We had the pleasure of watching Revocation live on Monday night here in a little building off Armenian Street (Substation), and I will start proper by saying that the band kills it live. They sounded good despite a shitty soundtech crew. Another bonus was Jon Rice (ex Job For A Cowboy) filling in on drums since original drummer Phil Dubois was injured. Needless to say, the real star of the show was band leader David Davidson on guitar.He played with grace and vigour. The band played two songs from this album, the title track and 'Madness Opus', which sounded fantastic as the band closed the gig. Regardless of what you think of this album, this reviewer highly recommends checking most of the band's discography if you love riff-centric metal.
As for the album, a track-by-track review:
- A Debt Owed To The Grave - The opening track leaps out without wasting a single second. The song is straightforward, but with great riffs and audible bass (which was missing on the last album). The ending is power-metal influenced. Davidson's vocals have improved considerably. A good song.
- Deathless - Title track which sounds a bit flat now that I have been spoilt by the live version. Still a very strong song with minimal use of clean (autotuned) vocals and a fantastic solo. All the songs on this album have a fantastic solo.
- Labyrinth Of Eyes - The main riff is a little complex, and this song ought to please fans who prefer their metal with a little different time signature. Coming from the band, this is anything but complex, but I guess being mainstream has a price. Autotuned vocals make another comeback, but they fit the song better here than they do on the previous track. There is a very headbang-able jam session in the middle of the song.
- Madness Opus - One of my favourite songs on the album for many reasons; great vocals from fellow guitarist Dan Gargiulo (whom, I realised, was the better vocalist live), a fantastic riff (pre-chorus) and a rather progressive approach at the song's midpoint that toggles between jazzy and heavy in a jiffy. The section of course translated very well live, and it's a clear sign of self-aware songwriting. It is a relatively simple song that is more than the sum of its parts.
- Scorched Earth Policy - A return to lively riffs, with an almost power metal-ish introduction. The main riff is again highly memorable, and there's a drum solo somewhere i the middle (sort of).
- The Blackest Reaches - Halfway in and Phil Dubois-Coyne is really starting to shine. Some intricate drumming on this song, some nice guitar licks here and there. Again the solo here is pretty well done. The music is written by Dan Gargiulo here and if anything, he's no slouch on song-writing either.
- The Fix - Another song written by Dan Gargiulo, it's another more direct song with many short but sweet solos. Dan Gargiulo must love black metal.
- United In Helotry - You know it's back to Davidson on songwriting when the main riff has a funky time signature. The clean vocals were a bit of a surprise when they kicked in, but they flow seamlessly with the song. Fantastic solo.
- Apex - Customary instrumental per album. I feel this has to be one of their stronger instrumentals, with a heavier emphasis on melody than the other songs. The jazzy interludes are back, and its surprising how progressive the album has been thus far.
- Witch Trials - Closing track brings Revocation to NWBHM territory, something that's pretty wild for the band. Not that it is devoid of harsh vocals, but it is noticeably different from the rest of the album, and a well-placed experiment for the band. The song sticks out in a good way, excellent riffage, a catchy verse and some more NWBHM soloing as the song ends. Some may not like the different direction, but I welcome the diversity.
I did not get a chance to hear the bonus Morbid Angel cover.
Overall, it's a surprisingly strong album from Revocation with hardly any filler, putting it far above the band's previous two albums. However, there are still issues that prevent me from awarding the album all five stars:
Production by Zuess and Alan Douches isn't underwhelming (at DR 7), but could have been vastly improved to sound more dynamic. The mostly monotonous vocals may take a bit of getting used to. And love it or hate it, the band is still unmistakably the same at its core. Despite the variations in songwriting, those who didn't like the band before aren't going to like it now either.