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Empire of the Obscene was an album I had the highest of expectations for, and that probably played into my ultimate disappointment with the thing. Having been in attendance for a number of Revocation's live gigs here in the Boston area, I was witness to their explosive energy on stage and their pinpoint musical ability, and the material they were playing was what constituted a lot of this debut. But for whatever reason, the riffs seem to have lent themselves better to a performance rather than a studio disc, because here they don't feel so innovative or interesting, and this is more or less a lengthier expansion to their Summon the Spawn EP, embodying all three of those tracks and a bunch more in that mold. There is a sense of 'padding' here, with a lot of simpler riff structures you don't expect out of Revocation, which in ideal circumstances would make this their most grounded, down to earth writing, if it was terribly interesting. Fuck, the first time I saw the excellent Pär Olofsson cover art to this thing I got shivers...dystopian, ominous, nerdy, symmetric perfection...but the tunes in no way live up to that vision. If only it had been on a Vektor record!?
Anyway, Revocation's professionalism and ability certainly translated to this disc, and you can see why it garnered the label attention that ended in their signing with Relapse. They had chemistry on the stage, and also off. Empire of the Obscene is clean and pummeling, with that swarthy and voluminous purity we heard on the Summon the Spawn EP, only a fraction better. Deep, bowel churning kick drums and a great guitar tone that seemed to combine the mid 80s Bay Area/Master of Puppets aesthetic with something capable of ferrying the band's more modern tech/death metal influences. Buda's bass-lines were dense, leaden and cleanly carried forth in the mix, and even if I'm not the biggest fan of Dave's vocals, here they were at their most salacious and vicious, especially where he lays on the more guttural, gory edge to them. On the other hand, the record is a grab bag of riffs that at best represented the more clinical side of late 80s thrash ala Heathen's Victims of Deception or Sepultura's Arise, and at worst some pretty overt influence from melodic Swedish death metal bands like At the Gates, or on occasional a more brutal aspect of modern post-Suffocation USDM. Unfortunately, even at their most melodic and accessible, the songs here like "Fields of Predation" often feel driven more by superfluous displays of technique than raw emotion.
I'm not sure if they fattened up the album based on the pretense that they wanted more on there apart from the demo/EP tracks, but some of the choices here like the 5 minute instrumental "Alliance and Tyranny" are the sorts of songs I hear once and soon forget, a piece that might of well just been on an Angela Gassow-era Arch Enemy record. Better if Empire of the Obscene had been tightened to about 35-40 minutes of the most kickass material and left excursions like this one out of it. I get that it reveals more of Revocation's progressive rock/metal influences and their willingness to branch out, but it's a lot of wasted time after just one decent, melodic riff. The "Stillness" interlude, too, a gentle acoustic piece that goes nowhere apart from furthering the notion of versatility in the trio's arsenal. There are other songs like "Age of Iniquity" which have really boring thrash/death stop/start patterns among them which simply don't seem to play up to the group's obvious proficiencies, and I wish they had just cut the chaff in a lot of places here. I mean it says a lot to me that the Summon the Spawn material remains among the strongest here...and I was just expecting this to burn the house down and revolutionize modern technical metal. It does no such thing.
But at worst, Revocation are simply providing an exhibition of their chops and technical potential here with a pretty harmless set of riffs that occasionally grow more exciting than stock late 80s riffs sauced in 21st century production standards. Empire of the Obscene is by no means a 'bad' effort, and modern pundits would appreciate its level of balance and control. The lyrics are decent if topically scattershot, and for an album that was initially self-released, Pete Rutcho's production was pristine, polished to a modern pop/rock level, without losing the ability to wrench a neck out of its socket or punch you in the nethers. For whatever reason, though, each time I've gone back to listen to this over the last five years, it has become more and more expendable. The songwriting is far more bland than the sophomore Existence is Futile (still their best album), and it was pretty obvious they were just getting warmed up even when this first dropped. Sleek, competent death/thrash metal that will probably be more impressive to those who never experienced the 80s or 90s influences firsthand, but not terribly exciting or interesting compared to something like Vektor or Immaculate.
