Sunday, October 14, 2018

Revocation - The Outer Ones

There's a reason nobody runs Noctis anymore

Revocation is the absolute best band I never, ever want to listen to again.

I should've known going into it that I wouldn't care much for The Outer Ones.  Revocation is hot shit in the metal world right now and they have been for years, but I've given everything a listen whenever it dropped as far back as as their debut a decade ago.  Every last album has been technically mesmerizing but completely lacking in staying power.  Each new release is greeted with mountainous ejaculations of praise, almost always talking about how this is The Next Big Thing in metal, they're just too good to not become The Next Big Thing.  But like clockwork, every few years they'll release a new one and the cycle begins anew, people seemingly forgetting that they were supposed to be The Next Big Thing years ago and this is gonna be the one to finally fulfill that prophecy.  It's so weird, they're a very consistent band and they have loads of fans in the semi-underground constantly giving them Roman Reigns-level pushes, and yet every single time they're supposed to break through to the level of success they've already been at for a decade.

So enter The Outer Ones, an album so dull that I had to double check the name of the album before writing the previous paragraph despite giving this like ten full spins over the last week.  Once again, Revocation knocks it out of the park and once again they're consistently great and on top of the world but somehow poised to make that big push towards superstardom, and once again they're just the Lucy to my Charlie Brown and they yanked the football away for the seventh time.

I can't stress this enough, Revocation is a good band.  They play some very exciting high octane death/thrash with loads of hooks and head spinning riffery, David Davidson's guitarwork is astounding, from his thunderstorm riffage to soaring leads, everything about them is well above competent and sits firmly at "quite good", but for the fucking life of them they can't seem to write a song with any lasting hooks or memorable moments.  Every time I give them a spin I find myself thinking "Holy shit this is awesome" and then I get bored no less than a minute after I think that. Like, the hooks are there, but they don't really connect.  The solos are dizzying and rhythm section is absolutely thunderous, but they don't really stick in your mind even after several listens. 

This new album does stand out a bit from their previous output, mostly because the thrash influence has been almost entirely excised, leaving a fully focused death metal album.  Admittedly this is a good thing, because being sort of unfocused and all over the place was part of the reason I never cared for the band in the first place, but it doesn't really do enough to salvage the record from the memory hole.  There are some solid moments here for sure, but every single time I think "Oh this part is cool" and I go check to see what song is playing, it's always "Blood Atonement" or "Ex Nihilo".  And the weird thing is that I can't even tell you what those songs do differently from the rest!  The whole thing is a faceless blur of blastbeats and tech death noodlery, with decent-but-forgettable bellowing over the top of it.  Sometimes they slow down and take on an almost quasi-djenty quality (check the outro of the title track to see what I mean) or a more menacingly atmospheric take on the frantic death metal they stick to throughout most of the album (like "Vanitas"), and sometimes the soloing sections go full prog and shred your face off with inhuman fretwork, but at the end of the day none of it seems to resonate.  It's a very frustrating album because, on the surface, all of the elements that make a great album are here.  I have no complaints with the songwriting or riffs themselves, but it's just less than the sum of its parts by a startlingly wide margin and I can't help but feel disappointed. 

I guess it all comes down to the songwriting, and even then that doesn't really feel fair.  The songs never go on for too long or repeat themselves too much, nor do they sacrifice great moments by schizophrenically jumping all over the place, (these guys aren't afraid of riding out a good groove), they're neither dissonant to the point of nauseating gimmickry, nor are they melodic to the point of being saccharine and sapping the pummeling morbidity of their host genre away from the songs.  Everything that makes a great death metal album is here, but it's... I dunno, just missing that X Factor.  It's not that the style just isn't for me or something, I'm obviously a fan of what they're doing in a broader sense, but Revocation themselves just never managed to hit that sweet spot and deliver something truly outstanding.  Maybe it's the fact that they never really go full speed ahead with anything that kills them for me.  Maybe if they did really lean into the dissonant jangledeath they're teasing or went straight prog-death like they sometimes flirt with, maybe if they did anything with some real conviction and purpose they'd finally be the great band I know they're capable of being.  That's what The Outer Ones is, and it's what all of their albums have always been, they're a tease.  They're always almost great, because they're almost so many different things, and instead of all of that adding up to being a jack of all trades, they end up being disappointing in like six different facets at once. 

Yeah, I think that's the best way I can describe it.  The Outer Ones is almost four different great albums that are all similar enough to one another, but none of them ever truly become great.  The guitarists can dazzle me with freakish celerity, the heaviest moments can absolutely crush my skull, but at no point do I ever wreck my fucking neck.  At no point do I ever truly stand in awe at their craftsmanship.  At every turn, Revocation showcases the undeniable fact that they've got skills out the wazoo, but they're in dire need of a re-spec.  What they need most of all, in my eyes, is to give themselves a real role.  Because as it stands they'll never get a slot in my party.  They're all-around balanced but can't break past the level cap in any statistical category.  You'll probably like this, everybody else seems to, but I maintain what I said at the start: Revocation is the best band I absolutely never want to listen to again.