"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Asva - "What You Don't Know Is Frontier" (CD)

Asva - "What You Don't Know Is Frontier" CD cover image

"What You Don't Know Is Frontier" track listing:

1. What You Don't Know In Frontier (15:56)
2. Christopher Columbus (13:14)
3. A Game In Hell, Hard Work In Heaven (15:56)
4. A Trap For Judges (23:57)

Reviewed by on March 25, 2009

"In essence, Asva is the peaceful giant brother of the deranged wizard known as Burning Witch"

A wall of bass is the signature left on the earth by Asva leader Stuart Dahlquist (also known as Bootsy Kronos). Formerly of Burning Witch, Sunn O))) and Goatsnake his pedigree in drone and doom metal is undeniable. The line up for "What You Don't Know Is Frontier" is a dream team of members from Burning Witch, Earth, Mr. Bungle and more and essentially the talent doesn't disappoint.

Of course when mentioning Asva, drone and doom, it's hard not to contrast with the gravitational center of the scene, Sunn O))). Asva relies on instrumental range and epic rather than screeching feedback or remorseless doom, although these are still tactics they employ. In fact, you might press the fact Asva is just as much an ambient electronica band as anything else, as this is an album not afraid to extend into enemy territory.

The opening track, "What You Don't Know Is Frontier," is a testament to the changing faces of this album - starting out as a traditional drone doom track, it morphs into "Hex"-era Earth guitars before washed out screams not so unlike British funeral doomsters "Esoteric" come in to destroy the ending. Each of the four tracks on this album (ranging from 13-23 minutes) is like another season in the year, a natural evolution from track to track with an earthly aura linking the four. The album is, in effect, a droners drone album that covers all the bases - lonesome desert-wandering guitar, lurching and ominous bass and ethnic chants all worshipping the divine weight of heavy music.

I won't even try and guess anything more than the obvious synthesizer but the instrumental range here is quite expansive. The bass is the heart of this album but drum work (courtesy of B.R.A.D.) and traditional drone guitar serves as highlights to the ever present Lynchian hum.

The third track, "A Game in Hell, Hard Work in Heaven," was the highlight for me; a quiet affair in comparison to the other tracks but combining melodic synth lines and drone in a funereal and neo-classical epic. Despite this however, there is one shining fact that will put some people off Asva - the music is undeniably positive, uplifting and spiritual. "What You Don't Know Is Frontier" is an album centered on rebirth and this manifests itself through the music. This is not funeral doom nor doom metal my friends, so caveat emptor for the lack of guitar driven passages may not suit all. In essence, Asva is the peaceful giant brother of the deranged wizard known as Burning Witch.

Highs: "A Game In Hell, Hard Work In Heaven" and general quality of musicianship

Lows: Metal fans will feel empty when they bite into this monolithic album

Bottom line: Not quite Earth, not quite Sunn O))), this will no doubt still enthrall fans of ambient drone

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)