Revocation Changing the Metal Landscape

October 19, 2009


Written by Chrissy Mauck

“The neck is great,” says Davidson of his Warrior.
“It’s not too thick, it’s not too wide. I think it’s a great
grip for my tastes. It’s got a nice, smooth feel. So,
whether I’m doing a legato run or a sweep kind of
thing or if I’m doing more picking, it’s very responsive
and it just feels good in your hands.

“I’ve got Seymour Duncan ® pickups in my Jackson
right now. It’s got an Invader in the bridge and the
Full Shred in the neck, and the sounds of those are
great. I’ve got a love triangle going on right
now with a few different pickups. I’m checking into
the DiMarzio® and think they sound really cool, so I’m
trying to see what the future holds.

“I generally go with the Floyd Rose®, but every guitar
I have right now has a Floyd Rose, so I’m thinking
the next one I do maybe I’ll get a
string-through-body kind of thing just because
it takes a little less effort changing the strings.”

Photo credit: Rev Aaron Michael Pepelis

Existence is Futile might be a suitable title for Revocation’s latest full-length CD, but pigeonholing this thrash/death metal power trio is more like an exercise in futility.

The 23-year-old Bostonians slay traditional metal sub-genres by blending technical precision, ferocious shredding, progressive riffs and melodic solos with sophisticated compositions and timely lyrical topics delivered in vocals ranging from death metal growls to mid-range barks to grindcore screams.

“I think we are just legitimate fans of different types of not only metal but other styles of music in general,” says Revocation’s singer/guitarist Dave Davidson of the band’s diversity. “We’ve never subscribed to, ‘Oh, I only listen to thrash’ or ‘I only listen to death metal.’ I find really awesome elements in the music that I like of all different genres, whether it’s thrash, grindcore or black metal. We’re all legitimate fans of that music, so those influences creep in and when you add it all up, I think it makes it sound a little bit different because we are not just going to write 45 minutes of blast beats and death metal growls. There are going to be some other elements.”

The end result is an album creation backed by Relapse — one of the metal underground’s biggest labels — that has the metal world proclaiming that Revocation is the next generation of metal. Decibel magazine calls them “the best band you’ve never heard! Absolutely godlike death/thrash.”

“It’s pretty crazy to read some of these reviews where people are basically saying we are going to be the next big thing,” Davidson says. “That’s great to hear that from critics, but at the same time, we are not touring in a tour bus or playing huge stadium shows yet. We realize to earn the respect of fans nationwide and worldwide, it takes a lot of hard work and effort.”

Although bassist Anthony Buda typically writes the majority of the lyrics, Davidson contributed four tracks to the album.

“I was inspired by some of the music I wrote for it,” says Davidson. “I was  picturing certain lyrical themes in my head after I had sat with the songs for awhile.”

Those themes take listeners on an emotional journey: the anxiety of living in war-torn country in “Pestilence Reigns,” the hurt and rage of being backstabbed in “Anthem of the Betrayed,” and Davidson’s pissed-off reaction to shady politics during the U.S. economic crisis in “Deathenomics.”

And then randomly, Davidson dipped into science fiction with “Leviathan Awaits.”

“I don’t know if it was the opening riff of the song, but all I could think about for the lyrical concept was an underwater creature,” he says. “So I decided, ‘F*ck it, I’ll write about this sea monster from more of a narrative perspective.’ I tried to take a story from a clear beginning, middle and end to the fate of the crew that was looking to find this sea beast and got more than they bargained for.”

But Davidson’s most significant contribution to Existence is Futile is his dexterous guitar work. Ben Apatoff of website Metal Injection writes that Davidson “only slows down to solo like the spawn of Dimebag and Marty Friedman raised in the death metal age.”

That’s hefty praise since the Pantera and Megadeth speed burners just happen to top the list of Davidson’s influences.

“Marty is just an amazing, amazing guitarist,” says Davidson. “He was very technical, but he’d play some interesting scales; he wasn’t just your average shredder guy. Dimebag, of course, he just rips it.”

Finishing out his top three is death metal guitarist Dan Mongrain from Martyr.

“I think he’s probably, one of the best guitarists, if not the best guitarist who plays death metal,” Davidson says. “He’s just a monster.”

But it was one of the “Bad Boys from Boston” who first turned a very young Davidson onto the guitar­ — Aerosmith’s Joe Perry.

“I saw Joe Perry ripping a solo and I was just like, ‘Man, that guy looks really, really cool,’” recalls Davidson. “Ever since then I’ve been kind of hooked you could say. I went out and got some crappy brand guitar, like the lowest end, and I worked my way up playing-wise, and got inspired by a ton of different guitarists after listening to Aerosmith.”

In middle school, Davidson hooked up with drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne, passing countless hours down in the basement playing along to Guns N’ Roses and Metallica.

“I was such a huge Guns N’ Roses fan growing up,” he says. “Slash wasn’t the most technical guy out there, but his solos had so much feel to them.”

Davidson and Dubois-Coyne eventually sought out another schoolmate in bassist Anthony Buda, officially forming Cryptic Warning in 2000 and entering the studio in 2002 to record their first demo.

