In just over a month I’ll be celebrating (with metalcore, most likely) my fifth year writing for Angry Metal Guy’s family feedbag, and what better way to do that than with the latest LP from Boston’s own prog-death-thrash torchbearers, Revocation. My review of their self-titled album way back in 2013 was the first of my many ill-bred proclamations from these servers to you, and the band have done me a solid by producing material at a pace brisk enough to suit biennial navel-gazing. Yet with Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordings™ looming in 2016’s Great Is Our Sin and frontman/thrash wizard Dave Davidson on his second record as the sole remaining founder, The Outer Ones approaches less like a celebration and more like a test. Can the band’s hot streak last?
Well, at least we have the back catalog. The Outer Ones is far above the level of embarrassment, but it has a spot reserved at the bottom of the stack when I file it back into the band’s discography. The band continue the downward arc from the proggy excesses of Teratogenesis and Chaos of Forms into darker material that tilts further in the direction of blackened death metal. “Vanitas” repeats the gothic themes of Deathless, while “Luciferous” dives almost totally into death metal, albeit with a sense of harmony that signals the Davidson presence loud and clear. Truly bad songs don’t live on this disc, but despite every flurry of notes, the album feels empty.
The vitality that announced Revocation in earlier years has gradually subsided and I find it impossible to call an album like The Outer Ones “fun.” The solos are just as wild, but the breakneck stop-starts, adventurous and tortuously complex riffing, and gleeful undercutting of songwriting expectations that make Existence Is Futile or Chaos of Forms such engaging albums simply aren’t here anymore. These songs, even at their most creative, rarely defy expectations, and even the album’s knottiest riffs—see “Fathomless Catacombs”—don’t hold a candle to the intricacy and inventiveness of past material. To make matters worse, many of the backing riffs or chord progressions in The Outer Ones are little more than trem-picked tracings of bar lines, and the big, majestic feeling of slow-moving chords simply doesn’t fit Revocation‘s thrashy identity.
The Outer Ones‘ vaguely sci-fi themes are hardly inappropriate for thrash, especially in a time when the existence of Vektor are the sole evidence against the genre’s total stylistic stagnation. Yet Revocation don’t approach the genre from the scrappy and weird angle of Vektor or Voivod, but from a more cosmicist perspective that clashes with precise playing, clear production, and such melodic solos. Case in point: “Blood Atonement” sounds like Dan Gargiulo’s attempt to squeeze a loping Artificial Brain song onto a Revocation album and it’s just as awkward and lethargic as you’d expect. The band has always been great at moving necks and putting a grin on your face, and they just plain don’t try to play anything fun on the Outer Ones, instead opting for bloated and grandiose songs built on some of the most uninspired riffs the band has ever put to tape.
I seriously doubt whether Revocation will ever release a bad album, but this is as close as they’ve come. The Outer Ones lacks any sort of vitality, inspiration, or attitude—all essential pieces of their earlier success. The band have always had an incredible work ethic, but it seems that the creative well that fueled their incredible string of releases through Deathless has all but dried up, and perhaps Davidson needs some time off for that to refill. It pains me to see Revocation release a mediocre record, but that’s exactly what The Outer Ones is.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: revocation.bandcamp.com| revocationband.com | facebook.com/revocation
Releases Worldwide: September 28th, 2018