Revocation: Technical Death Metal Done Right

Revocation continues to push the boundaries of technical death metal.
Revocation continues to push the boundaries of technical death metal. Courtesy Revocation
Chatting with guitar virtuoso Dave Davidson is like taking an impromptu, mini-master class in music theory. The Berklee grad studied jazz polyrhythmics and teaches guitar during his downtime. But he also fronts the most interesting band in extreme metal: Revocation. He casually explains how his style, which has become a defining characteristic of the Boston band's music, is influenced by compositions across several genres that don’t fall under the “metal” umbrella.

“I just think there are so many things to be inspired by in regard to guitar playing for me. For one, I’m not just into one style of music," he says. "I love rock, I love jazz, I love classical. Some of that added free time [during the pandemic] allowed me to develop my jazz vocabulary that much more."

Davidson says he spent "a lot of time" transcribing jazz solos and then teaching them. "It’s one thing to learn something," he says. "When you have to teach it, you have to think about it in other ways. I feel like I’ve developed my vocabulary in a genre very different from metal. But at the same time, music is music, and I feel like what you might learn from one genre, hopefully, in a subconscious way, [will] make its way into your playing in another facet.

“To me, it’s like your brain is an AI learning computer, like, ‘Let me just input as much information as I can,’" he continues. "And then hopefully a few REM cycles of sleep later, I’ll be able to internalize that information and it won’t be at the top of my mind, and will be more baked into my subconscious. That’s where I think your style really starts to develop — when you start to play things more naturally or hear things more naturally. It’s not like you’re learning a new word for the first time and you’re trying to overuse it in every sentence. It just becomes part of your vocabulary, and it feels more natural that way.”

Davidson has a pretty extensive vocabulary at this point: He’s a menace with a seven-string guitar, blending death metal and thrash into a sonic storm of progressive technicality that leaves listeners asking, "How did he do that?" Hear it yourself when Revocation rips through Denver on Friday, October 7, at the Bluebird Theater. Krisiun, Alluvial and Inoculation will open the show.

With the September release of Netherheaven, it’s clear that Revocation and Davidson aren’t resting on their laurels; they're pushing the limits even further. “Diabolical Majesty” and “Nihilistic Violence” are as brutal as anything the band has released since forming in 2006. Then there's "Re-Crucified," which includes guest vocals from Trevor Strnad, the late frontman of the Black Dahlia Murder and a close personal friend of Davidson, and Cannibal Corpse's George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher.

Davidson’s signature guitar style just soars all over the album, while bassist Brett Bamberger and drummer Ash Pearson provide the perfect foundation throughout. It’s tech death with an edge and an attitude.

“It was definitely dark times for all of us during the pandemic, so some of those feelings of unease and anxiety and even anger made it into the music. I think it’s definitely a very aggressive album. It’s a very dark album, but it’s also got a lot of melodic moments as well,” Davidson says, adding that he’s continued honing his voice over the years, too.

Davidson is damn near robotic in his musical approach and mindset. He talks passionately about how he likes to add key and chord changes into his solos to challenge himself, and sometimes the band plays with faster beats per minute live, just to make it interesting. But then there are times when the sound that comes out is a mystery to him, too.

“I feel like in our earlier catalogue, we were working out what the definition of Revocation is," he says. "Now I feel like our sound is fully defined, but we still find ways to push our boundaries and progress within our style that we’ve created over the years.”

Revocation, 7 p.m. Friday, October 7, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets are $20.
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