Written by Alex Stojanovic
Lessons In Occult Theft
Strange & Eternal
Galleries Of Morbid Artistry
The 9th Chasm
The Intervening Abyss Of Untold Aeons
Release Date: September 9, 2022
Label: Metal Blade Records
Dave Davidson - Lead vocals & guitars / Brett Bamberger - Bass & backing vocals / Ash Pearson - Drums
Over the last decade, Revocation have enjoyed a slow but steady ascendance in popularity, by touring with many notable bands and releasing albums that received a lot of praise. They've also been really consistent with releasing an album every year or two. However, the pandemic played a major role in having the band arrive at the four-year gap between records, and Dave Davidson became a Twitch streamer. Now that things have picked back up, I'm sure Revocation will be right back up to speed with a more consistent album release schedule. At the same time, they also reverted back to being a trio after Dan Gargiulo left the band in 2020, making Netherheaven the first album they recorded as a trio since Existence Is Futile.
Opening explosively with "Diabolical Majesty", the rampaging riff, coupled with the maniacal blast beats from our fellow Canuck Ash Pearson, grips you by the throat, and the song takes you on a wild ride with quick left turns and quirks in the riffing, which Revocation became notorious for. As opposed to being just a straight-up metal musician, Davidson is also a highly trained jazz player, having studied at Berklee College Of Music, and the blend of the jazz and extreme metal stylings into his guitar playing was always really potent, and made him one of the most unique players and songwriters in the genre. Brett Bamberger's flashy bass fills also make their presence known in several areas.
While possessing the ability to be as technical as they want, Davidson and co. never forget about groove and simplicity, as can be heard on "Nihilistic Violence". However, the bridge leads right back into frantic-paced riffs, yet tasteful soloing, and comes back down towards the outro. The middle section of "Strange & Eternal" is really one of my favourite moments on the record with a tasty riff and a pummeling 16th note mid-tempo groove. The melodic chanting towards the end will definitely catch a few people off guard, but it's the only spot on the record where there's a tinge of melody in the vocals. Revocation also never fails to sneak in a few other influences into their sound. "Galleries Of Morbid Artistry" gives welcome to some black metal style tremolo riffs and dissonant chords, as well as some clean intro and interlude, all which add to the diversity.
"The 9th Chasm" is the album's purely instrumental track that contains moments that give a sense of what Toto would sound like if they were a pure metal band. I could definitely see Steve Lukather playing a couple of the riffs in this song. To end the album on an epic note with the track "Re-Crucified", the band enlisted the services of George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher from Cannibal Corpse, and the late great Trevor Strnad of Black Dahlia Murder for some guest vocals. It's the last time we'll get to hear a new song with Trevor on vocals before his sudden passing earlier this year, so it's a moment that will need to be savoured by us all. R.I.P. Trevor.
While a nearly flawless album, there were a couple of flaws that need addressing. For reaching just under 6 minutes, I felt that "The Intervening Abyss Of Untold Aeons" dragged on for a little too long, as it contained a few too much blast beating for my taste. It's a shred-fest that overstayed its welcome by a little too much. While also being one of the best vocalists in modern extreme metal, Davidson also possesses a pretty impressive clean vocal as well, and I do wish that he incorporated some more of it on Netherheaven. With those flaws addressed, Revocation returned triumphantly with one of this year's quintessential extreme metal releases, containing all the elements that made them one of the most beloved bands in the metal underground, like intense instrumentation and insanely tight musicianship. With 9 songs, each full playthrough begs for a repeat.