Revocation / “You never know when inspiration is gonna strike,” says Dave Davidson

Revocation recently brought their impressive technical Death Metal to a headline slot at Birmingham’s Asylum on a superb evening also featuring Goatwhore, Alluvial and Creeping Death. MetalTalk’s Andy Shaw spoke to guitarist and vocalist Dave Davidson before the band hit the stage.

Revocation were touring on the back of the superb album Netherheaven. Released in September last year, the album flows beautifully as a work of art. “We collaborate when we write, but certainly the main bulk of the material and the compositional structure, I usually work that all out and then bring it to the rest of the guys,” Davidson says. “Obviously, they had their input, and the different parts and stuff like that, but I take on the lion’s share of the writing. When we all get together, little things start, different ideas start to come up, and we finalise the songs from there.”

Revocation - The Asylum, Birmingham - 15 February 2023
Dave Davidson – Revocation – The Asylum, Birmingham – 15 February 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

For Netherheaven, in particular, there are many elements that Revocation have included, whether it be sort of classical or little bits of choirs that have gone into the mix.

“We have a sound that we continue to refine and continue to develop,” Dave says. “We’re playing a niche genre of Death Metal, or Thrash-infused Death Metal. But I think we still try to push the boundaries of our sound every chance that we can get in a way that, to me, feels cohesive. We don’t want to just add something in, just for the sake of adding it in, because I want our records to hopefully have a timeless quality to them.

“We take great care making sure that every riff is scrutinised. When we put them together, we scrutinise the songs. Certain things, like the choir you mentioned, were kind of a last minute addition. I was in the studio and started kind of hearing things in my head. I wondered if it would be cool to have this weird kind of angelic choir with some Death Metal vocals in the background over this really epic-sounding part. I pretty much hit it right from there, came up with a melody on the spot and then started layering different harmonies. Sometimes inspiration can strike out of nowhere like that.

“Sometimes you spend weeks on one riff, and then other times, something like that comes together relatively quickly. So that’s the cool thing about music and writing in general. I’ve found you never know when inspiration is gonna strike, and sometimes it’s a rapid pace, and you just have to be there in that moment to accept wherever that creative flow is coming from and make sure you can jump on board with it.

“But I think you’re right. We definitely brought in lots of different elements. I think every single song has its own sound. But when you listen to them together, it feels like they’re part of a bigger picture. But that’s just another thing that I guess we try to go into when we’re writing. We want to have different variations. We want to have fast and medium tempo and even some slower, groovier epic sections here and there, just to kind of break up the flow of the record.

“So, all of those different things we’re aware of, we’re conscious of, and some of those things are maybe even unconscious too. Again, I think that’s where some of that magic happens, where an idea comes up, or a whole song just kind of materialises seemingly out of nowhere. That’s kind of the fun in writing music.”

Revocation - The Asylum, Birmingham - 15 February 2023
Dave Davidson – Revocation – The Asylum, Birmingham – 15 February 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

The album has a real flow to it from beginning to end. Especially with its epic blockbusting song to finish the album, each full listen inspires you to go back to the start and repeat the process. “I think the best records have that repeat value, right?” Dave says. “When you listen to one record one time and then don’t come back to it for another year, it’s like maybe it didn’t have quite the impact. But it’s been great to hear from so many people that we wound up on different people’s year-end lists.

“People that say they’ve listened to our record tons of times already, and it’s still relatively new. So that’s always a great feeling as a musician because we’re certainly passionate about the music that we write, obviously. So it feels amazing when people feel the same way and want to keep coming back.

“I guess another thing about our music and just music in general that I like is bands that I love to listen to and keep going back to. There are Alice In Chains records that I probably listened to a thousand times. You can always hear different things too. You pay attention to different instruments, and you can find these little easter eggs along the way. We have a lot going on in our music, and sometimes it’s dense, and sometimes it’s sort of deceptively simple. Then you listen to some other part, and there might be some new thing that you discover.

“So, yeah, we try to have those sort of easter egg moments. Those elements of surprise in our music so that fans can hopefully keep coming back and hearing new things with each listen.”

