Revocation - Self Titled [Relapse - 2013]Technical death metal band Revocation's self titled album is their 4th full length album since their debut in 2008. Fans of the band have often described them as thrash influenced, but I just don't hear much of that on this album. Instead, I hear traces of modern bands like Between the Buried and Me, Burnt by the Sun, Botch, and other denizens of the ferocious technical hardcore scene.
The band's selling points are their youthful vigor and energy and their incredible musicianship, striking a balance between chugging, pinch-harmonic death metal riffs and neo-classicist sweeps that isn't too far from a band like Necrophagist. Revocation, to their credit, feels more like a full band than Necrophagist, and they are not only perfectly tight but natural and powerful in their groove.
It is sheer joy to hear the truly virtuosic solos of guitarist Dave Davidson, enough to make the album overall a pleasure even without considering its other merits. There is gushing, raw soulful emotion in what he plays that can be connected to blues, and is rarely, if ever, found in neo-classical death metal playing. As someone who has been listening to technical death for over 10 years, I can honestly say these are some of the most jawdroppingly amazingly solos I've ever encountered. They make the record.
The vocals and lyrics are the weak point of the band. The vocalist's scream is a midrange vomiting/howling sort of tone not dissimilar to many a metalcore band of the early 2000's; the style is not in itself a problem, the problem is his lack of charisma, distinction and diversity. I can't help but roll my eyes when I hear the chanted group vocal "WE DON'T NEED TO BE SAVED!" in the cliched anti-religious song "Scattering the Flock". To my ears there's a lot of macho posturing going on, and it seems like they've just picked from a selection of typical 'metal' lyrical subjects. I don't know much about what the musicians feel from lyrics like these.
Their other downfall is their reliance on predictable verse chorus structures. The musicians seem to be holding back the complexity and density of their music significantly in the interest of accessibility; every song contains a repeated shout-along refrain in a simple metric rhythm. The formula quickly becomes obvious, and these are by far the least interesting parts of each song, occasionally making me feel like I'm listening to a dime a dozen metalcore band. I can understand that the band wants their songwriting to legible to listeners, but this is no reason to repeat the same structure time and time again.
The best moments of the albums are the shredding solos and complex instrumental bridge sections where the band really lets loose and packs a lot of material into a short space. Rather than sounding disjointed, these movements often build a lot of momentum through the many unexpected riff changes, and the band knows a natural knack for flowing musical narrative. Why not just drop the choruses altogether?
Unsurprisingly, my favorite track is "Spastic", the instrumental. The band shows here than they fully understand fusion-esque harmonies the likes of which one might find on a Cynic record. The chest-beating aggression of the album's anthemic choruses seems totally absent from the whimsical, jazzy sense of melody that emerges in the solos of this song and "Entombed by Wealth".
It seems Revocation can't decide whether to let the progressive technicality and melodicism of their bridge sections really blossom, or play the hardcore influenced, fist-in-the-air mosh pit metal their vocal style has been transplanted from. That said, the middle ground they currently occupy is not so awkward that I don't enjoy their music. There are certainly scattered passages of absolute brilliance on this albumJosh Landry