For their seventh album, The Outer Ones, Revocation have downplayed their thrash/prog roots and focused more on the relentless, jazz-inflected barrage of Florida tech-death metal bands, including genre pioneers Death and Atheist.
“We toured with Atheist when they did their reunion shows several years back,” says frontman and main songwriter David Davidson. “We love the level of complexity and unpredictability in their music. So this time, we were really feeling like doing something brutal and different than we did on [2016’s] Great Is Our Sin.”
As much as they wanted to rip, Revocation haven’t turned their backs on the rhythmic and lead styles of jazz fusion players, including Allan Holdsworth and Pat Metheny. “We love all that stuff and wanted to keep that in the music as well — anything to expand upon our sound,” Davidson says.
The Outer Ones is musically and thematically creative. An homage to the writings of supernatural horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, the album features vivid stories colored with augmented and diminished chords, unconventionally played scales and abrupt rhythm and tempo shifts that are undeniably strange and yet strangely memorable.
“I always try to make sure there’s a song there with solid chord structures before I figure out all the possible scales, substitutions and arpeggios I can use over it,” Davidson says. “So many musicians learn to shred before they can write a song. For them, it’s all about having this flawless technique. But the question is, what can they do with that technique? Can they write something compelling that elevates their sound or is it technique for technique’s sake?”
In addition to writing their heaviest and most consistently cohesive album, Revocation have crafted guitar solos that are both unusual and instantly appealing. For some, Davidson transposed segments of solos by jazz saxophonists John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, and for others, he shot from the hip. The greatest challenge was learning to play each lead from start to finish.
Adding to Revocation’s eclectic sound is second guitarist Dan Gargiulo, whose deft, rapid alternate picking contrasts with Davidson’s hammer-ons, pull-offs, sweeps and tapping. Gargiulo usually writes two songs per album. Both guitarists track their own rhythms, but sometimes they swap leads.
“That’s a fun process because when I’m soloing over one of Dan’s songs, I have to put myself in his mental state to figure out what works best for the song,” Davidson says. “There’s a little more detective work to do which keeps us both on top of our game.”
• GUITARS Signature Jackson Warrior seven-string (Davidson); ESP Horizon seven-string (Gargiulo) • AMPS EVH 5153 (Davidson); Peavey Triple X (Gargiulo) • EFFECTS Strymon Overdrive, Dunlop Cry Baby Wah (Davidson) • STRINGS D’Addario (both)