Revocation Are Searching for Death Metal's Outer Limits
Stream the technical death metallers' Lovecraft-inspired new album 'The Outer Ones' and read our chat with guitarist Dave Davidson.
Photo by Alex Morgan
Dave Davidson provides an excellent example for musicians with stars in their eyes and riffs in their ears. The Revocation founder, guitarist, and vocalist has turned his bedroom death metal project into a global force over the last 12 years thanks to his an unrelenting work ethic and a lifelong devotion to learning and playing guitar. That effort has turned into full spreads in Decibel and Revolver, international tours, and multi-record deals with venerable labels like Relapse and Metal Blade Records. On the eve of Revocation’s seventh full-length album, The Outer Ones, Davidson reflects on the band’s roots, their current exposure, and the inspiration for what is easily their most aggressive and deadliest album yet.
“It feels very rewarding. I wouldn’t say we’re famous by any means but we certainly have a nice fanbase for ourselves in this extreme underground genre,” Davidson says of the band’s current trajectory. From meager beginnings in Boston dive bars to co-headlining tours with greats like Morbid Angel, Revocation earned a spot in American death metal’s elite. “We put our blood, sweat, and tears into this band for over a decade now and have been heavily touring since 2009, and it’s very rewarding to see people be so engaged with the material and be fans of the music. We played Indonesia—halfway around the world—and you see people screaming the lyrics to your song and wearing your T-shirts. It’s crazy to see how much this thing I started in my bedroom has spread.”
When Davidson isn’t playing shows in Indonesia—or elsewhere in the world, for that matter—he spends his time teaching guitar. That time with his pupils (who Davidson reveals happen to be fans of Revocation as well) keeps his musical gears turning. “When I’m not on tour, I’m home teaching, to still be involved with music in some way;it’s very rewarding for me,” He says. “I think it also helps me stay sharp because you have to explain things to students in different ways sometimes. It’s a lot of thinking about music.”
In addition to being a teacher, he himself is a student—of jazz. Davidson constantly works on developing himself as a musician by fortifying his abilities in different areas of the genre, and his efforts in these compositions consequently find their way onto The Outer Ones. At various moments, unique horn-inspired song structures surface, like in one of the album’s stand out tracks, “Fathomless Catacombs.”
“I picked up the intro to “Fathomless Catacombs” when I was working on a Wayne Shorter tune,” Davidson explains. “Obviously, I put my own rhythm to it but it’s not a totally different rhythm than his jazz. As far as the chord voicing goes, a cool chromatic thing happened where I learned the chords and made up my own inversions of them.”
More so than the jazz influence, perhaps the starkest contrast between The Outer Ones and previous Revocation efforts is the lyrical approach Davidson takes. Previous albums took an overt path to sociopolitical commentary and humanity’s adverse effects on the Earth. For example, on 2016’s Great Is Our Sin’s “Monolithic Ignorance,” Davidson yells, “Those who sought to rule this realm have only meddled with it / The error of their foolish schemes have brought about our ruin.” The closing words cap a sinister message about humans blindly following their leaders to a point of no return.
On The Outer Ones, though, Davidson flips the script. He uses his admiration of H.P. Lovecraft’s classic horror stories as an allegory for similar societal critiques, and thanks to these adaptations, Revocation’s death metal has morphed into a much more twisted endeavor.
“I’m a big fan of Lovecraft’s work,” Davidson says. “There were certainly sci-fi writers before him, but he brought in this grand scope—this cosmic multidimensional element to his stories—and created this whole universe of horror. With the title of the album, The Outer Ones, that’s something he mentions in a bunch of stories and describes them in different ways. Sometimes they’re called the Outer Gods or the Other Gods. I thought that was really cool because it encapsulates a nebulous horror element.”
It’s not just the title of the record that lends itself to the horror writer. Many of the songs find source material in some of Lovecraft’s classics. That material, combined with Revocation doubling down on death metal, makes for a frightening trip into ghastly figures and fiery riffs.
