Review Summary: Revelation fuse their signature doom sound with '70s prog-rock philosophy and proto-metal stylings.
Upon reflection, Inner Harbor
can be viewed as a doom band's ambitious endeavor in embracing the concept of progressive music, rather than being simply 'influenced' by it. Now, that isn't to say that Revelation have forgone their low-tuned, magnified guitar riffs, but instead have renovated their style into constructing an equilibrium of heaviness and innovation. Prior to the release of Inner Harbor
, Revelation professed an admiration for the Italian progressive rock groups that flourished in the early 1970s, and even want as far as to claim that their music served as major inspiration to the album's sound. Though the music of Inner Harbor
is anything but synonymous with the symphonic marvel in Premiata Forneria Marconi's Per un Amico
, or Banco del Mutuo Soccorso's Darwin!
, it does happen to share a symbolic connection. The progressive rock scene in Italy began when musicians embraced the foreign sound of British groups like Genesis and King Crimson, and fused it with the music of their own culture to compose a unique vision for the genre. In other words, it's the yearning to explore and understand what is unfamiliar that inspired Inner Harbors
, rather than the actual sounds of that particular movement.
Of course, Revelation has previously incorporated progressive influences in their brand of doom metal, but they were often used as a kind of seasoning rather than being the main course, and that's really what makes Inner Harbor
stand out in their discography thus far. It introduces a very distinct fascination with the music of the 1970s, and not just the progressive rock scene, but the hard rock and early heavy metal movements as well. "Terribilita" is a clear statement of Revelation's newly polished sound. It may not portray a profound metamorphosis, but it is certainly a lucid growth in sound. There's a higher level of adroitness and maturity to be found in "Terribilita", as we witness the band compromise their thick guitar tones and slow tempos for a synth-laden, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
-like groove that culminates into a formidable '70s hard rock assault. There's very little instances where the band reprises their signature doom 'metal' sound throughout the album, and the only aspect that's even remotely reminiscent of their previous efforts is, aesthetically speaking, Revelation's devotion to thick distortion and low-tuned riffs. Yet even these characteristics are altered at times, though never actually relinquished altogether. "Jones Falls" exemplifies a return to their traditional doom-inspired guitar work, but again, the emphasis here is on melody as opposed to heaviness.
"Jones Falls" opens with prodigious volume as John Brenner deploys some crunching, yet skillfully restrained, guitar riffs, while accompanied by a weary, Ozzy Osbourne-like vocal performance to set up a retro-doom atmosphere. The fuzzed-out sound is by no means as prominent as it once was, but Revelation prove Roger Glover's philosophy of heaviness being 'more about attitude than volume' true, as they're still able to deliver a solid impact even with a modest degree of distortion. The reason for this restrain in "Jones Falls" is because the band is focused more on recreating the introspective journeys that are found in traditional progressive epics. It's a musical voyage for the senses and mind, where the elongated instrumental passages serve to ascend us into vast dimensions of sounds and melodies. "Eve Separated" is another highlight of the album, but where "Terribilita" introduced a collage of influences and "Jones Falls" fused doom riffs with prog-derived hypnotism, "Eve Separated" is a complete proto-metallic spectacle. Revelation take on an entirely different persona here, one that radiates the machismo-fueled attitude of Deep Purple, and the stoner-tinged riffs of Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath. Though Revelation's aspirations for adventurous songwriting may be one of Inner Harbor
's biggest strengths, their lack of 'genuine' ideas also catalyzes most of the album's flaws. Revelation's adoption of prominent synthesizers and retro-rock assertions borrows to heavily on the arrangements of their influences. Of course, they've done an impressive job in organizing these different qualities into unique and utterly dashing designs, but the offering is still just a well-composed collage of other musician's works, rather than a canvas that hosts their own
creative accomplishment. Inner Harbor
is an entertaining album, no doubt about it, but at some point, listeners will arrive to a pensive state of mind and reach a sudden realization-- "This sounds familiar."
With that said, Inner Harbor
is a rather difficult album to critique. It's not exactly inventive by any standards, but it does encompass an array of clever schemes that are positively enthralling. There's also noticeable maturity within each song, yet whether the execution of these new ideas are tasteful or bordering on the cliche, is up for speculation. Inner Harbor
does make one thing certain about Revelation though, and it's that they're not afraid of taking risks. Much like Opeth's Heritage
bewildered fans with its 'return to the roots of prog' concept, Inner Harbor
's 70's rock collage will certainly turn some heads in the doom scene as well-- whether it be due to intrigue or disapproval. Nevertheless, it's admirable to see Revelation living up to the 'progressive' tag that surrounds their music and expanding their repertoire with new textures and sounds. Especially when this desire to evolve is, to quote Gentle Giant, 'at the risk of becoming very unpopular'.