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Revocation

01. The Hive
02. Scattering the Flock
03. Arch Fiend
04. Numbing Agents
05. Fracked
06. The Gift You Gave
07. Invidious
08. Spastic
09. Entombed by Wealth
10. A Visitation

[08/06/13]
[Relapse Records]

As immediate an appeal as Revocation might have had for many a metalhead, they have simultaneously become a bit of an enigma in the current music scene, as it is quite difficult to pinpoint their exact sound. The Boston quartet might just be the truest and most perfect example of a death/thrash band, as they fuse the two genres to an extent that both are irrefutably recognizable in the final product, yet neither can be neglected when determining just where that sound belongs, i.e. it would be wrong to call them “just” death or thrash. They have been cited as being highly influenced by bands from all over the spectrum: Megadeth, Atheist, Pantera, Death… but it is always a different band that is presumed to have fathered them. People have described them as technical, progressive, even jazz metal (understandable given primary songwriter David Davidson’s previous musical education), and while all of these labels may ring true, none are thoroughly consistent, as a quick glance at the band’s catalog reveals many songs that are decidedly straightforward and old school. Perhaps the members of Revocation themselves have noticed this anomaly floating about; after all, many other bands who self-title their latter albums (fourth, in this case) do so in an attempt to reassert and/or rediscover their identity – think Cryptopsy or Whitechapel, among more recent examples. So then, is Revocation the definitive Revocation album?

Unsurprisingly, jumping out at this question with a resounding “Yes!” wouldn’t be all that appropriate. After all, this is a band that is yet to wildly stray from their usual M.O.  Having never experienced neither a change in style nor a dip in quality, one can argue that every album they’ve released thus far is equally worthy of being considered their masterpiece. Alas, there isn’t anything wrong with this, as they have such a large and colourful palette to draw inspiration from that it seems needless to change said palette. Revocation have always seemed confident enough in their direction that they haven’t felt the urge to force a departure from it, instead relying on their natural progression as songwriters as a means of ensuring they don’t release the same album twice. In this regard, Revocation truly is a recap of all of their past works as well as the logical next chapter, retaining the band’s familiar aspects whilst sounding fresh and distinguishable.

One way in which this plays out is the production. Revocation sports a sound that borrows as much from the loud, organic Teratogenesis as from the more pristine-sounding albums of yore. Not to say that the band’s past recordings have been marred by a poor mix even in the slightest, but this time they have truly struck gold, and, at least on one front, this album will indeed be a standard according to which future releases will be measured. Another aspect of this is the level of experimentation, as well as the overall complexity of the album. The dichotomy couldn’t have been more clear between the quirky, out-of-left-field Chaos of Forms  and the considerably more simplistic Teratogenesis. Revocation is right at home in the middle of this contrast, with song structures swaying from traditional verse-chorus affairs to more complex, thought-out patterns. Additional instruments are present but few and far between; moreover, they are used less as the centerpiece of their respective tracks but rather for well-placed songwriting tricks that glue in sections of a song. The already infamous banjo on ‘Invidious’ is really just a short lick at the start which hints at the main chord progression and is then all but smothered out by the layers of riffs thrown upon it, and the acoustic guitar in ‘Arch Fiend’ serves only to mark a striking transition in the song’s mood.

Speaking of which, Revocation’s tonal and emotional expressiveness is, thankfully, preserved on this album, perhaps even expanded upon. This has always been one of the band’s (subjectively) greatest qualities, as it is quite difficult to evoke any significantly vivid soundscapes when playing music of this nature. Still, Revocation manage this with ease, as evidenced by the ominous, lumbering  ‘A Visitation’, or the aforementioned ‘Arch Fiend’, which starts out sounding genuinely sinister before taking a sharp turn into more uplifting territory. Although the main driving cause behind this phenomenon is the music itself, the lyrics certainly are a catalyst, as the shift in focus away from political messages and towards sci-fi and fantasy themes definitely works in the band’s favor, enhancing the “epic” factor of the music.

And if you’re at all familiar with Revocation, you can rest assured that this music is as brilliant as it has ever been. Not a single riff on these ten songs is needless or out of place, not a single solo anything short of incredible. Axemen David Davidson and Dan Gargiulo keep displaying a knack for weaving intricate guitar lines that always grab by the throat, and their oft-dualing solos are all so consistently top notch that it becomes nearly impossible to rank their quality (even still, the ones in ‘Fracked’ might as well take the cake). The continued use of extended-range guitars is again a welcome boon to the album, as they are used sparingly yet tastefully – just check the billion-tonne breakdown that ends ‘Invidious’ or the riffs on the second half of ‘Spastic’, which may very well be the best instrumental the band has ever done and an early candidate for best song on the album.

Meanwhile, the rhythm section has actually gotten better. Bassist Brett Bamberger’s newly found flourish is largely tied in with the change of production, as his tone is much more fleshed out and warm, paving the way for some moments of sheer badassery when he takes over sections on songs such as ‘Fracked’ and ‘Numbing Agents’. Drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne’s chops had never quite gone unnoticed, but at least on the band’s first two albums, he would sometimes cater to what a particular song needed so much that he sacrificed originality in favor of stock patterns which are appropriate but all-too familiar. Revocation still contains somewhat generic drum parts here and there, but it also marks a continuation of Phil’s tendency to get more consistent and creative with each release, especially during the proggy, odd-time sections abound.

Aside from some poorly executed gang vocals and sort-of cleans found in ‘Invidious’, Revocation truly is a record that merits no criticism. Sure, some listeners may at first find the album’s closer to be anticlimactic, or particular aspects, such as the excessive whammy bar abuse, to be a bit uninspired, but subsequent listens are almost guaranteed to reveal the purpose behind every minute detail on the record. This is only to be expected, since an album with a sound so all-encompassing couldn’t possibly be digested in one sitting. Looking at how much they take cues from every corner of metal both past and present, Revocation can easily be dubbed the genre’s swiss army knife – a group of musicians that are masters of all trades, jacks of none. Yet the parts on this album, as well as the rest of their discography, that prove to be the most enjoyable aren’t spearheaded by technical wizardry or gripping emotion; no, it has always been those rare moments of pure rock’n’roll energy, when David Davidson lets his self-admitted worship of Slash and Joe Perry shine through. It’s those moments that prove, above all, how Revocation are a bunch of dudes that have fun playing their music, and how good they are at making their fans have fun, too.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhDPb8TnaM4&w=560]

Revocation – Revocation gets…

5/5

 

-DA

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