The mid-2000s had a lot of truly bizarre experiments going on, culminating in a number of quirky albums that were familiar enough to latch onto, but so elaborately modified through a sort of musical gene-splicing that they couldn't quite be qualified as outright derivative, though there was definitely a temptation to use that word to describe it. A fair number of these bands surfaced in close proximity to The Great Lakes, with perhaps Into Eternity being the fan favorite in terms of accessibility, though also one of the more reviled bands in some quarters due to the obvious modernity at work in their approach. Revocation were something of a different beast in that they weren't as easy to tie in with the watered-down Gothenburg inspired scene of the Americas, though there was clearly some of that at work even as far back as their formative years under the moniker Cryptic Warning.
While fairly easy to connect to this band's ongoing output, the incredibly technical and forbidding debut "Empire Of The Obscene" does come with a few unique aspects to it that have not remained since. Most of this occurs in the vocal department, where the dueling shrieks and howls of Davidson and Buda dredge up some latent brutal and deathcore influences at times, going so far as to even throwing in the occasional pig squeal every now and then, which does a fair amount to clash with the arrangement. To be fair, the overall character of this album has a greater degree of brutality and modern death metal elements to it, including a greater concentration of blast beats and dissonant riff work that's a bit heavier and indicative of a Cryptopsy influence, though still spiced up to the point of largely exhibiting the Dream Theater tendencies that this band has since become well known for.
Nevertheless, this album doesn't represent a road long abandoned by the band, but more of a typical attribute common to many ambitious debuts, which is throwing in a slightly overdone exercise in variation in order to provide the band a lot of room for development. Consequently, this album comes off as a bit more schizophrenic than its successors, particularly when hearing quick-shift crazies like "Summoning The Spawn" which literally throws everything at the listener but the kitchen sink, including one of the wildest and most elaborate shred fests the band has ever put forth. There is occasional room made for more thrashing and straight-forward riff fests like "Unattained" and a slightly more complex but still catchy slab of melodeath and neo-classical noodling in "Age Of Iniquity", but the Achilles Heel of this album is that it comes off as less focused, as if trying to impress the ears with sheer impact rather than leaving a lasting impression.
Revocation has always been a good band and there isn't a single album that would be qualified as skip-worthy, provided that one isn't outright allergic to technical showboating that listens like a modern Sadus on steroids, but this is the only album that should probably be sought out at a little less than standard list price. It's almost in the category of being technical Chinese food death metal, which tastes pretty good going down, but generally leaves almost as quickly as it comes. Perhaps a good analogy would be putting it on somewhat similar quality terms with that of recent offerings out of The Crown (think "Doomsday King"), having just enough memorability to inspire repeated listens, but falling a bit short of that addictive quality that usually follows a really solid technical album.
Mind blowing competency, rarely you run into a band capable of incorporating various musical strands from Meshuggah, Megadeth, Death (band) , Gojira and manage to arrange them into a Dream Theater like compositional blue print, seems like we are in an eclectic utopia. These guys are at the cutting edge of a new genre called technical plagiarism. Mind you there is a huge effort involved here, they had to listen to 25 years of Dave Mustain solos, now that is a LOT, carefully handpick them and ensure that they make the riffs a tad lazier, but then during this magnum ripping opus they forgot to modify "Hangar 18" riffs but behold, the result is magnificent piece of composition called "Fields Of Predations" which sounds so much better than rest of the record.
Leads have undergone an even more complicated screening process; it's more of a versatile cross genre plagiarism. Andromeda, Dream Theater and rest of the progressive metal wagon are their primary targets, if we start listing the bands with whom Revocation might have to share royalty then even the metal archives data base of progressive bands may not suffice. Thumbs up for the huge effort involved in searching and carefully recognizing repeatable pieces of creation. The Compositions follow a noticeable pattern too, first the lead plays, then screaming vocals, then riffs with drums, then again leads, then riffs, then more screams, first six songs are formed by repeatedly looping this sequence. This is more or less what Dream Theater does but with original stuff. May be these guys had a deadline to meet with the label and probably they ran out of time while they were scanning the history of thrash and progressive metal for slices of leads and riffs that they hardly got time to mix them in a less obvious way.
