I was admittedly late to the Revocation party, and it was by my own design. I would see a feature in a metal magazine, or hear friends extol the virtues of this new band that was doing really interesting and unique things, but to my detriment I never made time for them and never checked out their music in earnest. This all changed with 2014’s “Deathless”. I found that Revocation’s overall sound is right in my wheel house of technical, tight, and aggressive metal. Upon first listen I was sold, and I immediately devoured their back catalog. I was greeted by a band that seemed content making their own rules, traversing the slippery slope of sub genre alphabet soup and doing it with style. At times mind-numbingly complex, and at others focused on speed and aggression, they made metal that was forward thinking and diverse, while still being unapologetically heavy.
Through this backwards discography dive I discovered that the further back I went, the more I enjoyed the sounds of the previous records. It would seem that as time has gone on, Revocation has tempered their early exploratory leanings with an increasing lean towards iteration over innovation. It is a trap many bands who burst onto the scene as the “next great hope” find themselves in, and one that I am not yet convinced Revocation have fallen into, although “Great is Our Sin” raises some concerns.
Make no mistake, the record is a slab of crushing modern metal. Impeccably played and impeccably produced, it comes off as another notch in Revocation’s belt (which is both a good and middling thing). David Davidson is a masterful guitar player, and his skills on the instrument -be it his tasteful lead playing or punishing rhythmic assault- are nigh unrivaled in modern metal at this moment. The rest of the band put in admirable performances as well, with newcomer Ash Pearson admirably filling the massive shoes of former drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne. Sonically, the record is tight, fast and heavy with crunchy guitars that have heft and an overall crispness to the sound that allows the instruments to shine.
A downside then, is that the songs this go around aren’t quite as memorable as those in Revocation’s past. The riffs are heavy, there are odd time bridges, feel changes and tasty leads that fly by in abundance. In short all of the boxes are checked, but for a band as talented as Revocation a good chunk of the record seems very homogeneous, a safe calculation that tends towards “Deathless” while lacking some of that record’s experimentation and inventiveness. It is an enjoyable listen, but one that ultimately lacks those “moments” in each song that really make them stand out, and which seemed to be in great supply on the band’s earlier records.
Although nominally not a prog band, these guys are talented enough to do whatever they want, and I suppose maybe that is were some of the disappointment over this record comes into play. Expectation is a tricky thing, and the band seem to be at a crossroads as to where they are headed stylistically. They have seemingly found a formula that is working for them for the time being, and only time will show where and how they deviate from it. I will be very curious to hear where they go with the next record, and whether or not they will stay this course they embarked upon with “Deathless”.
A few tracks do really stand out however. Opener “Arbiters of the Apocalypse” is a thrashing monster that starts the album off at a gallop, while the odd guitar riff that starts “Communion” hearkens back to the older Revocation sound. Marty Friedman’s guest spot on “The Exaltation” is a joy, and Davidson’s solo on “Cleaving Giants of Ice” is a wonder to behold. I also found the focus on groove and heaviness on the latter half of the record to be an interesting development, and I’m sure that “Only the Spineless Survive” will destroy in a live setting.
So at the end of the day, “Great is Our Sin” is another solid outing from Revocation. It isn’t a bad record by any stretch of the imagination, and their status in the modern pantheon of metal remains safe. That being said, the record leaves me wanting something more. The next generation of metal heroes are now 5 or 6 records in, and aiming to at once define their sound while experimenting with measured innovation. As a fan of metal, I can appreciate what they have done here, and a solid Revocation album is still miles beyond what the next closest mainstream extreme metal band is doing. As a fan of progressive music, I am left wanting, but I also understand that Revocation aren’t a progressive band first and foremost. I just hope that more of that original mentality creeps its way into their next release.
- Arbiters of the Apocalypse
- Theatre of Horror
- Monolithic Ignorance
- Crumbling Imperium
- The Exaltation
- Profanum Vulgus
- Copernican Heresy
- Only the Spineless Survive
- Cleaving Giants of Ice
Label: Metal Blade Records