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There is definitely a radical cynicism that comes with an album title like "Existence Is Futile", and rarely does that sort of fatalistic sense of hopelessness come in an ambitious package. But that is the strange sort of no-man's land between modernity and revivalism that Boston's own Revocation lives in, so it's a fitting paradox. There was definitely a fair amount of hype surrounding this album, owing largely to its uniqueness in a scene that is addicted to a very contrived and long since stale merger of NYHC and Gothenburg melodic death metal. This band is probably about as far from a Killswitch Engage or an All That Remains as can be while still existing in an American modern metal context, and it is something that immediately scores points even before all the actual elements that make their sound are fully comprehended.
For a de facto power trio, Revocation makes quite an impressive showing with a simple arrangement of guitar, bass and drums, sounding like a band much larger and more powerful than a typical 3-piece. Granted, a fair amount of guitar over-dub work and a really crisp production carry much of this album, but it can be visualized in a live setting by mentally stripping away the extras, and the resulting image still works quite well. Mixing together a rather varied number of musical influences ranging from death/thrash, progressive rock, 80s melodic metal, jazz and even what might pass for a fusion sound at times. Most of this comes through a wide array of contrasting sections, giving each song a sort of through-composed character, though most will take note of the generally radio-friendly song lengths on display.
However, unlike most power trios, the real heavy hitting is handled by guitarist/vocalist David Davidson, whose six-string assault essentially carries the entire album while the rhythm section makes an impressive showing but mostly plays support. Even at the very onset of the intro/overture-like instrumental "Enter The Hall", its clear that the guitars are playing off a fair amount of Jon Petrucci and Michael Romeo influences. As things roll along, the lead work pretty well wanders all over the place, conjuring up familiar sounds from a number of noted virtuoso metal and eclectic rock shredders and instrumental composers normally found on Lion Music, whereas the riff work is a bit more along the lines of a modern, yet rooted in tradition death/thrash style that particularly draws inspiration from Megadeth and The Crown, among a few others from the 80s and 90s.
But for all of the extremely distant sounding variables at play in this album's stylistic nature, it is well anchored in a consistent presentation that is conducive to a sizable audience. Davidson's vocal display largely mimics the gruff and occasionally guttural hardcore character of a number of modern thrash vocalists, occasionally sounding like the post-1994 version of Chuck Billy mixed in with a bit of Tomas Lindberg. The songs are mostly consistent thrashers that either pummel at full speed like "Pestilence Reigns", or dance around a traditional thrash sound but throw in a lot of almost mathcore-like elements and blasting sections more in line with modern death metal, though there is the drawn out closing song "Tragedy Of Modern Ages" that mixes in a fair amount of blues/jazz elements with what starts off in a bit more of a traditional Gothenburg vain. It's all discernibly tied to the same consistent of sound, but it has a good amount of room to roam within its self-imposed bounds.
While perhaps a tad bit over-hyped in its day, this was definitely a decent album for 2009 and a good reminder that the eastern end of the U.S. still knows how to craft a quality metallic product. This is probably the most consistent album stylistically for the band, having a bit more focus than its predecessor, and also not being quite as adventurous as its eventual follow-up when a 2nd guitarist was introduced to the fold to give Davidson more room to meander from one musical style to the next with a greater margin of error. It might fly over the heads of a lot of people who are looking for an album along the lines of "Deathrace King", which this album does share a few commonalities with, but it is definitely something that will be easier for a run-of-the-mill fan of death/thrash to get into than what the likes of Decrepit Birth and Beyond Creation are putting out.
I'm a frequent victim of hype fatigue, and Existence is Futile is certainly one of the most over-hyped albums of 2009. In an astronomically good year for metal, I definitely didn't give this album a fair shake when it first passed my ears.
I was a big fan of Revocation's self-released debut, Empire of the Obscene. That album was an exercise in riffage thrown at the wall; all manner of styles were represented and they all stuck. The riffs and solos on Empire of the Obscene were absurdly awesome, but the album lacked a cohesive sound and didn't display particularly consistent songwriting.
Revocation have achieved cohesion on Existence is Futile. Their sound is a unique blend of groovy thrash, technical and melodic death metal with solos that recall the greatest glory of the 80s. It's almost as if a band like Warbringer spawned alien children with The Fucking Champs.
Songs like “Pestilence Reigns” exhibit Revocation's blueprint. A handful of complex riffs drive the first part of the song. First, semi-melodic chordage slides up and down the guitar neck. Then we get a hammered-on fountain of notes that occasionally kicks into ludicrous speed. Scrumptious grooves sprout up in the transitions between riffs. Then, two and a half minutes in, we get a fascinating melodic riff that mutates into a minute-long solo. The lead is so incredible it overshadows the rest of the song, which kicked a good deal of ass on its own.
At this point, I think we can acknowledge that David Davidson is a guitar deity. Along with Michael Keene of The Faceless, he is the preeminent shredder of this young generation. I'll entertain the frequent Dimebag comparisons, but Mr. Davidson has much to learn as a songwriter. My only gripe with EiF is that the solos completely surpass the riffage at times. These are some transcendent, meaningful and mind-imploding solos. They sometimes make the rest of a song sound pedestrian. Dimebag was a legend because he could write a song where the riffs matched the solos in godliness.
