ROCK'S IMPENDING DOOM has been predicted on more than one occasion over the past few decades. And the rock star? Long dead. Gregory Meleney would be the first to scoff at that. As he strides toward a small Southeast coffee shop, hair down the middle of his back, clad head-to-toe in black, smoking a cigarette, he looks, well, like rock and roll.
It's noon. Meleney has just woken up. He's still getting re-acclimated to the domestic clock, his band Danava having spent the previous month across the pond. The four-piece is getting in a couple weeks' rest before they do it all over again in support of Hemisphere of Shadows, their third LP on the Kemado imprint. The new album captures the band forgoing some of the synth and acrobatic dynamics found on 2008's UnonoU and embracing wall-to-wall riffs.
"If I tell some people there's less synth on the album, they get bummed," explains Meleney, his voice clinging to a slight drawl. "I'm trying to design it in a sense where it can be played live, because it's really upsetting that we can't play most of [UnonoU] live."
Hemisphere is a compact eight-song package that clocks in at a taut 37 minutes. The new approach might be most perfectly embodied in album opener "Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun," just over five minutes (succinct by Danava standards) and loaded with dueling dual guitars.
Danava has always embraced the finer points of '70s riff rock—Sabbath and UFO come to mind—which has also led to unwanted (and inaccurate) labels from stoner metal to prog rock, even as far as being called Hawkwind rip-offs.
"I just kind of hate that we get pigeonholed as this psych-metal, or prog-metal band," Meleney says. "Calling us progressive to me is offensive to prog guys. We've never said anything other than we're a rock band, you know? That's what we always thought we were."
Meleney professes his undying love for bands like Sabbath, Van Halen, and ZZ Top, groups that have fallen in and out of vogue for some four decades now. He spent his formative years voraciously immersing himself in those recordings while growing up in the blue-collar podunk of Quincy, Illinois, not known for much of anything except having been the address of James Earl Ray. He began playing guitar at age 12, learning Sabbath's "Electric Funeral" while listening through stereo speakers. It wasn't until a trip to the music store that things changed.
"I'm sitting there playing, and this guy was like, 'Hey man, put some distortion on that.' And I was like, 'What's that?' And he hit the button and it was like boom, done. It's funny, I had no idea how any of my favorite bands got that sound, I just thought they were fucking magicians."
Meleney made his escape from Quincy to Chicago in his early 20s, before making the move to Portland soon after. The first incarnation of Danava took shape in 2002, when the band played a set of covers from Italian prog rock band Goblin at a Halloween party.
Danava has been a rock and roll anchor ever since, playing at deafening volumes to growing crowds. The band has seen some personnel changes in the last year with the addition of drummer Matt Oliver and guitarist Andrew Forgash, with Zachariah Dellorto-Blackwell rounding out the band. As for Meleney, he is a dying breed—the type of dude who eats, breathes, and sleeps music.
"With this record I feel personally like we're starting over," he says. "We had that three-year gap, man, I mean that's enough to kill you."