Revocation – The Outer Ones (2018) REVIEW

To say that the Metal Blade years have been kind to Revocation as their stylistic leanings further plunge modernist progressive-edged metal would be a moderate overstatement. A historically above average live experience has long outweighed the painfully average and tasteless set of releases under Relapse‘s banner but with ‘Deathless’ (2014) this popular Boston, Massachusetts death/thrash band appeared more ‘free’ to edge away from the tired technical thrash/new wave of chuggy american metal(-core) adjacent mediocrity they been slinging since early 2000 as Cryptic Warning. Of course I’m spitting at a crowd, a phenomenon much bigger than myself, as the band has been a palatable inspiration for middle class guitar brats for decades now. In this case moderate millennial fame comes with good reason, guitarist/vocalist David Davidson has done an excellent job staffing his project to fit with his evolving tastes and increasingly ambitious compositions. The concession any ‘old school’ death/thrash fan makes from the outside looking in on a Revocation album is that there will be mosh-metal chug riff bursts that feel like millennium-spawned metalcore. You will either love the chug, put up with the chug, or wring your face disapprovingly. On their seventh full-length Revocation have provided material compelling enough to overlook the wretched chugs that bind them.

‘The Outer Ones’ is relevant and fresh to dry ‘old school’ ears and the first major point of praise that I’d give Davidson and crew is their ability to approach a combination of progressive death metal and technical thrash metal sub-genre tropes and ensure that not one second of it offers a call-back or nod to the good old days. In scouring all of the most popular death and thrash metal projects available at big box retailers today few feel as accessible and wrought with futurist enthusiasm as Revocation. The duo of Davidson and guitarist/vocalist Dan Gargiulo (Artificial Brain, ex-Cyanide Breed) remains incredibly inspired and represent an excellent balance between skull-drilling tandem technical ability and tasteful composition. Yes, ‘The Outer Ones’ feels like a fiddly modern tech-death mutant at its most intense points but they do not keep that intensity cranked throughout, giving at least the illusion of dynamic performance. But after ‘Great is Our Sin’ (2016) I approached this album wary of big first impressions and almost zero replay value. Lovely as the sci-fi album art is, substantive work is no guarantee.

After several weeks I would say I am at the very least convinced that this is the strongest Revocation release, just edging out ‘Chaos of Forms’ (2011) and ‘Deathless’ with pure flamboyant energy. There are a handful of very real annoyances that begin to crop up but most of these are nothing new; Guitar solos appear as ‘Rust in Peace’ style exhibitions aimed at impressing the rock guitar enthused listener but contain little relevance to the song and often dilute the intensity of a moment with masturbatory prog-metal dalliance. Some of the most exciting tracks, such as opener “Of Unworldly Origin”, put a small damper on their Vektor-isms with meatball chugged breakdown moments that work better in a live setting rather than on disc. To have soured the stellar glory of a song like “Blood Atonement” with flat, pointless flow-breaking chugs near the end seems more like a self-conscious tic rather than the well-maturing hand felt on the majority of the record. The disappointment of these tendencies cannot hold up to the surfactant of the best moments, though, and I am left with a mostly positive impression.

As a wang-slinging technical showpiece “Ex Nihilo” begins to act as the clincher on full listens, the standard 90’s mom jeans filling prog-metal soloing gives way to a redeeming end. Yet it seems like every brilliant moment is balanced by an equally mediocre musical statement. “The Outer Ones” is the one song I am entirely impressed with and those heavy groove-death metal moments are never as concentrated within the rest of the album’s progressive/wanking core. The lightly blackened boil of “Luciferous” was more or less the song that tipped the full-listen in my personal favor as it provides a strong argument for what Revocation is, and will continue to be, beyond what they were in a previous life. It slowly stuck as the guitar work built interest and I found myself wanting to return to ‘The Outer Ones’ more than a handful of times. While I am impressed by the technicality, the truly dynamic groove of Revocation‘s machinery, it is hard to fully recommend their anxious brand of death/thrash metal. There has always been a tentative, high-strung personality behind their music that resembles an ambitious  revisionist student rather than a master. If they ever manage meaning beyond impressive showmanship I’ll be fully on board. Moderate recommendation.

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Artist Revocation
Type Album
Released September 28, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Metal Blade Records’ Bandcamp! Follow Revocation on Facebook
Genre Progressive Thrash Metal,
Technical Death Metal

Devoted to this beaten path. 3.25/5.0

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