Revocation - The Asylum, Birmingham - 15 February 2023
Revocation – The Asylum, Birmingham – 15 February 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

Dave produced the new album. Was that something that came out of when the whole world went into nothingness for a time? “Yeah, that was pretty much born from Covid-19,” he says. “I had to keep sane during the pandemic. There was no touring, nothing happening. So I just kind of dove into my work. I practised a ton. I wrote a lot of music, and I tried to teach myself other crafts within the music sphere. Music production, really getting comfortable with recording and logic, which is my dog choice. Even videography. I recently filmed a sort of master class for this website called Riff Hard. Normally they fly people out, and they have their own studio. I thought I was just gonna buy the cameras and just like learn how to do it all myself.

“I work well with a trial-by-fire mindset. Kind of thrust yourself into something and make a million mistakes along the way, and then you figure it out by the end of it. So yeah, even though obviously the pandemic sucked for everybody, I tried to make the most of it and just sort of stay positive and pick up some new skills. I honestly don’t know if I would have learned those new skills had that not happened. You try to find the silver linings and things, even if they were fucking shitty.”

Going into something brand new and trying to learn from those mistakes but understanding the processes has worked well, given the production of this unbelievable album. I’d like to know if Dave plans to keep this side going. “Yeah. It’s funny after this one, I really don’t know if I’m ever going to go back to a studio again.

“Because it obviously costs a lot of money when you’re tracking with different people, so it’s a huge way to save a little dough in the studio to do it yourself. You can even pay yourself rather than paying somebody else. And I never felt like I needed help writing songs. Even when we worked with great producers over the years, they’ve had little bits of input here and there. But the majority of it is written before we go into the studio, so I just don’t know if I feel that need. Certainly, someone to mix and master the record. I’ll always want that because even if I got good at that, I would probably want a fresh set of ears on something because sometimes you can get too close to a project. So, for me, I’ll stick to the engineering side of things, and we’ll stick to mixing and mastering with other people.”

Paolo Girardi with Netherheaven artwork. Photo: Revocation via Twitter
Paolo Girardi with Netherheaven artwork. Photo: Revocation via Twitter

The album sounds amazing, but the artwork is very special too. “That Paolo Girardi,” Dave says. “He’s an incredible artist. He looks like he’s from renaissance times or something like that in terms of his artwork.”

The artwork is a masterpiece of very dark things. “Paulo is very well versed in those styles of paintings,” Dave says. “He’s just an incredible artist, visionary. He has his own style, and it’s very demonic and warped and twisted. I just love the artwork that he puts out. I did give him several references that he would know, like, Hieronymus Bosch and even woodcuts and things like that from back in the day that had that depiction of demonic entities or hellish themes in general.

“So I sent those over, and I sent him over some of his works that I really liked. And I said, hey, you know, I really dig the composition of these pieces you’ve done. I also sent him some classic and newer Metal album covers that I liked as well, just to give a general picture. Then I gave him the themes and the song titles, and the album title. It was funny. I was like, hey can you give me a sketch? And he was like, I don’t do sketches. I just let it rip. So, ok, I trust the process here. It is definitely amazing. It’s a real piece of art that he has delivered. I hope to one day own the original.”

I agree. It is just absolutely incredible. “It’s like the expression if you like eating like a meal, you eat with your eyes first, right? You want it to look appetising. It’s the same thing, I think, with album covers. I bought records based on the album cover alone when I was a kid because it looked so fucking insane.”

Maybe we are going back to that ’80s period, where there was a lot of iconography in the way that albums were put together. Maybe we’re getting back to where people want it on the t-shirts, and people want it on the album covers.

“There are just so many great artists out there nowadays that are all doing different things and have their own styles,” Dave says. “I feel very fortunate that we got to work with Paulo, and he did such an incredible job on it.”

That evening Revocation would play an enticing mix of new songs and songs from the catalogue. “We’re not gonna play the full album or anything like that because it’s still relatively new. So I think we will let people sit with it a little bit longer. But there are definitely a good amount of songs from Netherheaven, and then we just dive into our whole catalogue. I mean, at this point, goddamn, we have like seven or eight records out, so it’s kind of hard to choose a set without it being three hours long. But there’s some classic bangers in there, there’s some new material, there’s some deep cuts.

“If you’re just a Revocation fan in general, you’ll be pleased with the set, and if you’re a newcomer and Netherheaven is the first thing that you’ve heard from us, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised as well. There’s a lot of material from the new record. But there’s also some songs that, to us, feel like staples of our set at this point.”

You can read our report from the evening here.

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