The above complaint of mine is somewhat taken care of in the second half of the record where they have cranked out some improvised piracy, the sequence within the compositions are more complex. Here the focus seems to be drums and bass, should have guessed this when I heard the second song "Tail From the Crypt", the drums at the starting are right out of "Catch Thirtythree", but have to admit amazing perfection here. The starting couple of songs in the second half are mostly influenced by drumming of Meshuggah and Gojira but a tad slower, in comparison to the first half of the record this is almost original stuff. Then there is this gap filler called "Stillness" which I forwarded enthusiastically to explore more creative forms of plagiarism. Unfortunately the fun here was getting over, even though songs still had the familiar feel it was getting increasingly tedious to identify the rip off pattern, these guys were getting really professional at it. Thankfully the riffs were still out of Megadeth's text book, the slow strumming of rhythm guitar at the end of "Age Of Iniquity" could have been a Dave Mustain creation.
"Empire Of the Obscene" is hardly a misnomer, it's a celebration of obscene marauded music, the record is actually a tribute comprising of magnificent pieces of borrowed sounds. These guys might know how to play instruments because they chose some of the toughest bands for emulation, but mechanically repeating a sound is no brainier, its just a test of skill which is far from real creativity.
Revocation are one of the best technical metal bands you will ever hear, and this incredible debut makes you wonder just how the Hell these guys aren’t touring with other tech metal giants. It’s just that fantastic. Techincal metal is an overcrowded genre these days, mostly because of all the prententious, boring bands that only care about showing off their talent, yet here comes a band that really enjoy themselves (Heck, Davidson even shouts “GUITAR!” before playing one of this solos) and they aren’t even getting a slice of the damn cake – and mind you, that’s a huge cake!
Now, the first impression you get upon receiving the record is that awesome cover art. That stuff is made of legends, it looks awesome. Very detailed and extremely well crafted, if you had no knowledge of the band, you wouldn’t think they’re as unknown as they are. It looks like its the same artist who made covers for The Faceless and Spawn Of Possesion, and if you have seen any of their covers, you will know how great it looks.
Now, once you pop this fucker in, the riffs start hitting you. A lot. Oh dear God, the riffs. They’re everywhere, and they’re absolutely, motherfucking amazing. Every single one of them. I dare you to find a bad riff on this album. Revocation are one of the few bands who can actually challenge riff gods like Arghoslent or Holy Terror. You already have a handful of absolutely amazing riffs within the first five minutes. And it just keeps getting better. David Davidson keeps on writing better and better riffs as the songs progress. The two closing songs, ‘Age Of Iniquity’ and ‘Empire Of The Obscene’ definitely have the best main riffs this album has to offer. ‘Empire Of The Obscene’ actually sounds like Morbid Angel but way faster. It’s absolutely, footstompingly heavy. Thou shalt turn thy woofer down if you own one. All these catchy riffs make for some amazingly catchy songs. After a few playthroughs every single note of every single song sticks out, and I promise you, the guitar solos will also be glued to your mind. Never have I heard technical metal as catchy as this! Which brings me to the production. Everything is played with perfect clarity, every instrument stands out and you can hear everything at all times. The perfect consistency makes this a joy to listen to. This also makes for perfect bass clarity, as there is only one guitarist in the band. The production is absolutely flawless.
Vocals can usually make or break a band. Many bands have some pretty mediocre songs but fantastic vocals to make up for it (Cannibal Corpse), while some bands have amazing music and amazing songs with vocals that stink worse than rotting diarrhea out of a dead blue whales rectum whilst a large group of skunk are festering on said diarrhea(Lykathea Aflame, Hieronymous Bosch). Revocation occupy sort of a middle ground. David is not a bad vocalist by any means. His growls are pretty standard. What really makes him shine though, are his screams. His screams are fantastic, and they fit the music like a glove. He’s also pretty intelligible throughout the entire album. Death metal veterans shouldn’t even need to look up the lyrics. How David manages to perform these good vocals and play fantastic, technical guitar playing at the same time is beyond me. I know there are bands that have way more technical riffs by the vocalist. Necrophagist comes to mind. But unlike Necrophagist, Revocations album manages to be a fun, entertaining listen.
