The war metal veterans return with another uncompromising assault.
It’s been five years since REVENGE, a veritable institution in the black metal scene, has released a full length (I'm not counting the 2018 two-song EP Deceiver.Diseased.Miasmic, which is basically just a single). Usually, when a band takes five years to put out an album, it means the fate of the band is in question or they’re drastically reinventing their sound. But the idea of REVENGE reinventing themselves is downright laughable. One of the most well known bands in one of the most well known (and reviled) sub-genres of black metal, REVENGE have stuck to the same formula for the entirety of their career and continue to churn out aggressive bulldozers of records with no end in sight. They’ve stuck to the same naming schema (with not only the album names remaining consistent, but also the use of the infamous parenthetical song subtitles) for the past two decades, a dedication to aesthetics that most bands can only dream of.
Of course, REVENGE is much more than an aesthetic influence on war metal. Behind the stark black and white simplicity of their sigil-like album covers lurks music that is hateful, potent, and focused. There isn’t much middle ground when it comes to REVENGE. Their music is as divisive as it is raw, and most listeners can determine whether or not they like it within five seconds of listening. In other words, you’re either with them or against them - and you get the impression that that’s exactly how REVENGE likes it. Preaching contempt for modern man via gospels of supremacy and isolation, REVENGE continue to look down on the rest of humanity from the lofty heights they’ve been scaling for the past twenty years.
Strike.Smother.Dehumanize contains all of the familiar elements of a REVENGE record: all-out blasts completely devoid of nuance, heavily distorted tremolo riffs, crushing, almost groovy death metal riffs, pitch-shifted vocals, and of course, noisy atonal solos whose only purpose seems to be further disorienting the listener. But, perhaps consciously or unconsciously due to their relatively recent partnership with Season of Mist, it seems to me that REVENGE has opted for a SLIGHTLY (please mentally emphasize the word slightly because it’s important) cleaner production with the release of this record. I feel like I can discern the drum work and riffs a bit more than usual, which is actually a fairly significant change considering the rest of the band’s discography. The snare sounds punchier and the guitar tone is… dare I say it… audible. Don’t get me wrong, this record is definitely the soundtrack to the total annihilation of the human race, but with a bit of clarity mixed in so you can really hear those howls of anguish.
J. Read’s vocal delivery is frantic and furious as per usual, and his drumming is positively apoplectic. Multi-instrumentalist Vermin continues to churn out surprisingly catchy, if not exactly crystal clear, riffs and grooves that make this record more than just a full out furious assault from start to finish. For instance, Lightning Mythos is already destined to be one of my favorite black metal tracks of the year. I continue to admire REVENGE's ability to take things that should work against them - compositional simplicity, one-note dynamics, and less than stellar production - and fuse them all together into some of the most consistently impressive and recognizable black metal in the game.
I’ve noted in previous reviews that war metal is an inherently conservative genre. Most bands don’t seem overly eager to push the envelope, incorporate elements from other genres, or otherwise play with the formula that - let’s be real - continues to sell records. And there’s a good reason for that. BLASPHEMY and CONQUEROR created a framework that was both timely and timeless. It’s not like these bands are ever at risk of sounding dated, considering the fact that they opted for lo-fi production right out of the gate. REVENGE haven’t reinvented themselves or the genre on this record, but they have continued to demonstrate that this formula works - and in this case, it works god damn well.
Stream Strike.Smother.Dehumanize in full below via Season of Mist. Get yours HERE.