Revocation

support Archspire + Soreption + Rivers Of Nihil
author RUB date 29/11/18 venue VoxHall, Århus, DEN

I was very surprised when I realized that I hadn’t attended any concerts at Århus venue VoxHall since May. Not that there haven’t been any metal artists on the program, but I simply haven’t had the time. So, what better way to return to one of the best venues in town than with a package of some of the finest technical death and thrash metal bands around. Revocation, who are on their first-ever headlining European tour, have brought along various acts to support them on this campaign to promote their most recent album, “The Outer Ones”, and having seen some of those artists live before, I knew I was in for a treat. The music tonight would be both fast and tight, and especially Archspire had piqued my interest, because I could simply not see how it would be possible to play at the pace and level of complexity on display on their 2017 release, “Relentless Mutation”. Yes, the bill this Thursday evening should definitely be able to pull a decent crowd, and when I arrive at the venue, I am glad to find that a very respectable amount of people have actually showed up to witness this feast of technical metal.

All photos courtesy of Jason Champney

Rivers Of Nihil

The First band of the evening is Rivers Of Nihil, whom I previously saw at the Aalborg Metal Festival in 2016 (where Revocation incidentally played as well), and as such, I know pretty much what to expect when the band enters the stage: technical death metal played tightly and at a very high velocity. And just as precision and tightness are key in their music, so is their arrival on stage punctual at exactly 7 pm. There are actually a lot of people here, and I’m not sure why this surprises me, as it is a Thursday evening after all, and there is a very potent line-up here to back it up. Nothing has changed since I last saw the band in question; the concept of tightness remains at the forefront, as it tends to for artists practicing in the more technical styles of metal. The crowd answers with scattered headbanging and even the first moshpit of the night, though I must admit that the audience remains pretty quiet throughout and just lets the professionalism unfolding on stage run its course.

Rivers Of Nihil

Lead singer Jake Dieffenbach tries to get the crowd going as the heavy notes and drumming don’t seem to be enough for this first act. But it is rather obvious that the music is quite capable of speaking for itself, and when it is as well-written as is the case with these songs, it doesn’t take anything away from the overall impression. The music is proggy as well, which becomes even more evident on the material off their 2018 release, “Where Owls Know My Name”. This, perhaps coupled with a certain degree of unfamiliarity with those songs, might be one of the reasons why the crowd is holding back this evening, though the songs definitely still work in the live setting. The band executes them with the desired precision and even though I am not blown as much away as the last time I saw Rivers of Nihil, the band’s performance tonight is nonetheless very decent. In fact, one could even argue that it is excellent — just for me personally, it still lacks that extra something to make it the best showing this evening.

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Soreption

Extremely brutal and extremely technical are the first things that come to mind when this band (which, for me, is an unknown entity) takes the stage. Apparently from Sweden, Soreption is the sore thumb sticking out from the line-up, as the other three bands are all of North American descent. Sadly, when compared to the previous band, there is something amiss here, as it quickly becomes apparent that Soreption badly need a second guitarist to take care for the rhythm section in the songs. When the songs are as demanding as the ones played by this band, you need not only a crisp sound mix, but also, most importantly, a band able to play the songs. This is simply not the case with Soreption, which is sad really, because one can hear from their songs that there is huge promise here. Their style is a sort of mix between Death and Psycroptic, but the overall impression of the band lacks so much because of the missing depth that stems from the lack of second guitarist churning out some chords.

Soreption

All of this is really a shame, because you definitely get the feeling that Soreption are both very talented and very tight — especially drummer Tony Westermark, whose antics behind the kit are simply insane. This is best on display when the band airs “King of Undisputed Nonsense”, which resembles Decapitated’s classic “Spheres of Madness” (perhaps a little too much?), albeit in a good way. My overall impression of this first encounter with Soreption, however, is sadly inferior — both to Rivers of Nihil just before, and to my own expectations for the two remaining bands. Either, as was the previously mentioned, a second guitarist needs to be added to their line-up, or the sound mix needs to be designed in such a way as to promote the low end to a greater extent. Whatever the case though, I am disappointed. Some of the songs manage to get by with only one guitarist, but for the most part it is a matter of the missing depth and thickness in an otherwise heavy soundscape that puts me off. My advice: hire a session guitarist for the live shows, and this band could definitely go far. But for now, they’ll have to settle for my rather lukewarm assessment.