The drums and the bass don’t do anything really standout. The bass mostly has a mind of it’s own, creating a thorough background for when the guitar decides to do something wild. Again, there’s only 1 guitarist, and Revocation decided not to have overlays on most of their solos.
The drums are great. The drummer is very fast with the bass drums, and he plays some cool fills once in a while. But this is thrash metal, so of course you’re gonna get the polka beats, and you’re gonna get a lot of them. The drums, like everything else on this record, are pretty much perfect. They’re not supposed to do anything spectacular, that would ruin the mood and feel of the album if you ask me.
Overall, this album by Revocation is one of the best released this year in any genre, and for anyone who loves technical metal, it’ll probably top their end of year best lists. Me, being a huge progressive/technical fan, I know it’ll already top mine. The fantastic production, great vocals and intense songwriting leaves this band at the top of the heap. Don’t miss this album! You’re gonna regret it.
Standout tracks: Unattained, Fields Of Predation, Age Of Iniquity, Empire Of The Obscene
Obvious influences: Celtic Frost, Dark Angel, Morbid Angel, *very very fucking huge list of thrash bands*.
I had heard lots of good things about Revocation, killer death/thrash metal with a technical side and loads of fun solos/leads. This excited me, I'm a huge fan of Demolition Hammer, Sadus, Morbid Saint, Sepultura, The Crown etc... so I eagerly rushed to find Revocation's debut album Empire of the Obscene. I was quickly disappointed. Right from the get go you know you've been had, this isn't even close to those bands, as it heavily borrows a modern production mixed with an interesting if not messy combination of styles. Looking at the cover, I instantly though of Psycroptic and their similar logo, which after listening to the music seems to play somewhat of an influence in Revocation's sound, with loads of technical melodies and a heavy influence on the rhythmic technical drumming.
The rest of the music displayed throughout Revocation's debut is a bit lacking from what I previously hoped and expected the sound would be like. Accepting a modern production akin to that of a deathcore album or the groovefest of Exodus' latest material, Revocation have fooled me, and a few others it seems. Songs like Exhumed Identity and Fields of Predation are utter examples, of the terrible groove like semi-breakdown moments. Mixed with the chug like -core riffs scattered around, most notable in Tail from the Crypt, producing more of an aura of shit. The album's opener Unattained is actually a decent song, featuring a few thrash moments... but that's about it. I wouldn't call this a thrash album even in the fucking slightest, to do so would be an insult to those who created this genre. And to even call it a pure death metal album would have Chuck Schuldiner tossing around in his grave.
The worst part of this wretched mistake of an album is the vocals, which aren't more than tough guy vocals that make Rob Dukes look like a badass. Bree bree's are littered around, which shouldn't have surprised me after listening to the vocalist from the beginning. Lame low growls and slight variations between pitches made it even worse on me; this guy would fit well in your average Hot Topic band though! There is very little redeemable to be found on this album actually, but I regret to inform you there are a few moments of intensity that make for a decent listen. Alliance and Tyranny is an instrumental song reminiscent to Lamb of God's Ashes of the Wake title track, but a bit better and with plenty of melody. Though the production/modern sound bring it down some more; the only good thing related production-wise is the drum sound, which happens to be the only factor on this album adding to it's heaviness. Relying on a lot of technical playing and intensity, influenced by Psycroptic and other technical death metal outfits, Revocation's drummer is one of the few reasons holding this album up from utter worthlessness.
