So, I’m going to try to start a weekly column on albums I think anyone should listen to. From metalcore to technical death metal, these are albums I truly think stand out above the rest. Albums that I listen to on a regular basis because they’re original, executed well or even both. They may not be front-to-back perfect and they may not be for everyone, and perhaps many of you will find that you disagree. Nevertheless, these are albums I think people should at least give a listen.
Anyway, the first album I shall review will be Existence is Futile by a relatively unheard of band named Revocation. When I think of 3-piece bands, I think of shit. Honestly, I’ve found that 3-piece bands lack depth and suffer from a severe case of hollowness and tepidity. The music itself is always just boring. Revocation thinks otherwise and I have to agree with them 100%.
At first glance, the album looks silly. The artwork has a lot of generic metal stuff like an almost illegible logo, some weird demon/mutant/human spin-off and a bunch of devastation in the non-focal areas. Even the title of the album is a little ridiculous, but don’t let this fool you. The music inside is mind-blowingly good.
When you first play Existence is Futile, you’ll be greeted by the instrumental intro titled “Enter the Hall”. The song builds up into a very nice sweeping passage reminiscent of Protest the Hero before it breaks out into a crazy thrash riff, ending with more Protest the Hero-esque sweeping. The next few songs are very thrash heavy, which isn’t exactly my cup of tea. But the music itself is nothing like Slayer or other true thrash bands. It’s more like death metal with heavy thrash influence. Even the vocals are thrashy, with David Davidson (awesome name, eh?) yelling like a maniac into the microphone. Some may find them obnoxious and easily the weak point of the album, but they do grow on you and eventually I learned to accept them. They’re not bad per se, but I’m into growls and shit. Either way, his performance is good and he shuts up at the right times. His lyrics are all right, too. Nothing really thought provoking. Just some typical political jargon that I don’t find intriguing, but it is better than ranting about relationships. In any case, the first half is chalk full of driving thrash riffs, inane yelling and heroin-addicting solos, but damn is it good. However, once you get to “Across Forests and Fjords”, the album skyrockets.
This is because one of Existence is Futile’s highlights is the phenomenal lead guitar, which really only stands out in the latter half. I’m not hating on the riffs, but their leads and solos are so juicy, memorable and delicious that it’s hard to say their riffs are better. In tracks like “Existence is Futile”, “Dismantle the Dictator” and “The Tragedy of Modern Ages”, you can clearly hear influence from Between the Buried and Me or any other lead-heavy band. To make things even better, the influences do not stop there. From the classic rock solo of “Dismantle the Dictator” to the proggy lead guitar in the outro of “Leviathan Awaits”, Revocation really know how to draw influence without sounding like a carbon copy. There’s even some BTBAM-y stuff in “Dismantle the Dictator” when the music stops on a dime and David plays a weird, angular passage so that’s always a big plus. All in all, the leads are melodic whilst sounding like they belong in death metal yet not earning the genre of melo death. It’s truly a combination of genres and influences that support each other.
Oh and did I mention that David does guitar duty, too? How he can wank, riff and yell at the same time is pure unprecedented talent.
The drumming is pretty standard so I wouldn’t call this an album highlight in the same way that the lead work is. Phil does what he has to do and he does it well, but it’s nothing unorthodox. In fairness, though, I think the biggest testament to his ability is that he can play under 200 BPM. Many drummers have this spastic disorder where they feel the need to hit every drum and cymbal but he avoids that. And as for Anthony, bass guitar, his presence isn’t audible in the way that BTBAM is, but he adds a beefy layer to the overall sound. It’s good to see he’s not just a filler member.
Lastly, the production is clear. Not overproduced. Just clear and professional. The bass drum sounds like a bass drum, the snare sounds like a snare drum and the cymbals are clearly defined and not just a muddy mess of ‘tsssshhhh’ sounds. Clean guitar tones, clean vocals, clean drums and enveloping bass. Essentially one of the few albums that manages to sit in between underproduced and overproduced. I cannot stress how much I enjoy the production.
Revocation is really a band that may be hard to ingest on first listen. The vocals, the thrash influence or the fact that all the songs are mid-tempo or upbeat, there’s plenty of reasons to be turned off by this release. I digress, though. I think Existence is Futile is one of the few albums that manages to be technical without sounding pretentious, melodic without being losing aggression and thrashy without sounding like an actual thrash band. I truly love the combination of all the genres and I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do with their next album. If they stick with this style, the only direction they can go is up.
Here’s a music video for their song “Dismantle the Dictator”, featuring sexy leads, a band chant, and guitar tapping that fluidly transitions to a classic rock finisher:
PS: The outro to “The Tragedy of Modern Ages” is, in as few words as possible, epic as fuck.