REVOCATION – Multi-Pronged Metal Chaos
Critical acclaim plus genuine hard work ethics usually receive just rewards in the metal industry. This Boston, Massachusetts band Revocation as an example spent many years refining their craft, changing names from the more thrash like Cryptic Warning to the heavier moniker Revocation. After self-releasing their first album "Empire Of The Obscene" in 2008, Relapse Records took notice of their blitzkrieg riffs and furious technical passages to sign the band.
Since then everything has been onward and upward for the band. Expanding from a trio to a quartet, they’ve been fortunate to play shows all across America, Europe and the Far East- which doesn’t often happen for such a young band in a quick time period. Their new album "Chaos Of Forms" keeps the same hodgepodge of thrash, death, black, traditional, and technical metal aspects of the band present- along with the killer shredding solo abilities from vocalist/guitarist David Davidson- but the band worked hard at shorter compositions and incorporating unconventional instruments to add new flavors to the mix on a song like "The Watchers".
Speaking to David you get the sense that the band is on the horizon to take off the newcomer crown and become one of the future long running headliners that other musicians aspire to become. Read on to learn more about this brutal act.
What are the biggest improvements the band has made when looking back at each of your albums to date? Say if we were to do a compare and contrast look at the albums…
I think one of the biggest things with every band is that you hope to improve as players. You have more time under your belt- in our case a lot more shows. Our skills as musicians and vocalists improved over the course of the CD’s. I know for myself soloing and stuff like that you learn different techniques and a few other things that you apply to your solos so that kind of creeps in, the more that you study the more you end up getting. Also as songwriters we have really improved- the songs on "Chaos Of Forms" for us are the strongest songs we’ve written, we feel like we’ve honed our craft a lot more with the process as well.
Your influences appear to be a wide variety of thrash and death bands that certainly have some theory and technical chops behind them. For instance I hear spots of acts like Forbidden, Sacrifice, Coroner, Gorguts, and Dark Angel among others- what do you believe Revocation tries to achieve with your songwriting and your music?
I think we try to achieve… we try to be a metal band. We don’t try to pigeonhole ourselves into one particular genre. We listen to a lot of different bands- Forbidden you mentioned and we actually got the chance to recently tour with them. When we write we don’t think that we have to only stick to sort of a genre or live up to a certain expectation that other people have of what we should or shouldn’t sound like because we are influenced by everything from death metal to black metal to grind core to thrash. We try to bring all those influences in within a unique way. We are really trying to take extra special care to not make these outside influences sound like a mish mash mess- so we really try to write thought out, thoughtful songs using the whole metal genre as our palate. Hopefully we can create as a result our own unique sound. With us there’s something different in the textures, it’s like a painter’s palate- why only stick to the colors blue and green when there are so many different colors to choose from?
As a result of this work, does it take a long time to refine and craft a finished product of a Revocation song? Do they end up going through a lot of revisions?
Yes and no. Some of the songs on "Chaos Of Forms" were actually written before "Existence Is Futile" even came out, so we had a lot of these ideas simmering and cooking on the backburner for a little while. I try not to get too caught up with the material- it either works or it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s like trying to put a round peg into a square hole. Don’t force it- but we have a pretty good intuition as far as what we think is going to sound cool and what works and what doesn’t work.
An interesting aspect that I’ve heard debated about the band on this new album "Chaos Of Forms" has been the employment of horns and organ work. I am one of those people who enjoy these nuances when they are employed appropriately. Others feel that a heavy band should only stick to heavy metal instruments purely. How do you handle the criticism?
There’s always going to be people critiquing something that they are not use to hearing, some people instead of embracing it they end up pulling back from it. That’s fine- for me it goes both ways. You have some people who complain because bands always sound the same and they don’t do anything new- then the second you do something new, those critics complain that you shouldn’t do that. We try to please ourselves first and foremost as musicians, and not think about what critics will think about. The whole point of using those different instruments was to not be strictly metal- in the context of that song it starts out with harmonization and then blast beats, so when I was composing it I was thinking about what we could do to really throw the listeners off their guard and shake them up a little bit. So we put in a 70’s rocking horn section and a Hammond organ section- it’s expecting the unexpected. For me it’s cool when bands experiment with different things. There’s no reason why metal bands have to only stick with electric guitar, bass and drums. If you look at what Opeth does, they are incorporating more and more keyboards from what they initially started as. Metal has always been meant to go against the grain and so much of metal is about experimentation- going back to bands like Atheist and bands like that who experimented with jazz and kind of styles in their metal they got flak for it back in the day but now they are the forefathers of jazz infused metal. Pushing people’s perceptions of what metal is and still doing it within the metal framework, we want to open up people’s imaginations with the genre. It’s so much about creativity- a technical death metal musician isn’t sitting down to write a conventional song to be played on the radio- they are thinking about weird sounds they can get out of their instruments that would sound cool. It’s a different way of achieving your goals.
You are on Relapse worldwide. Do you enjoy being on a label where there’s an obvious stylistic difference than many of their other acts- and do you believe the staff understand what Revocation is all about as a band?
Yes, so far Relapse has been great. If you look at labels today- I guess you would call Relapse a major independent label if that makes any sense. They are not like Sony Records, but within their scene they are a very big deal. I think their roster is very diverse so I think we fit in very well with our different style. They see our vision, they know what we are about, at this stage in the game we just want to be considered a heavy metal band.
What influenced the expansion of Revocation from a trio to a quartet with guitarist Dan Gargiulo? A thicker sound during the shredding solo sections? Do you believe this will also expand the songwriting possibilities of the band?
