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Review: Revocation’s Great is Our Sin Burns Down the House

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God bless Revocation.

With average bands, metal albums are often an absurd chore to get through, because the perceived necessity of satisfying genre tropes overcomes the individual creator’s personality. You can see every trick, compositional move, and structure coming from a mile away. You can guess what most bands’ “experimental” work is going to sound like relative to the rest of their discography. Even an album by a pretty good band might only have one inspired song, a few exciting riffs, or a single catchy chorus.

By contrast, Revocation albums are like little treasure troves. You have some expectation of what you’re going to hear, but principal songwriters Dave Davidson and Dan Gargiulo pack-in riffs, twist around rhythms, and have fun crafting their aural creations. This band writes songs similar to how director andscreenwriter Brian de Palma structures a murder scene: you know to expect twists, but you’re never pandered to. They’re gonna give you the chorus, the breakdown, and the solo, but they’re gonna give it to you good. This is deep music, for sure, but it’s meant to be fun.

And as with a great filmmaker, you know you’re in good hands with Revocation. They’re not gonna slop down a melodic chorus or cheesy breakdown; when they attempt a songwriting trope, they execute. It’s truly a breath of fresh air to hear a band crush such standardized approaches to heavy metal songwriting, as opposed to bands who try (and fail) to “subvert” those tropes, but lack either the aesthetic or technical capacity to pull them off.

On Great Is Our Sin, this band is truly finding their footing with extended range riffs that’s in a completely different class than their peers. The outro of “Crumbling Imperium” is hands-down the heaviest piece of music this band has yet to compose, while “Arbiters of the Apocalypse” demonstrates their ability to move seamlessly between intricately-played technical lines and balls-out Guns N’ Roses sweat-rock. “Profanum Vulgus” finds the band channeling and expanding on the work laid out by one of Revocation’s biggest influences, Gorguts.

Gorguts are an important touchstone for this band, because you can’t really draw a straight line between Revocation and any of their other influences. Davidson and Gargiulo’s growth as songwriters hasn’t been towards what you might expect, like more melody in the vocals, longer songs, or more progressive themes. If anything, their growth has been inward, towards the very essence of how they compose riffs and melody lines, which is quite similar to what Gorguts have been doing in the Colin Marston/Kevin Hufnagel era. Although I miss the band’s approach to writing ridiculous, fun songs as on Chaos of Forms, these guys are clearly taking their songwriting and performance skills seriously. And when they do veer in that album’s direction — on instrumental “The Exaltation” (their best yet) and the opening track — they push fun to its extreme.

It was no small task filling the void left by longtime drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne, a titan of chops and attitude. But new skinsman Ash Pearson’s work was somewhat assuaged, as Revo’s new music is perfectly suited to his abilities on the kit. I’m excited to see what else he can do going forward as the band continues to break him in.

Brett Bamberger’s legacy as a bass player — one of the few true sure-thing “legends” of this generation — was basically cemented with East of the Wall’s Farmer’s Almanac, but his work in Revocation has been a nice cherry on top of an already quite productive career. It’s no small task manning a stringed instrument behind players like Davidson and Gargiulo, but he seriously holds it down, and even gets to step out and show his solo-bass-playing chops on standout tracks like “Crumbling Imperium.”

It’s rare that you hear a true compositional, artistic voice in technical metal, and even rarer to hear a band write this type of music “non-linearly,” i.e., riff A goes here, riff B here, riff C here. Technicality doesn’t impress me on its own, particularly in metal, because you could set loose a computer program to arrange a lot of fast notes in a chaotic order. But Revocation have a purpose for every note. They are the full realization of what bands like WatchTower started to aim for in the ’80s, but they’ve taken the spirit of those bands for themselves. Great Is Our Sin isn’t quite the masterpiece I think they’ve got in them, but it’s another fantastic entry from one of the few truly great bands we have.

Great is Our Sin drops on July 22nd via Metal Blade. You can pre-order it here and stream “Monolithic Ignorance” here.

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