted to go in and accomplish with Etemen Ænka as your second album?
Tait: Lots! We knew we had more to give after Asheran. There were definitely parts of the album that we knew we could have done better on, and not just like in the writing process, but in the way we recorded. The level of our own musicianship was getting better too. So with this album, we wanted to show that. We took more time in the studio and learned a lot from, not mistakes, but things we knew that we could do better. I think having more time in the studio helps. We have a lot of elements that aren’t just drums, guitars, and vocals. There’s a lot of styles that we also try to bring across in the music. We tried to do that with Asheran, but we just ran out of time. So we booked more time and worked more on the story in terms of the process and what we wanted to show. It’s basically just Asheran on steroids [laughs]. It’s everything we loved about that album, but with hindsight in mind. We knew what we needed to do better and I think we’ve done it this time.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that you have progressed as a band with this release?
Tait: For sure, we are definitely happy with the progression that we are producing now and what we produced with Asheran. Not that we didn’t like Asheran, but looking back, and as you develop as a band – we knew what we needed to work on as a band. I think we’ve done a good job at being honest about things we wanted to fix and improve.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you say about storyline of the album?
Tait: I can say a fair bit. All three of the founding members, myself, Victor, and Dan – we have always written the stories together and come up with the message we want to bring into the album. This album came from a book that Dan and I had been reading called Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds. It’s about the concept of hierarchy and how social construct is built. That’s mainly what the book is about – angels that live up in the sky and the lowest classes live on the ground, all in this vertical city. Every class on the sphere – the city is called Sphere Point – the level they are on the sphere is the level they are in society. I think we were quite intrigued by that idea. The angel idea too, and we’ve taken different parts of fantasy stories that we have enjoyed and formed this narrative for our own album.
The story is about the social construct, and the people at the top who think they are untouchable – these angels, living up in the celestial level of the world are sucking the life out of the lower classes for their own benefit. That’s what a lot of the album is based around. You can see that on the artwork. The angel on the front cover and the inlay is what the angels really look like when the mask is taken off.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there anything else you can say about the cover art?
Tait: One theme in the album – these angels have this sort of graduation for the lower class, where they can become part of the angel class if they do this. It’s called The Ascension. It’s a bit like a story from Stephen King, The Gunslinger. The kids get the life sucked out of them for the benefit of the elders. It’s the same sort of thing. These angels try to trick people into thinking they can become one of them, but when they do, the remove their blood and life from them, and use it to keep building on their own evangelic power. That’s what the artwork represents, the demon behind the angel.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned that there’s a certain density to the band’s music, do you feel that it helps it to resonate more when you can dissect things out and focus on them in terms of the material?
Tait: I couldn’t really tell you, to be fair. It’s hard for me to listen to it from a completely third person perspective. Can people really segment part of an album? For me, I feel like most of our music is about feeling the whole journey. I don’t think our music is a really track-by-track kind of experience. There’s an element that transcends a few songs and then it changes. We definitely try to use a lot of elements to give the listener a feeling of what is going on at the time. That comes from our own feelings. We are trying to paint the picture for ourselves, initially.
Dead Rhetoric: So how important is the dynamic between the heaviness and melody?
Tait: Very important. We like to challenge the directions of the songs. We really try to bring light & shade, not to every song but maybe a segment of the album or something like that. The new album starts a bit more drawn out – the heavier parts become a wee bit shorter and the melodic parts start spanning more time than in the beginning of the album. It starts to give you a vibe that you are moving into a different space. I think keeping the dynamics in the songs and album is something that we are going to keep doing in the future. Not by choice, but I think that’s where we are rooted. We all enjoy music like that – Opeth, Mastodon, Tool. Those bands that can take you from one element to another one, but masterfully.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve talked a lot about the storyline of the album. Do you consider that, as a band, to be just as important as the music?
Tait: Yes. We’ve never sat down and said, “What song do we want to write?” We always sit down and think about a feeling or vibe. Something that we can start to build the foundation of the album on. It usually comes from colors, images, and stories. The artwork for this album was started before we even recorded the album. We already knew the kind of colors – we wanted the golds in there, and this angelic feeling and this dark, copper feelings. We were writing the music at the same time, and it helps bring the music to life.
We had a bit of a falling out with our previous label. They wanted us to pick our artwork out of a book. They knew what kind of band we were, they had seen Asheran and the stuff we had done before. We are quite a visual band. The album is a package, not just a musical package but an all-around piece of art. These guys wanted us to pick something that was already commissioned to go with the record. That is something we’d never do. We had to separate with that label, and that was part of the reason as well. That’s not the way that we are going to do something. The art is just as important as the music, and the story is just as important as the music for us.
Dead Rhetoric: Does that go with the live show too – does that wrap into the full package you just mentioned?
Tait: For sure. We are obviously still early in the band’s life, so we are trying to develop the live show with what we can at the moment. Money is a factor obviously, and we won’t even mention the coronavirus, because when that is over we will get back on the road just like every other band. But when we do go back, we are going to bring this imagery and feeling that you get from the album with lights and projections. It’s really going to put you in the headspace we are in, when you are at the live show.
Dead Rhetoric: With the band name being inspired by Dune, are you looking forward to the new movie adaptation?
Tait: For sure! I’m happy for them to be working on it. Obviously the older movie was good for it’s time – I don’t know how well it stands up against the test of time. There was also a Russian movie that was never made that we are fans of, but I think this new one, they have put the money in. The casting seems pretty cool to start with, and I like the way its going. We will have to wait and see if it lives up to what the trailer is showing. I tried watching the version on Amazon with James McAvoy in it, but I don’t like that one. It’s not bad, but I couldn’t get into it. I hope they capture the book well in the new one. It’s a good book. I’ve only read the first one, and not the whole series. I plan on it, but the first book was an excellent book.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you enjoy about sci-fi? How do you feel it blends with heavy metal music?
Tait: I feel like, for us, it helps us use that expansive sound. We have a lot of instruments we like using, we have a lot of sounds we like playing with, and we have a lot of different textures and elements we want to use. If you get locked in as a stoner band or whatever, it corners you into something that might not work for you. With us reaching across these sci-fi vibes, it gives us that. We can play with anything. We can have an album about attacking the sun, and it can be completely different than an album exploring the universe. You can go anywhere you want with it. The space vibe gives us that. We are really fans of fantasy and sci-fi in general, but sci-fi is something we are all really into. It gives you such a range when it comes to the music.
What we love about it the most is that it takes you out of the world. Not that we have a problem with the world, but it takes you away from it. Because we are focusing a lot on that feeling, I think the music takes you away from the world as well. It gives you a dreamy, otherworld-like feeling. It doesn’t come across as something you could easily place it or what genre it goes into. I think it comes down to us being open about what we want to be.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s planned for 2021 for Dvne?
Tait: We will tour with the album, whenever that happens. We’d love to get back over to the States. We came over for Psycho Las Vegas and we talked with a few bands about touring. Hopefully we can get back over and see our fans. Other than that, we are already writing some new stuff. We aren’t writing songs yet, but we are playing with some different ideas and using this time to do something productive. We are also working on the live show, like I said earlier. We have been renting out a venue and playing with some live ideas. We are fine tuning it so that when we can go out and play, we go out with a bang.