The early to mid-2000s brought a considerable amount of American bands channeling NWOBHM, proto metal, hard rock, and everything in between. Portland’s Danava was one of the groups in the spotlight, as they were a regular part of the Kemado Records roster alongside The Sword and channeled everything from Thin Lizzy to Hawkwind depending on what song and album you were listening to. There was a healthy dose of everything 70s and 80s wrapped in a modern aesthetic, and while the likes of UnonoU and Hemisphere of Shadows had staying power, after the release of the latter Danava would be silent on the recorded front for quite a few years. Nothing But Nothing finds them return with a bang, offering more of a metallic crunch than before while still offering plenty of hazy psychedelia and rock riffs. It’s a perfect example of how to nail that proto-metal and hard rock sound in a nostalgic but not stale way, and the sheer amount of head banging worthy riffs will keep listeners coming back for some time.
Where Hemisphere of Shadows utilized a hazier sound that let the atmosphere build over top of the recording, Nothing But Nothing goes for a much more direct sound with the riffs having a sharper and more in your face feel. The title track comes roaring out of the gate with a flurry of guitar riffs that feel somewhere between Thin Lizzy and some of the rougher edged proto metal out there, showcasing a bit more of a metallic edge than some of the band’s past discography. Given that the first half of the record emphasizes faster tempos and flies by quickly, the more direct, riff forward approach works to Danava’s advantage and the riffs from the title track and “Let the Good Times Kill” are sure to be stuck in your head after the first few times through. Nothing But Nothing also manages to cram a good deal of variety into its eight tracks, sometimes offering up the classic Iron Maiden style gallop while other moments go more blues rock. The last two tracks spice things up further, with dips into softer ballad and psychedelic territory. “Nuthin But Nuthin” emphasizes repeated guitar lines and synths, bringing to mind psychedelic rock and krautrock, while “Cas” goes for softer melodies that recall the more subdued and expansive takes on rock from the 60s. It’s pretty cool how Danava makes the jump over to this sound, as the grooves of “Strange Killer” end in a wall of haze and synths that seamlessly blend into the start of “Nuthin But Nuthin”. Admittedly both “Let the Good Times Kill” and “Strange Killer” feel just a tad too long at seven minutes in length, but this is a minor flaw for an album that brings one catchy riff after another and wraps it up in a sound that straddles the line between hard rock and proto metal.
The changes to the production haven’t only made the riffs a bit sharper and more in your face, but they’ve also amplified the singing. Gregory Meleney sometimes got a bit buried in the mix at times on Danava’s past records, but here his voice is much more prominent and manages to take the spotlight alongside the rest of the band. His performance manages just as much diversity as the instrumentation, as sometimes you get a slightly grittier tone while other moments recall the Ronnie James Dio circa his days in Rainbow. Some tracks are also sure to bring a slew of other bands from throughout the 60s and 70s to mind depending on which ones you’ve spent the most time with, but Danava still manages to retain a feel of their own. The biggest surprise comes on closer “Cas”, which I believe is sung entirely in Czech and it offers up a mellower tone that showcases a completely different side of the band.
Danava has been quiet for awhile, but they’ve re-emerged with a bang. There are still some hazier melodies and periods of mellower riffs, but as a whole this latest album brings even more energy and grit with it. The riffs are in your face and will make you want to headbang and fist pump just as often as they get you foot tapping along to a groove, but there’s still enough variety to tell the songs apart. Whether you’re a fan of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, or everything in between, Danava continues to hit the spot and this album has been in constant rotation in my stereo for weeks. Nothing But Nothing is available from Tee Pee Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg