Revocation – Deathless

Deathless is the fifth full-length album from the Boston-based metal band Revocation, recently signed to Metal Blade Records. Revocation play an interesting blend of technical death metal and thrash metal not entirely unlike bands such as the British band Sylosis. While in the past Revocation have placed a lot of emphasis on technicality and a kind of controlled chaos, Deathless sees the band shift emphasis towards a much darker, heavier, and more focused sound.

Deathless is by far the heaviest and darkest album that Revocation have released to date. There’s a far greater emphasis on atmosphere here, with guitarists Dave and Dan taking their undoubted technical skill and applying it in a more focused way.  The down-tuned guitars shed unnecessary technicality in favour of creating a more cohesive sound with songs that flow more naturally with a more clearly defined sense of where they’re going. To be clear, the riffs are still incredibly technical, it just feels like they did a better job of writing ones that work together better. And the guitar solos are better than ever before, which is saying a lot considering how phenomenal Dave’s solos have been in the past. And the production is better than ever before. On previous albums the production has led to a slightly sterile sound, which isn’t great when you’re playing super-technical death metal. Here the music is allowed room to breathe more naturally, enhancing all aspects of their sound here.

Elements of technical death metal, like brutal death growls, shouts double-bass drums, a loud, rumbling bass, and punishing riffs are out in full force on this album, bringing together influences from bands like Morbid Angel, Death, and Deicide. Opening track ‘A Debt Owed to the Grave,’ ‘Deathless,’ and ‘Madness Opus’ are some of the heaviest Revocation have ever written, leaning much more heavily towards the death metal side of their sound than the thrash metal side. And on the former two tracks in particular there’s definitely a progressive element to them, a deeper, more mature aspect to them than has been present in previous Revocation records. ‘Scorched Earth Policy’ and ‘The Fix’, on the other hand, are much more thrashy affairs, with lightning-fast and incredibly technical guitar riffs and guitar solos more reminiscent of songs found on their self-titled album or on their Teratogenesis EP.

Dave’s vocals also continue to improve. Not only are they perhaps more varied than ever before, with deeper gutturals and more piercing, almost grindcore-esque screams, on ‘Deathless’ and ‘Labyrinth of Eyes’ he also experiments with clean vocals that remind me of those used by Mastodon;
somewhere between a shout and singing, they maintain that sense of heaviness persistent throughout this album while also adding a really interesting new melodic dynamic to their sound. It’ll be interesting to see how he pulls them off live, but they work really well on the album at any rate, helping add a bit more variety and showing that, while the band aren’t about to completely change their sound any time soon, they’re still relentless in their commitment to improving on every release.

‘The Blackest Reaches’ opens slightly less spectacularly than others on the album but goes out with a bang, moving from ‘Good’ to ‘Great’ half-way through the song with another astonishing and melodic guitar solo followed by a really heavy section with blastbeats and fast, heavy riffs, with some brutal guttural growls. While ‘The Fix’ and ‘United in Helotry’ are hugely enjoyable (and still a clear step up from many of Revocation’s past songs) they’re slightly less remarkable than the others on this album. Nothing worth skipping though, there are some great moments in both.

The penultimate track of the album ‘Apex’ is a wholly instrumental one (Revocation always like to include at least one on each album) and is a real highlight to me. A very melodic track, it feels like if the atmosphere of the album could be summed up on one track this track would
be the one. There’s just something slightly creepy about it. Something about the way the Dan’s guitar seems to be tuned lower than Dave’s and the sort of grounded sound it gives the song. Combined with the fantastic album artwork there’s just something slightly Halloween-y about the sound of this album.

The closing track ‘Witch Trials’ send the album out with a real bang though. Opening with one of the most infectious guitar riffs I’ve heard in ages with some outrageous drumming before a short atmospheric interlude sends the song careering into tremolo-picked riffs, blastbeats and bellowed vocals. The chorus section on this song is just amazing, melodic but haunting, bringing back more of that sort of Halloween sound I mentioned, and might be my favourite part of any song on this album. And at six minutes long it never overstays its welcome but never leaves you unsatisfied. Oh, and it has another fantastic guitar solo.

In short, Deathless is probably Revocation’s best release yet. Dark and atmospheric, still technical but heavier than they’ve ever been before. The songwriting is more cohesive, songs flow in a more natural way, and the album both opens and closes extremely strong. The production is the best of any Revocation album and it allows the album room to breathe more freely, bringing out the best of every instrument and giving it a fresher sound. This album comes highly recommended to all fans of metal.