Dvne aren't afraid to let their Geek flag fly. Then again, judging by the Scottish prog-doom outfit's moniker (pronounced "dune," in homage to Frank Herbert's beloved 1965 sci-fi book of the same name), you probably already guessed that. Since 2016, the four-piece — guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Victor Vicart, guitarist/vocalist Dan Barter, bassist Allan Paterson and drummer Dudley Tait — have been conjuring up vast, scorching soundscapes that take cues from prog-rock, post-metal, old-school doom ... and J.R.R. Tolkien.
"I think Tolkien is such a great source of inspiration for lyrics, and for music in general," the conservatory-trained, French-born Vicart muses. "If you write any music and you're into doom or post-metal or progressive or whatever, it's definitely a great source of material for ideas and musical inspiration."
Released last July, Dvne's debut album, Asheran, is exactly what you'd hope for from a group of high-fantasy fanatics. All but one of its tracks (which bear fanciful titles such as "Rite of the Seven Mournings") clock in at six minutes or longer; all of them are powered by sprawling, expertly paced arrangements that reveal more wonders — alternately clean and shouted vocals, serpentine riffs, crushing crescendos — as the listener moves from one suite to the next, retaining their catchiness all the while.
Importantly, the band makes a point to avoid muddying up the scenery with self-indulgent noodling or techy gilt — flourishes that, in Vicart's view, frequently undermine the work of the most capable prog-inclined groups. "What I really don't like sometimes with some of the more progressive stuff is — not to be mean to Dream Theater — but their guitar playing isn't my cup of tea," he admits. "Obviously, these guys have been classically trained, but sometimes it feels like it's over technical for the sake of it. It doesn't touch me, because it doesn't really have good music, something that is catchy."
Asheran's overarching plot is open for interpretation, although the group has framed it as an environmental parable in the vein of Princess Mononoke, Hayao Miyazaki's lauded 1997 anime film, which the band watched repeatedly during the sessions for the record. It concerns a group of settlers who return to their home planet (an astral body thought to be barren, thanks to the greed and destruction of their ancestors) only to find nature back in control — and out for revenge.
Such cosmic grandeur might suggest a galaxy far, far away, but Asheran's central conflict of man versus nature is intended as an allegory speaking to the here and now. "When we see that there are leaders more concerned about nationalism than the future of the planet, that's concerning," Vicart says. "At first, we didn't know that there'd be no turning back from global warming. Now, it's more a question of what we're going to do about it."
Dvne's stories are about to get even bigger — and reach farther — in 2018. Vicart, who moved from Edinburgh to London last December for work (he's got a career in digital advertising), plans on expanding the band's roster to include a keyboardist, and this August, the group will make its U.S. debut at the Psycho Las Vegas festival, with more stateside shows to potentially follow.
Vicart cites last November's European tour behind Asheran as a breakthrough, motivational moment for the band. "We used to play gigs and people didn't necessarily know the music," he says. "Now that they've got an album to listen to, you go to the gig and they know all of our music before we even start playing. We end up communicating something that makes sense to us, and we end up making sense to other people. That's absolutely one of the best feelings ever."