Revocation
The Outer Ones

Revocation has carved out an impressive and prolific career since dropping their solid debut, Empire of the Obscene, a decade ago. The Boston purveyors of technically sparkling death-thrash have rarely put a foot wrong during a career marked by consistent high quality and dazzling musicianship, attached to energetic, aggressive and catchy songs. However, 2016’s Great is Our Sin showed a few signs that the band was perhaps coasting a little and playing it safe, despite being a solid and enjoyable album. The eighth album The Outer Ones lands with plenty of expectation and a hint of trepidation from yours truly, wondering if they can recapture the magic of their strongest works.

Firstly, like or hate what they do, Revocation’s musical prowess is second to none and is worth admiring by itself. They are an incredibly tight unit, with the technical fireworks rarely overshadowing their impressive songcraft. Once again, The Outer Ones finds Revocation in fine form musically, led by the ripping leads and gobsmacking soloing of band leader and vocalist Dave Davidson. Davidson and partner in crime Dan Gargiulo (Artificial Brain) produce meaty, fleet-fingered performances; blending complex blackened, death-thrash riffage, sinister melodies, and progressive flourishes, with demented harmonies and wildly inventive soloing, shredded in typically classy style by Davidson.

“Of Unworldly Origin” kicks into gear with typical blasty aggression and livewire riffing, even if the opening riff sounds extremely familiar, like the band has penned something similar in the past that I can’t quite put my finger on. Nevertheless, it’s a solidly enjoyable way to break the album in. The Outer Ones possesses a darker, more aggressive tone, slightly reminiscent of their excellent Deathless LP, though the material falls short of that album’s lofty standards. There’s a notable shift into slightly blackened waters, while the progressive elements have also been increased, exemplified on the impressively tight and adventurous bluster of “Blood Intonement.” Certainly, the band has ramped things up in the heaviness stakes as well, delivering plenty of intense straight-up death metal moments and blasting intensity, such as the furious barrage that defines the title track. Yet the darker, heavier direction the band embarks on isn’t always to Revocation’s benefit. The more playful, thrashy, and inventive spark that defined much of their previous work has been dulled. And while the songs on The Outer Ones are well executed, they don’t lodge in the memory bank as deeply as one would expect from a Revocation album, nor do they sound particularly inspired.

Production-wise The Outer Ones is about what you’d expect from a Revocation recording. It’s not particularly dynamic or exciting, but there’s a slick balance of clarity, heft and energized punch. The musicianship features the impeccably high standards one has come to expect from the Revocation crew, even if the song-writing can’t quite match the pizazz or knotty and incredibly catchy material from the band’s best work, such as Existence is Futile and Chaos of Forms. Although I can’t really identify any major missteps, the songwriting simply doesn’t reach any great heights, despite a few worthy standouts. The album could also have reaped benefits from trimming some fat, while several songs lack character and distinction to stand out from the pack.

As a long time Revocation fan, I’m somewhat disappointed with The Outer Ones, especially when considering how impressive the band can be when firing in peak form. There’s no shortage of solid tunes, flashy musicianship or ballsy aggression on offer, but I get the feeling Revocation needs to freshen up their attack and blow out the cobwebs to avoid becoming a stale imitation of their superior selves on future releases. The Outer Ones is far from a dumpster fire. In fact, it’s a solid and intermittently engaging addition to the band’s repertoire. Yet in the end, it underwhelms in the context of their powerhouse body of work.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
October 1st, 2018

Comments

  1. Commented by: DaRuckus85

    Fair review though I will say that as a longtime fan myself, I started listening to them when Chaos of Forms came out, I am blown away by this album. It successfully integrates earlier sound (Fathomless Catacombs sounds like a 7-string version of something off of Existence is Futile, parts of Luciferous sound like their old thrashy selves), and also adds a much heavier sound and black metal (which is also present in earlier releases). Lyrically this is their best work and the song structures need multiple listens to grasp but oh, how it’s worth it. I give this a 5/5, a modern day masterpiece and arguably their best album.


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