“The hymn to the cosmic horror”
Just ahead of their soon-to-be-released fifth album Deathless, Revocation’s guitarist/vocalist David Davidson chats to MR’s Jason Guest about the album, its production, the lyrical themes and artwork and the inspiration behind them both, as well as the band’s progression this past year, and the influence of one of metal’s favourite authors, HP Lovecraft.
A year between albums is pretty quick. How has the band developed during that time?
I think from a technical standpoint we improve with each record. We all spend a lot of time on our individual instruments and we always want to raise the bar for ourselves with each release. I think we’ve also improved as songwriters during that time. This is our fifth full length so we’ve definitely had a lot of practice writing songs at this point and I think that if you continuously work on something whether it’s running scales or writing songs you get better each time around.
How long were you working on the new album? Is it all new material or has some of it been in the pipeline for a while?
It’s a combination of both. Some of the material we’ve had for a while but it wasn’t ready yet for various reasons, but a lot of the material was brand new. Since we were at the end of our record deal with Relapse and toured pretty heavily at the beginning of the album cycle we had a bunch of down time during the winter so we really hunkered down and worked for quite a while on the new stuff during that time off.
Does Deathless mark a progression since last year’s album?
Our goal is to progress and expand upon our sound with every release. I’m not content with putting out the same record over and over again. I really try to push myself to bring something new to the table each time but the challenge is to make it work within the existing parameters of our sound. We already have a lot of different elements to our music to begin with so it’s a lot of fun for me to try to bring out those different elements and create music that is fresh but is still undeniably Revocation.
Have you played any of the new material live? How has it gone down with audiences?
Yeah we’ve been playing the song ‘Madness Opus’ live and it’s been absolutely crushing!
‘Madness Opus’ is inspired by HP Lovecraft’s The Music of Erich Zann. Did the book affect how you approached writing the music for the track?
I almost always write the music first but I think the music inspired the lyrics in some ways. I was thinking about writing lyrics about that story for a while now but wasn’t sure which song I should put the lyrics to. When I wrote that bridge section with the haunting clean guitar part I envisioned Erich Zann playing that melody as the hymn to the cosmic horror that the story is about. Once I thought about it more I knew that the music would be the perfect backdrop for the lyrical ideas I had in mind and everything fell into place after that.
Lovecraft is a popular author among metal bands. What is it about his work that you find inspiring?
Lovecraft once wrote in an essay, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”. I’m really attracted to the cosmic nature of his fiction and that element of the unknown that he was talking about. Lovecraft created a whole universe of horror and was both descriptive and intentionally vague in his story telling to invoke fear and wonder in the reader. At the heart of many of his stories was a critique on the megalomania of mankind which I found very interesting as well.
What are the other lyrical themes?
Lyrical themes vary on the record, some being personal while others are about the dystopian and Orwellian trends I see occurring in our society. One song that is personal for me is the opening track, ‘A Debt Owed To The Grave’. The lyrics from that song combine imagery from the Greek myth of Charon, the ferryman who would ferry the souls of the deceased to the underworld and my own personal life when I used to work for a hospital. Part of my job entailed bringing the bodies of patients who had passed away to the morgue so that song is a reflection on my life as a “ferryman” of sorts.
For Deathless, you recorded it acclaimed producer Zeuss at Planet Z studios in Massachusetts. Why did you choose to work with Zeuss? How was working with him? And what did he bring to the band?
We picked Zeuss because we had a blast working with him on our Teratogenesis EP (2012) and we knew we wanted to do a full length with him ever since. Zeuss has been doing this for years so he brings a lot of knowledge to the table and also a lot of enthusiasm. He really digs our sound so I think it was a fun project for him to work on and it’s always nice when you’re working with someone who is really stoked on the music. He’s also very open minded so we tried a lot of different things in the studio, some worked and some didn’t but he was always willing to give different ideas a shot.
Can you tell us about the artwork for Deathless? What does it represent and how does it relate to the music? Who designed it? What drew you to them? And how much direction did you give them in its design?
The artwork was created by my good friend Tom Strom who happens to do all of my tattoos as well. The artwork is partially inspired by the works of Zdzisław Beksiński because Tom and I are such huge fans of his work. I spoke with Tom in person about the general vibe of the album and I knew I wanted the colour scheme of the cover to utilize a lot of dark blue. We’ve never had an album cover that had a mostly blue colour scheme and since the music on this record is the heaviest and darkest thing we’ve ever written I think the artwork definitely fits the vibe of the music. The album also relates to me personally in a way. In the upper right hand corner of the piece there’s the head of a corpse that’s floating out of the fame. That head is Tom’s self portrait and if you look closely at it you’ll notice that it has windows for eye sockets. Tom first started tattooing that symbolic motif on me so I feel a pretty personal connection to the piece because of that.
How did you come to work with Metal Blade?
We were at the end of our contract with Relapse and Metal Blade approached us and said they were interested. At the end of the day they offered us the best deal and seemed very stoked to work with us so we all collectively felt that they would be the best choice for us moving forward.
Revocation has been making music since 2000 (under the name Cryptic Warning until 2006). How has the band chemistry/dynamic changed and how have you changed as musicians?
The dynamic has changed in a couple of ways. Firstly, we were a three-piece back then and now we’ve been a four piece for quite some time. We also a different bass player now so that has changed the dynamic as well. We’ve all gotten much better as musicians over the years and I’m sure we will all continue to grow since we’re all pretty driven when it comes to music.
You’ll soon be touring the States with Crowbar. Excited?
Yeah I can’t wait; the whole line-up is really stacked so it should be a killer tour for sure.
Any plans to play in the UK?
Yeah we’ll be playing in London on Halloween actually with Cannibal Corpse and Aeon. The next day we’ll be in Leeds for Damnation Fest so that should be totally awesome as well.
Early days I know as Deathless is still to be released but is there more music in the works?
I’ve got a few riffs that I really dig here and there but definitely no full songs as of yet. I don’t really plan on working on new material any time soon, just focusing on touring for this upcoming record and getting the new material from it as tight as I can for the live setting.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Thanks for the interview! Pick up our new record when it comes out and come put to a show and say what’s up!