“We went into the studio and thought we were hot shit back in the day because we were young kids going into a recording studio and stuff,” remembers Davidson. “You don’t really know shit when you’re just a kid going out, getting stoned and playing some metal shows here and there.”

Believing they were hot shit wasn’t completely unfounded. The thrash metal act quickly gained an underground metal following in Boston, often leading to out-of-state bookings.

“I remember one of the first times we were in front of a totally new audience
at this warehouse in Providence,” says Davidson. “We were playing with some pretty good underground black metal bands and people were like, ‘Wow, you guys are really awesome. We always had people tell us, ‘Oh you guys have a lot of potential for your age,’ so early on we kind of thought maybe we had a little something to take it to the next level versus just playing random shows here and there. And I think having a totally new audience really dig it kind of lit a fire under our ass.”

Although Cryptic Warning had matured when they recorded their 2005 debut studio album, Sanity’s Aberration, the band still walked away feeling as if they had made poor decisions on the production side.

“You see every guitarist play a solo and they’ll
make the ‘stink face,’ like they smelled a really
nasty fart or something. Everyone has their own
particular face they make. I swear it’s involuntary
— it just comes out when I’m playing. We have this
guy, ‘The Reverend,’ who takes pictures of us. I’ll
check his site out and am like, ‘Oh man, that’s a
keeper.’ You get kind of a laugh because everyone
looks kind of ridiculous in that freeze frame. it’s
kind of hard to scream your balls off at the top of
your lungs while smiling. So there aren’t any family
yearbook photos for sure. They’re pretty
entertaining!”t an amazing guitar.”

Photo credit: None other than Rev Aaron Michael
Pepelis, aka “The Reverend.”

“Cryptic Warning was on the extreme side of metal, even though it was kind of older school trash-based,” Davidson says. “We didn’t record the album with a metal guy, so we didn’t get the sound we wanted. The heaviest reference in our producer’s discography was the Cult.  A lot of people still love that record — our old-school fans who used to show up for all of the shows — but to us, we weren’t really satisfied with the production of that. We felt it was one of the mistakes we made.”

To void those mistakes, Cryptic Warning switched its name to Revocation.

“Ultimately, we dug the name and thought it had a cool weight to it,” says Davidson. “I’ve always been a fan of one-word names and there’s not too many out there left because there are so many metal bands gobbling up everything that sounds evil or brutal.  I think, looking a little deeper into it, we made a lot of mistakes with Cryptic Warning. We were younger and didn’t really know what we were doing, so Revocation was us starting fresh with a clean slate and revoking our past mistakes.”

With Revocation blazing a new trail, Davidson also continued to develop his technique by attending Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where he focused on jazz.

“They had the metal and shred labs, but I wasn’t that interested in them,” admits Davidson. “I was going more for the jazz core labs and polyrhythm for jazz guitars. Some guys take a private lesson from the same teacher the whole time they are there; I wanted to branch out as much as possible and push my comfort zone by studying with a different guitarist each time. I think it helped me as a player, a composer and as a soloist.”

The proof is in the proverbial pudding as Revocation’s 2006 three-song Summon the Spawn and 2008’s Empire of the Obscene, both of which marked a turning point for the band.

“There was so much better quality in the recording of our sampler and full-length than what we did as Cryptic Warning,” says Davidson. The songwriting was there and we had honed our craft more as players at that point too,” says Davidson. “We also went out on an extended tour with Swashbuckler that was buzz-brewing for us.”

The band also attracted the interest of several record labels, including one of metal’s heavy hitters.

“Hopefully there’s more to come, but the biggest turning point so far was signing with Relapse,” says Davidson. “That’s had a big impact. Before, it was just us three pushing for the band and now we have a whole team at Relapse behind us.”

Davidson also has picked up an endorsement from Jackson, a fitting relationship since his Ferrari Red Jackson WR1 USA Warrior has been one of his prized possessions since his high school graduation.

“I just loved the shape growing up,” he says. “I always thought they were just badass-looking guitars, and when I saw the Warrior I was like, ‘Oh man, that thing is awesome! So I saved up a little bit, and then my parents and grandparents helped me out with it as a graduation present. It came in the big case and I just loved it. It was my first really, really good high-end guitar. It’s just awesome. I didn’t even want to play it because I thought it looked so sexy.”

Eventually Davidson unleashed the Warrior, which has since seen him through countless gigs and the entire recording of Existence is Futile.

“I stuck with the Jackson the whole way through for the tracking of all the riffs, the solos, everything,” he says. “It’s been through a couple of tours, ranging from playing it onstage at nice clubs to punk warehouses and basement shows. It’s had beer spilled all over it, but it’s a trooper. It’s held up through thick and thin, even in temperature changes. It’s a solid-ass piece of wood and there’s been very little wear and tear to it.”

Davidson’s Warrior can expect a heavier workload in the coming months, with a few November dates in Canada already booked and other tour possibilities in the works.

“I can’t really announce anything yet, but there’s some stuff brewing behind the scenes,” says Davidson. “So keep an eye out.”