Review Summary: Revocation continue treading water.
By all rights, I should like this band more than I do. David Davidson is not only a superbly accomplished musician and band-leader, but also a consummate professional across the board. He can clearly facilitate a healthy chemistry between himself and the musicians he surrounds himself with, as shown by the relatively consistent studio line-up since Revocation's inception and the near total lack of incongruities in their work up until now. Everything these guys put out runs like bespoke clockwork which, in a genre that places such an emphasis on precision and tightness, is about as close to an inherent positive as you're likely to find in metal's critical sphere. I want
to love these guys' music, coming about as close to that as I ever have upon hearing the title-track from their latest album, The Outer Ones
As the opening lick wriggled its way through my ear canals, I could almost feel my pupils dilate as I exclaimed, “maybe the dude from Artificial Brain's been having a little more creative input”. The bouncy guitar-work and liberal use of the diminished and whole-tone scales bring to mind bands like Demilich, while dissonant triads coupled with thrash-y rhythms bear an obvious resemblance to the works of Voivod. Without hesitation, I let this album barge to the front of my “to listen” queue but, upon hearing to the whole thing, I let out a slightly perplexed “hmmph”. The Outer Ones
cannot be knocked as an exhibition of musicianship, and so if you've adored their output thus far, you'll 'most certainly do the same here. However, if you were thinking Revocation were prepared to break the mould a bit, I regret to say you've been duped.
The opening track, “Of Unworldly Origin” – being vaguely oddball thrash that we've heard time and time again from Revocation – is alien in name only. Technically deft and, on occasion, fun little phrases are wrapped up into a serviceable composition, but nothing outside of the surprisingly tactful and melodic solo will leave much of an impression. This theme for the most part continues until the curtains close, notwithstanding some glints of impetus along the way. Some of the X-factor seems to have gone missing at the console, as the overtly dry production saps much of the energy that (I assume) was present when laying down each track. The drumming is dexterous in its performance and crystalline in its presentation, but sounds very flat once everything else around it coalesces. Moreover, though it's nice to actually hear the bass on a modern metal recording, it comes at the expense of the music's viscera and bottom-end.
All of this works to stultify moments that would otherwise feel much more lively, however great they are on their own. There's a funky, clean break in “Blood Atonement” that helps to indelibly set up the ever-impeccable solo; “Ex Nihilio” has some unreal chord voicings that give the track a suitably “spacey” vibe; little melodic flourishes in “Luciferous” invoke the Gothenburg bands of yesteryear, et cetera. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a decent amount of variation among the riffs on here, at least in the context of technical thrash, but nothing else pushes the fold like the aforementioned title-track. That's really the core issue. The Outer Ones
repeatedly teases a deviation in terms of style, only to fall back into the clutches of what is ultimately quite a restrictive genre of music. Revocation's latest album may be competent on all counts but, annoyingly, it purports to be something that it isn't: inspired.