Hemisphere of Shadows

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Danava's mystifyingly abstruse sophomore album, UnonoU, blasted the Portland, Oregon eccentrics SO deep into the "Galaxy of Weird" that even partisan listeners were probably unsure as to whether they'd survive the return voyage and ever be heard from again. Let's be frank: here's a band whose unconventional style and stoned Hobbit image virtually epitomized mid-2000s hipster metal's teetering stance between honesty and parody, art and fart rock, and therefore anyone unprejudiced enough to buy into the group's strange trip to begin with had to have an open mind, a good sense of humor, and a healthy appetite for the bizarre. And those qualities are still very much required of anyone who should dare approach Danava's third album, Hemisphere of Shadows, but arguably in smaller increments, as it appears that the space madness accrued on the trip to UnonoU may have taken a toll on our toothy space cadets (sadly, drummer Buck Rothy never made it back). To wit, certain songs like "Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun," "The Last Goodbye," and "The Illusion Crawls" all manage to batten down the hatches and keep their wilder cravings in check long enough to come across like coherent musical thoughts from start to finish, and they don't even have to sacrifice their alien charms entirely along the way. But while it's still sometimes thrilling to watch Danava's more chaotic compositions skitter around the cosmos like a bunch of wayward asteroids -- hurtling from proto-metal riffing to baroque synthesizer runs during "I Am the Skull," or leaping from the title cut's tangled proto-metal fretboard exercises to the minimalist spectral beauty of closing keyboard instrumental "Dying into Light" -- it's no longer that much fun to watch malformed space trash like "White Nights of Murder" and "Riding Hood" crash and burn into the sun, usually due to awkward transitions between all these distinct elements and Dusty Sparkles' eternally strained vocal style. One thing that can't be disputed, however, is that Danava remain a relatively unique and virtually unmistakable proposition, so if the choice comes down to perfection or individuality, we'll take the later anytime. Thus, with no hope of troubling the Billboard pop charts or even connecting with the average metalhead, Hemisphere of Shadows is utterly doomed to accelerate this quirky band's journey into certified cultdom, but that was probably the length and breadth of their ambitions to begin with.

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