It was definitely a live thing. When we first got signed to Relapse that was kind of the turning point for us- we are on a real label now, we are about to embark on some real deal tours, so let’s bring another guy into the fold so we can really deliver that sonically live as close to what it is on CD. I write how I write- knowing for sure another guitar player is in the band might inspire me to do some more counterpoint parts in the future. Me and Dan can get together and write together- there are different possibilities that this could lead to. The main reason was for the live setting, but now that he’s an official member the sky’s the limit because there is so much more you can do with two guitars. When you add another one, melodies can happen and different interplay, similar to some of the stuff that a band like Martyr does- who knows what will happen. It’s great to have Dan on board, he’s a brilliant player and it’s been great so far.
Live the band seem to have this fun vibe when playing such serious, aggressive music- and your personal shredding in the solo department has been noted well throughout the years. What do you think about Revocation and the live aspect through the years? Have there been any trials and tribulations you’d like to relate?
I think we are a live band. It makes me happy to hear that so many people say that they can tell we have fun when we are up on stage. We play in a very aggressive genre of music, it’s in your face and we love the interaction from the fans. We are not one of those bands that just stand there even though we play a very technically challenging brand of metal. I’d rather interact and put on a good show than worry about flubbing that one little note. Obviously you have to think about what you are playing, but we are not going to sit there and stare at our fretboards the whole time. Playing live brings something out of me- it’s such a rush of adrenaline feeling and we want to rock out with our fans. I still go to shows and I would be up in the front row and loved when the lead guitar player would throw a guitar pick at me, it made me feel that much more connected and we like to give 110%.
Do you believe there’s been more of a shift in the industry to live performance being that much more important than the record with the current internet/ downloading issue?
The industry is changing so much. You always hear about that, whether it’s on blogs and such- but with us being in the game. Bands aren’t getting huge advances for recording like they were in the past- the huge bands that are elite are but the general, more underground group of professional musicians the record advances aren’t huge, CD sales are down because everyone is downloading material through Mediafire and blogs. It’s cool on the one hand because people get to hear your music but on the other hand it’s bad because record labels are still functioning on the old model. Everyone knows CD sales are becoming more and more irrelevant, but at the same time booking agents and labels still go off numbers and what you will get for guarantees at shows and for the next record is hard in general. No one is keeping track of all the free downloads when it comes to figuring out how much money you should make in these areas. The industry has to adapt at some point. It’s more focused on touring and t-shirts- you can’t download a t-shirt… yet. When that happens everyone is going to be totally screwed.
How does living in the Northeastern part of the United States influence the sound or lyrics of the band? Do you think the environment with its changing seasons plays a part with the harshness of the sound of Revocation?
I don’t know. I’ve been asked that question before. There definitely is a solid four seasons here- you can tell when it’s winter, fall, spring, so we get a fluctuation in the seasons here. As a musician or artist I get inspiration from everything from listening to a band to sitting with an acoustic guitar and sitting outside and admiring the snow or nature if it’s nice out. I can’t say that where I live influences me, but on a subconscious level- how could it not?
I’m sure another criticism you’ve had to handle through the years is your band name logo- which for some can be hard to make out with it’s death metal like configuration. Will this be something you may look to modify in the future?
For me I always loved the look of metal logos. As soon as you know what it says, whether you can read it or not it doesn’t even matter. The image is always engrained in your brain. More like a symbol than if you are actually reading the letters in the logo. Whether it’s a death metal band or a black metal band- so I think most people know our band and our logo. We may change it up in the future. I have always been a fan of bands that have kept the same logo but like slightly modified it- on the new one we gave the logo more of a 3-D effect, old school Metallica look. They are a band that has done both- they have their classic logo and through the years have also changed it up. Right now we are sticking with what we have and may modify it in the future. We may even make it more illegible, you never know where it’s going to go for Revocation.
You’ve been able to tour with some great bands through the years. Have any of those bands given you special words of wisdom to apply to Revocation in the future- be it relating to your music or the business aspect of life?
A lot of them have just told us to keep doing what we are doing, we have something special going. That’s the word of wisdom most bands have said. By watching different bands we learn how to conduct ourselves- that’s a good lesson you can learn. We see the bands that have a merchandise guy, a lighting guy, a tour manager- and we learn how bands on that next level can achieve that. We take mental notes to see how bands operate day to day.
What are your top three bands that you have to listen to at least once a week and what would be a surprise album pick that you think everyone needs in their personal collection?
I’ll do my top three bands at the moment, because it’s always changing for me. Right now I just got into the new Exhumed album "All Guts, No Glory"- that CD is incredible. I just got the new Black Dahila Murder CD, and the new Obscura CD is great too. As far as semi newer releases. A surprise thing would be Wayne Krantz, he has a CD called "Greenwich Mean" which is a collection of 24 tracks of ripping, fusion jazz funk. He can certainly play the guitar, it’s got a really cool groove to it.
Is the stage dive where you split your head open the worst music-related injury you’ve had in Revocation? Have there been other close calls either on stage or off for any of the other Revocation members?
Yes, probably. That was pretty bad, I had to go to the hospital and get myself stitched up for that one. Phil as a drummer, he’s whacked himself with a drum stick on stage. I remember one day the cymbal bag broke in the airport when we were heading off to do a gig and it crushed his big toe, his foot swelled up and the toenail was all black. Phil ended up having to pull his big toenail… as a drummer that may have affected his performance. I actually got lucky, I didn’t end up breaking my neck. Anthony and I have had close calls, I have whacked him in the head with my guitar- but luckily nothing too crazy.
What does the rest of 2011 and start of 2012 look like for Revocation?
Well we have a couple of tours confirmed- the only one I can talk about is the Chimaira tour we are going to be doing with them in October with Impending Doom and Rise To Remain and then going out in the states again in January of 2012 again. We are dying to get back to Europe, anywhere we can go. We hope this album can launch us into a world tour if you will- wherever we can go to play we will pursue those avenues.