So, Revocation's debut album is lame. Plain and simple. I was expecting killer death/thrash metal in the vein of early Sepultura or The Crown but instead was duped into listening to this modern Lamb of God-like garbage. I don't see how this is so highly praised when it can so easily be replaced with your average deathcore album. Just go listen to Suffer These Wounds and tell me this passes as metal! C'mon guys, stop tricking us by wearing Atheist, Decrepit Birth and Dark Angel... I can see somewhat influence in all three of those bands but it's done in the absolute worst way, as if it didn't even matter.
I am the eternal skeptic when it comes to checking out new bands and I say this especially about the ones whose band synopses read “Old school thrash metal style + technical death metal”. Nine out of ten such bands are just rehashed bastardized versions of older bands, and it is these bands which are ultimately responsible for killing a dying genre. Fortunately, Revocation doesn’t fall under that category.
I came across the band on the last.fm website and while I simultaneously read the band synopsis and viewed the hilarious band pictures, I thought to myself, “They can’t be fuckin serious!” Well it turns out that they really are quite serious about their music. I streamed ‘Summon the spawn’ and it blew me away. I just had to get my hands on their debut album. So here I am writing a review, a day after getting hold of ‘Empires of the Obscene’.
Before I start off, you ought to know that the band incorporates various styles into their music. Though it isn’t an easy task amalgamating thrash, death and technical aspects of metal into a song all at once, I must say Revocation has pulled it off brilliantly. As you will hear on the entire album, David Davidson does a good job handling both vocal and guitar duties. The guy is truly gifted. His guitar wielding skills come to light in the form of fast catchy riffs and neat, hardly overdone, tasteful solos. The real backbone comes in the form of drummer Phil’s relentless yet precise skin-bashing. Anthony’s thick basslines and his backing vocals complete this three-piece band.
The album opens chaotically with ‘Unattained’ and soon by the 30 second mark, the song settles into a steady rhythm. This is pure fuckin’ thrash metal. David’s harsh raspy vocals cut through the song like a wet knife through butter. I couldn't have imagined better vocals in my head. However, as the song progresses, you’ll notice that the chorus is interspersed by these deathcore-ish grunts. I’m not a big fan of it. I’ll get to this bit later on in the review. Towards the end of ‘Unattained’, David whips out this highly technical 40 second guitar solo. It sits perfectly over the rhythm guitars and it should give the listener a taste of what’s in store for his/her ears. David’s characteristic guitar solos are clearly the hallmark of the album. He proves his talent time and again with each and every song. Take the third track for example, ‘Exhumed Identity’ starts off with a dreary mid-paced tempo, speeds up in thrash like fashion and then at 3:50, after a ten second interlude-like piece, it crescendoes into a rapturous guitar solo. The effective and timely use of double bass beats and drum-fills by Phil are more pronounced in this song. The next track, ‘Fields of Predation’ is more equipped with a good dose of technical guitar work as compared to the rest of the album. At this point I can well draw comparisons to the mighty Quo Vadis and not sound blasphemous.
‘Alliance with Tyranny’ is an instrumental characterized by melodic guitar riffs. It slows down drastically in the middle and what caught my attention was the guitar solo (yes, I can’t get enough of it) which brought back memories of listening to 70s rock bands. ‘Suffer these wounds’ is another killer track worth checking out. If you don’t get an aural orgasm by 3:40 then I don’t know what will. ‘Stillness’ is another instrumental, but this one is acoustic. As the song title suggests, it creates this sullen atmosphere which could induce a lull in you. Most metal bands throw in the redundant instrumental in their album, but this seemed well placed considering that the album is nearing closure. The last track, ‘Empire of the obscene’, is by far the heaviest and most aggressive song on the album. The vocals lean more towards deathmetal-esque growls/screeches and the song in general is akin to the sound made by a jack-hammer at work. A perfect ending to an album of varying contrasts.
In my opinion, the album is almost perfect but for a minor gripe that I have with deathcore-like vocals. These were employed in the opening track ‘Unattained’ and it was a slight mood-dampener for me because pig-squeals aren’t my thing. You’ll hear the squeals again in ‘None shall be spared…’. Though it’s hardly a point to ponder upon, it does tend to draw your attention away from the awesomeness of the record. The band could have done away with those bits, but then again that’s just my opinion.
