Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Revocation - Chaos of Forms (2011)

Having finally asserted themselves as one of Massachusetts' most successful extreme bands outside of the metalcore discount bin, it is now Revocation's task to continue to impress their growing legion of national and international fans. Chaos of Forms is every bit the tango of technical death and thrash influences that its predecessor Existence is Futile was, drawing inspiration from a wide array of sources (Exodus, Megadeth, Exhorder, Pantera, Death, etc), and honed in on the high standard of professionalism and proficiency that bassist Anthony Buda, drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne and guitar prodigy David Davidson all exhibit on their respective instruments. That said, I can't help but feel substantially less impressed here than I was with that sophomore effort, though there is still a lot to take in here.

For one, I think I've just grown tired of the band's vocals. They were never their forte, but here they just seem like a tireless stream of metalcore-like shouts integrated with some blackened Chuck Schuldiner rasping and Kyle Thomas/Phil Anselmo attitude. Solid enough to support the band's thinner, punchier riffing, but just nowhere near as interesting as the music. Some leeway should be given as they sing and play simultaneously, but in a studio setting I'd expect to hear a little more character and imagination here. The other downside is that the influences often poke through the compositions a little too boldly, for instance you'll hear a riff here or there that sounds like it's in direct stylistic tribute (NOT a note-for-note violation) to Megadeth here, or Destruction there, or Exodus over there. This isn't news, really, since the last album had a similar foundation, but it seemed to mesh together better as a whole, where here, the individual elements stand out further from their environment.

Those quips aside, though, Revocation understands how to write a goddamn riff, and Chaos of Forms is loaded with them. I enjoy the album's more mathematical constructs, like "Dissolution Ritual" and "Conjuring the Cataclysm" with their progressive, almost fusion segues. They can do surges of melodic death escalation like "No Funeral" which should have the Soilwork crowd lined up for t-shirts in no time, and then tear into tech death/thrash with the title track or "The Watchers" which will impress the more hardcore brutal sect that follow the modern Californian scene. Precision and polish are two areas in which these Bay State bludgeons excel, and there's nothing 'old school' or exceedingly redundant about what they write, even if they derive from a hundred or so precedents.

Tense and talented, the future still seems limitless for this band, and they deliver on the stage just as bloody a nose as they do in the studio. Even if half the riffs don't stick, they've obviously spent a good deal of time composing the thousand or so that comprise the album, and I found myself revisiting quite a few of them. They would benefit enormously from a more charismatic and vicious vocalist, like those that defined their 80s thrash influences. These feel a little too forced and formulaic in terms of tough guy emotion. Yet I appreciate that, despite all their virtuosity, they never indulge themselves too much to the detriment of their songwriting. Is Chaos of Forms deserving of its surrounding storm of high praise and hype from prominent press outlets? Is this the next 'savior' of metal music? Signs point to no fucking way. However, even if individual strands of composition breed familiarity, Revocation is at least a band striving for 'something', and that's more than I can say for the countless, faceless clones who seek nothing but the secure shadows of their forebears.

Verdict: Win [7/10]


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