Released: 2014, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Boston’s Revocation certainly have been one of the most productive bands in metal of late. Deathless is the band’s fifth album since 2008 – with the 2012 EP Teratogenesis thrown in for good measure. But quantity don’t mean jack if it’s all throwaways and half-assedness. And therein lies one of Revocation’s biggest strengths.
Their music – a mishmash of technical death metal intricacy and brutality and Master of Puppets/Rust In Peace style virtuosic thrash – has grown more finely honed and nuanced by a matter of degrees with each album, and the band have become that much more formidable with time as a result. With Deathless, however, Revocation have shaken things up more than usual cosmetically, sonically and infrastructurally, despite delivering the album 14 months after their self-titled fourth album.
Here, they have moved to Metal Blade after three releases with Relapse, worked with the metalcore-oriented producer Zeuss for the first time and overhauled their signature cover art scheme from alien iconography to something more Lovecraftian/old-school death metal. They also have both tightened and broadened their songwriting to paint from a many-hued palette while at the same time making it modestly more engaging without going too far over to the melodic “dark side.” It’s a careful balancing act, but one the band pulls off with aplomb here. Apparently practice does make perfect.
Deathless is every bit as aggressive, ferocious and adept as the band's previous efforts. But it shows its deftly melodic flair right off the bat with “A Debt Owed to the Grave” and the title track with their wicked hooks and, in the case of “Deathless,” an inviting, downright sing-along chorus – all while ripping you a new one. Ditto “The Blackest Reaches” with its shimmering riffs and harmonized leads contrasting its furious tempo and David Davidson's flame-throwing vocals.
With "Witch Trials" and the instrumental “Apex,” the band show off their technical skill - in particular the guitar prowess of Berklee-trained Davidson and Dan Gargiulo. Yet they inject elements of jazz, a hint of power metal elegance and some Voivod-tyle industrial/prog histrionics to make them anything but exercises in sheer indulgence. “Labyrinth of Eyes” and “United In Helotry” offer more of the same.
With “The Fix” and “Scorched Earth Policy,” Revocation throw all pretense of accessibility aside and go straight for the throat, roughing up the edges with a hardcore-tinged rampage and “we're all fucked” lyrical themes. “All the fail-safes have failed,” Davidson hollers in “Scorched Earth.” Swell.
Deathless is just about the total package when it comes to technical death/thrash metal. Great performances, memorable songs and the proper balance of muscle, melody and menace. These guys really seem to have the found the magic formula of roadwork and studio time when it comes to honing their craft to razor sharpness.