Revocation, for me, belongs in a group of bands whom I like and respect but don’t really love – Killswitch Engage, Iron Maiden, Nevermore etc. It is not that I do not like their music; it is just that I don’t actively go out of my way to seek out their music. However, when a friend of mine recently asked me to give their new album Deathless a try I decided to listen to it. And I realized that there is not much that the band lacks. They are just an old school band who keep on writing honest music year after year with little coverage or promotion. And that’s fine with them.
Released via Metal Blade Records on 14 October 2014, the album contains over 48 minutes of well written music. The best way to characterize their music would be a mixture of neo thrash and death metal. Although not immediately apparent, they share some similarities with the band Carcass. Their style is more technical though and features a lot of polyrhythm riffs, rhythm changes, quick transitions and jazzy guitar solos. A 3 piece band till a few years ago, they now have 2 guitarists but it is the interplay between the bass and guitar that is very interesting and drives a lot of their songs.
The main driving force behind the band is guitarist and singer David Davidson (to you math geeks that’s David[1+son]). His years learning jazz at the Berkelee school of Music have helped him develop a very unique writing style. With a lot of the guitarists, you can predict where a riff leads, which may or may not be likable depending on individual tastes. However his approach to writing is completely different as his use of dissonant notes in melodic parts gives their songs a different dimension. For example, the clean parts in ‘Madness Opus’ may sound unsettling and haunting but never sound disjoint. ‘Madness Opus’ shows their diversity as it includes a little bit of everything from their arsenal. There is no forced attempt to be extra heavy and br00tal. The heaviness comes from their riffs and their writing.
Another song that I really liked would be ‘Scorched Earth Policy’. When I heard it the first time, it seemed a catchy enough thrash song. But another listening revealed much more – that Revocation are a deceptively subtle band. The drum fills could deserve an article by themselves. Phil Cubois-Coyne is a brilliant drummer who plays some of the most intricate fills in metal. Bassist Brett Bamberger (no Hamburger jokes please) locks in a tight groove with the drummer and together they form a rock solid rhythm section to the band. The bass parts are mostly the same as the guitar parts and this gives their tone an added thickness.
However the thing that impressed me most about the album was the band’s songwriting abilities. Every part is well written, and every song sounds like a song instead of a collection of riffs. Even though the songs contain a lot of tempo changes and transitions, they always feel coherent. The album is extremely well produced. The tracking has been done very well with nigh a mistake. The songs are mixed well too with all the instruments being audible for the most part. Another great thing about the album is the solos. They refrain from doing conventional shredding solos and David Davidson gets to apply what he learnt at school (one of the very few) and has written some killer solos on the album. The solos in ‘The Fix’ and ‘United in Helotry’ deserve special mention in particular. The harmonized melodies are kick ass too.
A criticism of the album is that there is not enough diversity among songs in the album and the songs sometimes blend into one another. The band sticks to their strengths and do not experiment much, with ‘Apex’ being the only exception. Some fans might argue that the band have been doing the same thing since the past 4 albums and not really moving forward. But experimentation for the sake of experimentation does not serve any purpose. Just ask Metallica- Load/Reload, St. Anger.