The vocalist of one of Australia’s oldest and most respected heavy metal acts talks about Dreadnaught’s extensive career, their new album Caught The Vultures Sleeping, the state of the Australian heavy music scene and the virtues of Thin Lizzy.
Finding balance amid chaos.
From the tech-thrash of 2011’s Chaos Of Forms, through the more progressive stylings of 2013’s self-titled record and on to the more straightforward death/thrash hybrid of 2014’s ironically-titled Deathless; Revocation have always been a band to prod and challenge the comfortable little death-thrash niche they’ve carved out for themselves. Great Is Our Sin is no different—if not leaving behind, then certainly shifting aside the tech/prog/traditional death metal tinge of their previous releases in favor of a distinctly melodic death metal-influenced approach.
Great is the sin of the album title’s lack of contrast, amirite?!
Revocation’s trademark blend of death and thrash metal reaches new heights with Great Is Our Sin. Blistering opener, “Arbiters Of The Apocalypse” sounds like Annihilator playing mid period In Flames material, and it’s both an interesting and successful take on the death-thrash sound that the band are reluctant to let go of throughout the rest of the record, and for good reason. Along with the added melodic emphasis, there’s also a greater degree of progressive death metal elements in play, which—though not quite as obvious as Revocation’s abrupt banjo break—remain in constant, yet subtle, play throughout the record. “Profanum Vulgaris” brings to mind Morbid Angel at their most dissonant, along with the loftier moments of Death’s later output, in equal measure; while “Crumbling Imperium” and “Monolithic Ignorance” are the kind of tracks you wish Gojira were still making these days, with ex-3 Inches Of Blood drummer Ash Pearson playing perhaps a more-subdued, though no less proficient role than his predecessor, and “The Exaltation” draws heavily from Sepultura’s more-destructive moments.
Something truly unique to Great Is Our Sin—in terms of Revocation’s discography—is its refusal to ever grow dull or off-putting. As objectively impressive as efforts such as Chaos Of Forms and Revocation were, their explosive moments are largely undone by a tendency to overwhelm the listener with their fast-paced, impressive technicality, to the point where getting through the album(s) in one sitting—as enjoyable as their material inherently is—becomes quite the chore. Great Is Our Sin is similarly single-minded, but there’s enough texture and layering within its eleven exhaustive tracks to maintain interest and give the listener a welcome reprieve from all the brutality when necessary; so that the record actually builds to such devastating outings as “Only The Spineless Survive”—which is similarly followed by the more subdued and melodically-inclined “Cleaving Giants Of Ice”—rather than continually ramming them down the listener’s throat.
It could be argued that Great Is Our Sin is Revocation’s best outing to date, and this is certainly an argument I’d be willing to make, but the same could be said of any of their releases really—given the consistency and surprising variation they’ve delivered over their remarkably short and relatively prolific career. However, what is surely certain is that this sixth album represents the best collection of songs the band have put together to date, and there’s no denying that it’s their most consistent. Much like In Flames’ Colony (1999)—which it so readily brings to mind—Great Is Our Sin shares that rare distinction of possibly being both Revocation’s best and most developed record, along with undeniably being its most accessible.
Raised brims set to stun.
Despised Icon have a strong claim to being the original deathcore band, and remain one of the better examples of the oft-maligned genre. The band released their debut in 2002, and went on to release three more critically acclaimed records before disbanding in late 2010, with Best marking their first release since reuniting in 2014, and—while it doesn’t quite live up to their classic output—it still goes to show that Despised Icon continue to be masters of a sound they pioneered.
Despised Icon bowed out of the deathcore game at time when the genre was seemingly at its peak—both in terms of popularity and concentration. Bands like Suicide Silence, Bring Me The Horizon and Whitechapel had come to dominate the genre and push it in directions increasingly removed from the extreme metal traditions expounded upon by Despised Icon and fellow pioneering deathcore acts like Glass Casket and All Shall Perish.1 Now, in 2016, deathcore has given way to the tech-metal thread and it is largely only those then-outstanding acts that really remain relevant to the contemporary metal scene, with each continuing to expand upon and experiment with the core deathcore sound. With Beast, Despise Icon have welcomely provided an altogether more traditional take on the style than much of what is available from these other genre champions in the current era.
Although the current Despised Icon line-up consists almost entirely of those members responsible for the band’s much-celebrated 2005 record The Healing Process,2 Beast bears little in resemblance to that album’s technical death metal-aping style. The record, instead, more-closely resembling the mosh-driven direction of 2009’s then-swansong Days Of Mourning—being built around a foundation of hardcore groves and minimalist beatdowns, punctuated by intermittent blast-beats and occasional forays into dissonance. The record’s ferocious opener, “The Aftermath”, is an absolute master class in hardcore aggression—tempering the song’s more-extreme inclinations into something altogether more direct and increasingly lethal. The track is quickly followed by two comparable, if slightly less-effective numbers in “Inner Demons” and “Drapeau Noir”, and later tracks like “Time Bomb” and the colossal, closing, title-track join these earlier outings in making a strong argument that Despised Icon haven’t lost an ounce of their brutal effectiveness in the seven year interim since their last release.
