Another summer, another album from Revocation. Though the technical death/thrash quartet missed their yearly appointment last year, a slight drop in momentum from Davidson & Co. was nothing to worry about, and after releasing three albums and an EP in four touring-heavy years, taking some time before Great Is Our Sin was probably a good call – though 2015 was dimmer for it. From a band that’s as much of an institution as any group this century could be, any new release is going to be big news, but it’s extra special for old Kronos, since Revocation albums are de facto milestones in my tenure at AMG. Three albums down, and I’m happy to say that my opinion of the band has yet to take a hit. 2014’s Deathless has stood the test of time despite my initial reservations about the slight shift in sound, and Great Is Our Sin is very much the logical follow-up to that record.
The stylized, atramentous riffing of Deathless makes its return, but is now reined in, serving songs rather than creating them. Single “Monolithic Ignorance” plays out like a Revocation cut infused with a cool dark energy. Pre-prechorus riffing makes the most of this novelty, made all the more effective by its transition into an odd-timed chorus that could have been ripped straight from Chaos of Forms – a combination of sonic references not uncommon over the course of the album.
Great Is Our Sin completely meets the varied expectations for a Revocation album; it has its speedy melodeath anthem, “Cleaving Giants of Ice” and its pummeling death number,”Only the Spineless Survive;” it has its social commentary in “Monolithic Ignorance” and “Copernican Heresy” and its quick prog-thrash sidestep in “The Exaltation.” And on top of all that, the album retains the most important part of the band’s identity; it’s fun. Tracks like “Crumbling Imperium” are as sinister as the band has ever been, but poke and jab rather than pummel. Davidson’s solos are filled with personality and prove both adventurous and oddly fitting – a feat not matched by Deathless, which had a few off-putting escapades.
Yet my appreciation for this album is slightly blunted. In many ways, Great Is Our Sin feels like a stagnation for the band, sort of a stepping stone between Revocation and Deathless rather than an expansion of the latter. With the exception of the plodding “Profanum Vulgus,” these songs are what we’ve come to expect, but they don’t quite feel dangerous like so many Revocation cuts before them. After a two-year wait, I really thought the band would have developed their sound more.
Newcomer Ash Pearson handles the kit quite well, and though he doesn’t shine quite as brightly as Phil Dubois-Coyne, unless you listen very closely you’ll barely notice a change, and the band’s rhythm section are still one of the best in the business, as the incredibly fast picking and precise drumming of “Only the Spineless Survive” demonstrates. Likewise, the guitars are as on point as ever, and while the riffing here is technical, Davidson and Gargiulo handle it with ease and never use it to showboat – after all, that’s what those winding solos are for.
You’ll see me whine and moan about the state of modern death metal all too often for anybody’s liking, and Revocation are most certainly an exception to the rule. But the band’s great strength isn’t that they’re better than whatever SoCal guttural garage group just signed to Unique Leader. They’re not just some great death metal band; they’re a great metal band, and their hybrid sound is both impressive and all their own. Great Is Our Sin isn’t a fantastic album, but it’s quite good, and in its wake, Revocation will still be one of the greatest metal bands active today.