The Boston, Massachusetts band Revocation have been around for a number of years now. I recall first seeing their name in a copy of Terrorizer – probably around the time they started – and being taken with their decidedly old school name. That, however, was all I ever found out about them (for no particular reason). In the meantime, as anybody more attuned than myself will be aware, the band has continued releasing album after album since their 2008 debut. After a cursory bit of investigation, I discovered that last year’s self-titled effort came out to mixed responses; some listeners hailing it as a classic, but many underwhelmed by its genre hopping. With my first, belated encounter with the band in ‘Deathless’, it’s easy to see why Revocation are so divisive.
From opener ‘A Debt Owed to the Grave’, the styles of Revocation’s attack are fully in evidence but not initially easy to pin down. Melodic flurries of guitar pour over heavy, choppy rhythms while the drums pound intricately away. Vocal-wise, there is a deathly timbre which points to the band’s death/thrash credentials along with those arrangements which escalate into technicality. On the other hand, the closing dual harmonies of the opener reveal both panache and melodic inclinations. The initial impression then for anyone unfamiliar with the band is of a highly structured, talented unit which borders on tech/progressive death and thrash. By the second (title) track however, I think it’s pretty fair to state that the band’s nature becomes much clearer – certainly in terms of their position on the spectrum of extremity. Again we get a highly controlled composition, only this time the melodic aspects come to the fore; most markedly in the vocals, which make sudden transitions into singing, but also in the solo which comes across as pure ’90s Megadeth.
The above features emerge again in ‘Labyrinth of Eyes’ and in its context of technical riffs and progressive movements, the ‘ethereal’ vocals make more sense as a nod to, say, Cynic. Again, the solo has more than a hint of Megadeth in it, indicative in a wider sense of Revocation’s similarly self-assured, swaggering demeanour. (Later on, politically minded lyrics about “privatisation” in ‘The Fix’ offer seemingly more insight into Mustaine’s influence on this band.) Anyhow, the majority of ‘Deathless’ pretty much follows the pattern described above: an amalgam of polished, flashy death/thrash which never accelerates significantly beyond limited outbursts. Perhaps the one exception would be track five, ‘Scorched Earth Policy’, which is both shorter and more vicious than the norm. A sense of urgency is inspired via nippy riffs and details such as when bass and vocals cut out, leaving the drums and guitars to plough momentarily away together. On occasion, it even has me imagining a weird union between Obscura and Mastodon.
But quite simply, that’s the effect that Revocation have throughout ‘Deathless’. Although I’ve attempted to narrow down some of the facets of their sound, I’m sure there’s different stuff that other listeners might pull from it. Aspects are satisfying – such as the thick production job and riffs which pour irresistibly out of the mix. Overall though, I have one big problem. As meticulously conceived and executed as it all is, the style throughout is just too glossy and limited in extremity to grip me – no matter how many times I’ve tried getting swept along by the dazzling musicianship. I can only speculate as to who this will really appeal to: maybe progressive/melodic death/thrash fans and musicians? For me, it fails to stick.