“’Of Unworldly Origin’ was the first single we released. It’s loosely based on The Dreams in the Witch House. This dude is living in the attic of an old house this witch used to live in and he sees all these visions of her. She would invade his dreams and he would wake up in these kaleidoscopic nightmare realms that he was trapped in,” Davidson explains. “’That Which Consumes All Things’ is based off of The Colour Out of Space. I think it’s Lovecraft’s clever way of a classic ghost story because it’s this amorphous fog or smoke that cracks out of a meteor that crashes on a farm. It saps the life out of the farm and the family that lives there and then it eventually returns to space after it wreaks havoc. I thought the idea of a black cloud that swallows all life would be perfect fodder for a heavy metal song.”
All the horror stories Davidson surrounded himself with inspired him to take a crack at writing his own allegorical terror as well. The story behind “Fathomless Catacombs” follows, as Davidson puts it, “three grave robbers that break into an old, decrepit church because of tales of riches in the crypt below.” Yet, as he describes, “It turns out that was all a lie to lure them in there. Below is a curse for anyone who invades the crypt and they’re doomed to wander in the labyrinth below in darkness. That’s their punishment for their greed and their avarice.”
He uses the tale of the grave robbers as his way to seek punishment for the greed surrounding society. “Whether its politicians who are paid off by corporations or something else, there are a lot of unintended consequences to that behavior and there is an ultimate cost,” Davidson says. “The more money and power you have, the more you can get away with. Every once in a while justice can be served. Mostly, it’s the human element of greed and the punishment of it that doesn’t get carried out in the real world. With this fantasy setting though, I can do that.”
For all that The Outer Ones achieves—a frightening lyrical aura, a darker and more expansive sound, and a unique societal critique—it, more importantly, serves as another glimmering piece of art from one of the United States’ hardest working death metal bands. Years of touring and playing dive bars and warehouses has rightfully turned into international acclaim and notoriety in extreme metal circles. Revocation’s turn into death metal’s darker realms reveals a new avenue for Davidson, one that could see him write more of his own horror stories and turn his once bedroom project into its own life-swallowing black cloud of death metal.
Cody Davis is horrorstruck on Twitter.
Catch Revocation on tour with Exhumed, Rivers Of Nihil, Yautja:
9/17/2018 Metro Gallery - Baltimore, MD
9/18/2018 Strange Matter - Richmond, VA
9/19/2018 Masquerade - Atlanta, GA
9/21/2018 White Oak Music Hall - Houston, TX
9/22/2018 Come & Take It Live - Austin, TX
9/23/2018 Rail Club - Ft Worth, TX
9/24/2018 The Vanguard - Tulsa, OK
9/26/2018 Launchpad - Albuquerque, NM
9/27/2018 Club Red - Phoenix, AZ
9/28/2018 Brick By Brick - San Diego, CA
9/29/2018 Union - Los Angeles, CA
9/30/2018 Phoenix Theatre - Petaluma, CA
10/01/2018 Holy Diver - Sacramento, CA
10/03/2018 Astoria - Vancouver, BC **
10/04/2018 The Pin - Spokane, WA
10/05/2018 Highline - Seattle, WA
10/06/2018 Dante's - Portland, OR
10/07/2018 Shredder - Boise, ID
10/09/2018 Bluebird Theater - Denver, CO
10/10/2018 Riot Room - Kansas City, MO
10/11/2018 Amsterdam Bar & Grill - Minneapolis, MN
10/12/2018 Reggies -Chicago, IL
10/13/2018 The Outpost - Kent, OH
10/14/2018 Loving Touch - Detroit, MI
10/15/2018 Hard Luck - Toronto, ON **
10/16/2018 Mavericks - Ottawa, ON **
10/17/2018 Les Foufounes Electriques - Montreal, QC **
10/18/2018 Le Poisson Rouge - New York, NY
10/19/2018 Voltage Lounge - Philadelphia, PA
10/20/2018 Brighton Music Hall - Boston, MA
** No Exhumed