Overall, the album slays. The beauty of the record lies in its variety while striking a balance between technical-thrash, melody and death metal. The band does indeed take its music seriously or else it wouldn’t sound this good.
Ever since I heard the Summon The Spawn demo, I knew this band was going places. This debut full-length is really going to take this band to high places.
First off, the artwork for this album is absolutely killer! Par Olofsson is a master at his craft indeed. It makes the anticipation of this album stronger. Great job, Par!
David Davidson is definitely one of the best guitarists in New England. His riffs on this album slay so much. You can tell what his influences are and he's not afraid to flaunt them in our collective faces. I hope this review doesn't become fellating but you have to hear the riffs in these songs. Another thing I like about David is his vocals. They're not like the conventional screaming Metalcore vocals you'd almost expect from this generation of Metal bands and it's a breath of fresh air. The low-end vocals could be better though. They don't quite mesh well and they need to actually sound like Death Metal vocals and not inhales.
The drums are pretty standard but they keep the creativeness and they don't take anything away from the rest of the song. I kind of wish there were a bit more blast beats because some of the riffs could have bolstered by an explosive beat since there isn't a rhythm guitarist in the band to beef up the guitar work.
Overall, I really believe this band deserves all the praise they get for being a Thrash/Death Metal band in world largely dominated by gravely mediocre Metalcore and the Emo culture. Keep a look out for this band in the market. They will surely not disappoint.
Suffer These Wounds
Empire of The Obscene
Best song title:
None Shall Be Spared (All Shall Be Speared)
With growls, distorted guitars chords, pounding drums, Revocation explodes into your ears with their incredible debut album, Empire Of The Obscene. The riffs that follow this sudden introduction are fast and furious, the vocals inhuman, the drums completely unrelenting. This Boston based technical thrash/death metal band has honed their skills for years and it shows. They've succeeded in mixing old thrash sensibilities, new brutality standards and excellent riff writing into a sound that is both unique and traditional.
Back in the late 80s and early 90s, thrash bands would write albums filled with different headbanging riffs and shredding solos. Bands like Dark Angel and Demolition Hammer come to mind as masters of this. This influence is strong in Revocation for they spew out riffs that today's big name bands wish they could dream about. David Davidson is the man behind these infectiously ruthless guitar lines, utilizing a variety of playing styles ranging from fast tremolo lines to fast palm muting, to groovy yet still highly technical licks. One of the huge components to old school thrash is the guitar solo, and Davidson does not disappoint. His skill on the guitar is remarkable, but without being pretentious, just as a good thrash solo should be.
Revocation's rhythm and low end are exceptional at their instruments. Anthony Buda supportive bass work brings body and enhances the guitar riffs. Sometimes, Buda comes out from the low end to add his two cents to the compositions. Phil Dubois-Coyne's drumming is extraordinary and varied. He is reserved while being incredibly accurate. He employs double bass drums in places where it fits, as well technical fills and crashes, while reducing his playing to simple beats and rhythms.
With the aesthetic of yesteryear, they add huge quantities of new century relentlessness. Revocation is a death metal band after all. The vocals are brutal and powerful. Davidson does much of the main vocal work with his thrashy style of death growl, while trading off occasionally with Buda who provides some guttural muscle.
For a band of their brutality and skill, Revocation's metal is infectious. Most technical bands are so focused on showing off their talent that they loose any sense of songwriting and composition, and they become bland and pompous. This isn't Revocation's problem. The riffs are incredibly catchy and they're well incorporated into the music. There's a bit of a progressive quality to sections of songs where they throw in clean jazzy breakdowns that explode back into brutality, as well as some bluesy old fashioned rock and roll guitar solos. Another aspect that sets them apart from other serious bands is that you can tell that they enjoy the music they play. In one song, Davidson goes as far as to yell "Guitar!" before exploding into a fast and furious solo.
For a three piece band, Revocation is a super strong wall of incredible sounds. Empire Of The Obscene is a brutal and beautiful beginning for this talented band.