My favorite parts of EiF are the melodic breaks. Hints of The Fucking Champs seep through in these sections and add a levity to the tunes that makes me smile. “Across Forests and Fjords” is four minutes of thrashing instrumental hyperbole that wouldn't be out of place on the legendary IV. See, Revocation aren't only about grim metallic mayhem. There's a sense that these guys love what they're doing, and their joyous enthusiasm is infectious.
EiF is beautifully produced, with an excellent mid-range punch. Phil Dubois' drumming is fantastic, and Anthony Buda's bass gets the proper representation for a three-piece band. In addition to being an axe-master, Mr. Davidson also performs the vocals. Close in spirit and character to Warbringer's John Kevill, the vocals fit well with the music. There is a nice hint of uncontrolled madness to Mr. Davidson's scream/yell.
The key to my enjoyment of this album is just to stop thinking about it. Let the thing move. Let the absurdly dexterous technicality bowl me over and go with the flow. If you want to hear some righteous shredding, this is the place. At the very least, EiF holds my attention throughout. I'm betting Revocation have yet to write their masterpiece. EiF is worth your metal money in 2009, but let's hope even better is in store from these guys.
Originally published here: http://atanamar.blogspot.com/
Normally I don't review bands that I'm personally acquainted with, but Revocation is one of our very best local acts and they certainly deserve a little representation here at the blog. Existence is Futile is their 2nd full-length as Revocation (they previously released an album as Cryptic Warning) and the first where I feel the band's explosive live energy and whirlwind technical playing are truly captured in the studio. If you've had a chance to see this three piece live, you'll know what I mean.
Existence is Futile is their Relapse debut and crushes its predecessor Empire of the Obscene (which I found a little bland). The album sounds intense, the guitars have the perfect punch to them and yet the fluidity of all the band's dense riffing is obvious. Stylistically the band ranged from complex thrash and groove, to a more straight laced tech death metal. "Enter the Hall" is a good thrashing instrumental to open the album, shredding included. "Pestilence Reigns" is frantic and punishing but laden in accessible grooves and driving rhythms. "Dethonomics" is a titan of winding riffs, and the title track plasters you with a barrage of deep thrashing and some slower, pensive pummeling. Yet, none of these are among my favorites, because the second half of the album truly picks up steam. "The Brain Scramblers", "Dismantle the Dictator" and "Leviathan Awaits" are all amazing tracks which number among the best death metal released this year, and "The Tragedy of Modern Ages" is a great seven minutes to close out the album.
Not a lot of complaints with this effort! I did feel the latter half was stronger in scope, but the earlier tracks still feature some great riffs. I'm not the biggest fan of Dave Davidson's vocals, but they sound loud and aggressive on this album and add a grotesque layer of percussion to the already bludgeoning instruments. All three of these gentlemen have an excellent grasp of composition; despite their technical merits they never shred excessively or add too many riffs into the mix. There are slight progressive touches to tracks like "The Tragedy of Modern Ages" that always score upon delivery.
Massachusetts has had some huge success in the past decade with metalcore bands like All That Remains, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, etc, so I'm crossing my fingers that Existence is Futile grants this band the attention that has eluded it for years, since Revocation actually deserves it. Their sound will appeal to both riff hounding thrashers and death metal fans.
It's easy to buy affection these days. Boston’s technical death/thrash metallers Revocation may be signed to Relapse Records, as high a sign of inherent quality as any other label out there, but utilising a promo photo with the three members sporting Decrepit Birth, Dark Angel and Atheist t-shirts is guaranteed to pique the interest of someone like myself. It turns out too that imagining a combination of those three bands together will go some way to explain the sound of Revocation.
You have your speedy, thrashing tempos ala Dark Angel in songs like "Deathonomics", bass-heavy chunky death metal ala Decrepit Birth and Obscura in the likes of "Existence Is Futile" all resting atop the style of technical death metal Atheist foundered (and which Obscura play to this day) as opposed to the crushing heaviness of a band like Cryptopsy. That other archetypal Relapse band, Dying Fetus, are present in the mixture too, influencing the complex guitar patterns to be found even if Revocation have resisted the temptation for the incessant blast the Fetus have a tendency for. Perhaps summing up best the quirky nature of many riffs present right across the album, "The Brain Scramblers" had me scratching my head upon my first listen where I might have heard that opening riff before. After more head scratching my guess is the similarity lies against that DM classic, No Doubt's "Just A Girl" (compare for yourself - Revocation vs No Doubt).
As one has come to expect time and time again from a Relapse band, the musicianship is tighter than a duck's arse in the flowing, bounding riffs of "Across Forests And Fjords" where the band have the very real ability to change direction on a sixpence. No studio cover-ups here as present in most brutal-deathcore stuff I have heard of late that's for sure. Combined with the typical Relapse production job - clear, audible, concise and biting - Revocation have got a second album here that could not fail to interest those of a technical death metal disposition. Given the presence of just one guitar the bass lines of Anthony Buda rise out of the rhythmic flow in "Dismantle The Dictator" like few manage in death metal this side of Alex Webster and Steve DiGiorgio whilst the drumming of Phil Dubois-Coyne reminds me greatly of that on Decrepit Birth's "Diminishing Between Worlds" last year; a little too triggered on the kicks but maintaining some excellent fills and touches on his percussion elements.
Considering the recent excellent works of many of those mentioned in this review Revocation are entering into a tough field of technically proficient death metal but on the evidence of "Existence Is Futile" they have enough strength to hold their own against the competition with no doubt (pun alert) more to come in the future.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net