However, Beast is prevented from reaching its full potential through a couple of unshakable missteps and a prevalently uneven presentation. Despite the album clocking in at a mere twenty-nine minutes, two of its ten tracks are given over to relatively-lengthy interludes that do far more to disrupt the records concentrated assault than they do to accentuate or preserve it. “Dedicated To Extinction” is a seemingly meaningless synth break, of the kind you might expect from Cradle Of Filth or Bleeding Through. A similar track might have provided a refreshing palate-cleanser amid all the brutality—which is the only real justification for its existence that I can come up with—yet the track is so underdeveloped and jarring that I causes more confusion than reassurance. “Doomed” is a more-effective example of the form, providing a solid lead-in to “Beast”. However, it still seems overly superfluous and unremarkable when considered on its own merit.
Of the remaining tracks “One Last Martini” is a woefully uneven number, seemingly thrown together from recording-session leftovers—being made up of a promising begging and a memorable breakdown ending glued together by a number of disconnected, “stock” deathcore sections in-between—while “Bad Vibes” borders on embarrassing. The track begins with a thuggish chug and a shoutout of “Break this down now!” in the style of Hatebreed’s “Tear It Down” and goes on to wax lyrical about someone being given the heebie-jeebies beneath a bunch of obscuring blast-beats and poorly-implimented pig-squeels.3 Although these two tracks constitute the only two definitively “weaker” (fully-fledged) moments on Beast their mid-section placement alongside the aforementioned, baffling “Dedicated To Extinction” and the rather unremarkable, if-innofensive, “Grind Forever” accentuates these faults into an almost record-stopping affair that drains much of the impact from the surrounding onslaught.
Beast isn’t quite the triumphant comeback it could have been. Yet it is nonetheless an impressive and largely-enjoyable take on a genre that was seemingly down for the count. The album can’t really be used to argue that Despised Icon are still the best deathcore act in the game but it provides convincing evidence that they continue to be one of the better ones and pushes, beyond refutation, the notion that a world with Despised Icon back in it is a better place than one without.
1 The other important name to bring up when talking about the foundation of deathcore is, of course, The Acacia Strain. However their sound has always had little to do with anything particularly resembling death metal—approaching the genre instead from an angle of hardcore distillation rather then extremity.
2 With only guitarist Yannick St. Amand being subbed out for Ben Landreville, who joined on Day Of Mourning (2009).
3 Apparently the band make t-shirts specifically for this song…
Vol-beating a dead horse? Nah.
It was bound to happen. Like some faux-metal Danish epidemic, Volbeat have finally swept through the pomade-slicked underground and infected the mainstream populace with their eclectic potpourri of anthem-ready generational rock-metal. And, if you’re anything like this happy-go-lucky critic, not only do you not give a good goddamn about said in-crowd approval, but you recognize that this transition should, and likely will, continue to reap more over-the-top 1950s-inspired ambrosia. The group, mind you, are now six albums deep into their career, the latest being Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, and expectations—big sing-alongs and plenty of smiles—have once again been dutifully met.
Volbeat’s nigh total immersion into radio-land rock hears the band eschewing many of their heaviest qualities. Long gone are the days of Dominus and the crunch of albums like The Strength/The Sound/The Songs and Rock the Rebel/ Metal the Devil; in their stead, with the exception of the tease-o-rama chug-fest “Slaytan” (found on the limited edition digipak), is a tasty sampling of sugary rock candy, home to toe-tapping earworms like “Goodbye Forever,” “Let It Burn,” “Black Rose,” and “Marie Laveau.” As per usual, genre-fusion is a focus; the band head to cover-land and tread into punk territory with Teenage Bottle Rocket’s “Rebound,” work in some curious ‘80s rock-meets-country-thing with Georgia Satellites’ “Battleship Chains,” and, as per custom, toss dollop after dollop of doo-wop and rockabilly into their vocal-dominated alternative rock/metal.
While Volbeat ride the bubblegum line with constancy on Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, their unmistakably tried-and-true sound, as exhausting as it may be for some, remains refreshingly carefree. Poulsen and crew may pen songs for an un-metal audience, but there’s no question that they continue to win hearts and head-bangs alike across the aisle. Yet another satisfying and spin-heavy entry from this Danish sensation.
Tons of Rock Festival in Halden, Norway – June 24th 2016
Four of the juiciest June jams going ’round.
Tons of Rock Festival in Halden, Norway – June 24th 2016
Tons of Rock Festival in Halden, Norway – June 23rd 2016
May the month’s most outstanding metal releases be with you.
All of April’s most-awesome metal albums all in one awesome metal place.
Some mammoth offerings from the month of metal madness that was March.
Four fortissimous frolics for a fantastic Februrary!
Live at Blå in Oslo, Norway on February 11th, 2016.