Archspire

A 6-string bass, two 8-string guitars, and a sound so heavy and brutal you wouldn’t believe it — I really didn’t know what to expect, and a part of me feared that Archspire wouldn’t be able to deliver the sound they have produced on their “Relentless Mutation” album. But with a drummer as talented and downright insane as Spencer Prewett, the Canadians of Archspire put on a show I won’t soon forget. Already from the first song, lead singer Oli Peters asks us for more movement: ”We’re from Canada — we don’t know how you do it around here”. And movement he receives. Apparently, they have been here before, but it has been a full 8 years since, we’re told. By the way the band sounds and performs though, I hope it won’t be another 8 years before I witness this insanity again. With a sound not unlike one of my favourite live bands of all time, Origin, Archspire deliver one of the best concerts this year, I’m sure. Their songs even have some melodic and almost jazzy passages, which only add to the structure and depth of their music and colour me endlessly impressed.

Archspire

It’s not all serious, however, as Peters introduces the entire band in a negative, yet very humorous way (”He’s too fat.” ”He sucks his girlfriend’s farts.”, etc.) — juvenile, perhaps, but still very funny to yours truly and the large audience. He even brings an electric ”Applause” sign onto the stage, as seen in some of the older talk shows on television, which strikes me as a surprisingly fun gimmick. Returning to the music itself though, it continues to be a barrage of technical death metal all the way through, perfectly executed. Even a sort of mumbling vocal part is done to perfection several times in the mists of the insane music, managing to spark several moshpits. I’m simply baffled that they manage to pull their songs off so well live and am almost at a loss for words by the time their concert winds to its conclusion. In time, Archspire could very well become a sought-after band if they receive the attention they deserve — because god damn do they know how to put together an explosive live performance, which leaves the listener wanting for more!

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Revocation

As the headliner of the show, the Americans in Revocation have brought with them an impressive light show, with various colours flickering on both the stage and the crowd — something I really hadn’t expected from a Thursday-night concert. The visual aspect is quite impressive to say the least, but I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the vocals have to be so low in the mix for the entire duration of the gig. This is such a shame, as Revocation really understand how to put the thrash into tonight’s procession of concerts. It doesn’t stop them from giving it their best shot, and I actually don’t think they have any idea themselves about the problematic sound mix. Perhaps it is better in other areas of the venue, but right behind the sound desk where I am standing, it simply drowns in the heavy sound of the drums. Usually, the production and sound of Revocation are crisp, having seen the band in question a few times by now, so the problem with the vocals is really bugging me a lot tonight. In fact, the backing vocals seems to be higher than the actual lead vocals, so I cannot be the only one noticing this, and I really don’t understand how the sound engineer can continue to ignore it, either.

Revocation

Something is eventually done to fix the vocals, although they still need that last nudge to be perfect in my ears — but this happens so far into the show that my overall impression has already taken a massive blow. Thankfully, the rest of the instruments come across perfectly, which really helps unfold the soundscape and give plenty of room for the progressive elements that live in Revocation’s songs. But it is nonetheless only during the bigger breakdowns that people really seem to be feeling the music tonight — perhaps the other people here are as bummed out about the vocals as myself? It doesn’t take anything away from the band, who are giving it their best go, and it really could’ve been an awesome way to end this Thursday night had the technical aspects of the show been ironed out, but in the end it leaves me with a somewhat flat feeling. The show concludes with “Chaos of Forms”, “Only the Spineless Survive” and “Witch Trials”, and by this time it is clear that people have already left the concert room in order to go grab their coats from the wardrobe. Had the sound been as crisp as it normally is at Revocation’s concerts, I’m sure people would’ve stuck around to catch the last notes. The show, thus, is respectable, but far from capitalising on its true potential.

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