Album Reviews

Album Review: REVOCATION – The Outer Ones

Metal Blade Records | 28 September 2018

revocationRevocation is defined as the official cancellation of a decree, decision, or promise. So, what has been revoked by this band whose roots stretch back to the members’ high school days in Boston? Perhaps it was the mainstream Metal that attracted them to each other. Since 2006, the band has released seven studio albums and two EPs, and it is certain, the band’s material is much more refined and boundary-pushing than their early taste for Guns ‘N Roses and Metallica would imply. According to lead guitarist/vocalist David Davidson, the name was borne out of a need to start fresh and move beyond the band’s past mistakes. To say that this band is technical is just part of the formula, for, over the years, these guys have simply gotten tighter and tighter allowing them to inject more creativity into the crafting of the songs. The Outer Ones is one of the most sought-after new albums this year, and the true question is how does it hold up compared to expectations.

Often, bands that are defined as “technical” seem to lack soul and feeling in their releases instead releasing albums full of mind-bending skills without actual songs to back it all up. From the early moments of this record, it is clear that Revocation is gifted in both areas. After all, David Davidson went to Berklee College of Music. His deep study of jazz has lent itself to composing Metal that is almost completely devoid of the sameness that proliferates across the genre with the same chords used continually. One cannot help but think about the poster hanging up in an old junior high school band room that stated, “making music makes you smarter”. At the end of the day, what all this means is that the band simply has a larger bag of tricks from which to write their songs.

From the opening minutes of The Outer Ones, the first track, “Of Unworldly Origins,” stakes the band’s claim of balancing heaviness, technicality, and memorability. The first reaction for this reviewer was being reminded of Death’s masterpiece The Sound of Perseverance. In fact, Death would be a great point of reference for much of the material present in that the line between heavy and hard to play is toed effectively to create a momentous album of Extreme Metal.

Highlights abound throughout the record from all the instruments involved. A spotlight should be cast upon the bass playing first of all. Brett Bamberger pulls off an astonishingly impressive performance on the low end with a tone that occupies its own space rather than trying to fight for position with the guitar as often occurs. Throughout, the adventurous, almost-free form nature of the guitar is amply supported by the bass guitar as it never fails to hold up its end of the song. Moments like the bass part in the jazzy section of “Blood Atonement” and the bass line in “Luciferous”, specifically at the three-minute mark, showcase a mature and inspiring approach to the instrument. The drum performance by Ash Pearson must be mentioned as well. With a tone that embodies the more acoustic side of the instrument without all the studio trickery on the bass drum, the intensity never relents throughout as Pearson guides the listener through the album. The Death Metal gallop is very much a staple, but the percussion also offers intelligent syncopation for the many off-time riffs present. Of Davidson’s performance, it must be stated that the guitarist has helped to advance the genre of Extreme Metal. Unique riffs are crafted from dissonance and even augmented chords at times, and the only standard seems to be that nothing is standard. All the notes on the guitar are possibilities as well as the combinations thereof. The tone is clear and crisp, a stark contrast to the distorted, crunchy bass. Ultimately, through all the changes of tempo and key, the guitar paints swathes of color on the canvas that is completed by the other instruments.

As stated before, this reviewer is not a big fan of Progressive Metal. The appreciation is there, though. For a non-fan of Prog, this is a great record. For a fan of Prog, maybe it’s fantastic. One would have to ask them, though. Yes, Revocation have made a compelling album full of flair and fire. The songs are not at all lost on Prog-pokery but are rather helped out by the sheer width of the spectrum of the band’s collective musical knowledge. Non-musicians can appreciate this record as well. Now in 2018, Davidson and company are setting the bar with their musical compositions. One can only imagine what fans of theirs will offer Metal in the years to come. Time will tell, and though listening to Revocation may not make one smarter per se, it is sure to inject excitement and enthusiasm into even the most jaded listener. 

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