Friday, September 28, 2018

out today: Revocation – The Outer Ones – Album Review by Matt Spall

The U.S. extreme metal act Revocation today has its seventh full-length studio album available from Metal Blade Records. The hardworking, music-obsessed British scribe Matt Spall took the new Revocation album for a spin, and this is his wise verdict. At the end of this review you can find out how to keep up with Matt at Twitter.
Artist: Revocation
Album Title: The Outer Ones
Label: Metal Blade Records
Date of Release: 28 September 2018
I’m someone who can barely hold an instrument, let alone play one well. Equally, I haven’t the first idea how to write a kick ass song. So for me, the thought that a band can release xx albums in 12 years since their inception in 2006 beggars belief. The fact that the band is Revocation and their back catalogue is of such a consistently high quality, it only makes the feat even more incredible. From the beginning, this Boston-based quartet have always sought innovation, with each album trying something just a little bit different. And album number seven, entitled ‘The Outer Ones’ is no exception.
It goes without saying to a certain extent that, at its core, ‘The Outer Ones’ undoubtedly remains an extreme metal record, with strong death metal overtones and a hint or two of thrash as well. But mixed in with this are a number of other important influences, some previously explored and some new.
What’s particularly striking about ‘The Outer Ones’ is how immediate it is for what is intrinsically a powerful extreme metal record. And I really, really like that. You all know by now that melodic intent receives a big thumbs up from me, so this has been a positive revelation. That’s not to say that previous records have not offered their fair share of accessibility of course. However, if anything, the injection of this element is arguably greater than ever before, leading to a greater level of enjoyment and connection on my part.
Hell, after a few spins, the opening track, ‘Of Unworldly Origin’, becomes almost catchy. The early central riffing courtesy of guitarists David Davidson and Dan Gargiulo is impactful, incisive and the rhythmic battery from drummer Ash Pearson and bassist Brett Bamberger is impressively intense. A blend of deep, guttural growls and higher-pitched gruff vocals stalk the instrumentalism, with caustic intent and then two things happen: firstly there’s an expressive and exuberant lead guitar solo laced with melody and infectious enthusiasm that’s magnificent. Secondly, the band inject a fair amount of groove in the latter stages. It all adds up to a precise, sharp racket that’s electrifying and hugely gratifying.
The latter ingredient pales into insignificance when compared to follow-up ‘That Which Consumes All Things’, which delivers Grand Canyon-sized groove into a track that is more of a slow-burner, not one to give up its charms without a fight. There’s more of a raw black metal-like atmosphere at the outset, but it is wiped away at the half-way mark when the down-tuned death metal tones become more pronounced. Frenzied blastbeats greet the conclusion of another intricate lead guitar solo before Pearson delivers some mind-boggling sticks work that acts as the prequel to the monstrously groove-laden and bruising stomp that’s the song’s outro.
‘Blood Atonement’ then underlines one of the biggest features of ‘The Outer Ones’, namely the overt jazz element to much of the material. Firstly, there’s the dancing and deft bass playing of Bamberger that emerges from the depths to come far more to the fore. Then there’s the central quieter and more spacious interlude that wears its jazz influence on its sleeve to excellent effect. Think of a more extreme metal version of Cynic and you’d not be far off. Somehow, in Revocation’s hands, the blending of soothing jazz and technical death metal works really well. That word ‘immediacy’ springs back into my mind again. I’m not complaining.
Any band that can fuse together an uncomfortable dissonant atmosphere with a sheen of warmth and some welcoming melodic flourishes has my respect, a feat achieved by Revocation within ‘Fathomless Catacombs’. Again, it is the intricately wrought lead guitar solo that steals the show, but every corner of the band, via every twist and turn, is at the very top of their game to create another compelling composition that is happy to reveal yet more jazzy intent.
Not content to rest on their laurels, the title track decides to dredge the depths of death metal depravity, thanks to some lightning-fast instrumental work, meaty churning riffs and some of the most in-your-face confrontational vocals on the record. And yet, an homage to melody and technicality remains.
Elsewhere, the instrumental ‘Ex Nihilo’ allows the listener to revel in the technical abilities of the quartet unencumbered by those commanding vocals. The guitars literally dance across the track, sprinkling it liberally with some delicious licks, riffs and solos, whilst the drums and bass create some engrossing beats and rhythms. And then there’s the album’s finale, the seven-minute ‘A Starless Darkness’, which slows the pace down to something approaching doom metal territory. The vocals are so low, they have to look up to view Hell and the grinding, writhing riffs are dirty but superb, allowing yet more understated melody to creep into their DNA. Plus, I just love the way in which the song plays with tempo so effortlessly; one minute we’re lurching along, nodding our head in time with the laboured pace. Then, in the blink of an eye, we’re confronted with blastbeats and a slick, rapier-like riff to cut the atmosphere in two.
Listening to an album like this should be exhausting, draining and daunting. However, in the hands of these accomplished musicians, ‘The Outer Ones’ instead is an enthralling experience. Every spin is greeted with a sense of anticipation and more often than not, I am rewarded with a new discovery, be it subtle or more overt in nature. And best of all, the music doesn’t feel impenetrably heavy and extreme. Simply put, with ‘The Outer Ones, Revocation are a revelation.
The Score of Much Metal: 9.25

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