Published May 22, 2020War metal, chaotic black metal, bestial black metal — there have been many names for Revenge's raw, primal sound. Whatever you call it, it's hard as fuck. Since forming in 2000 after the dissolution of James Read's prior band, Conqueror, the Edmonton, AB, duo of Read and guitarist/bassist Vermin have savagely rebuked trends and scenes with every release. Strike.Smother.Dehumanize, their second album since signing to Season of Mist, is no different.
The one thing that often does differ between Revenge albums is the production. This latest album is comparatively clean sounding, pushing the guitars and vocals upfront while the drums form the backbone of the music, similar to the sound of their fourth album, Scum.Collapse.Eradication. It's clear as to why that was the direction taken here. There's more death metal and hardcore in the band's sound this time around, with a heavy emphasis on breakdowns, caveman riffs, and that massive guitar and bass tone. You can hear it in the bridge in "Oath Violator" and the beatdown riffs amid "Human Animal." There's even a riff in the intro of "Excommunication" that would feel right at home on a Cancer Bats record.
The rest of the album consists of the harsh vocals, violent blast beats and guitar solos like a swarm of angry bees that one has come to expect from Revenge. It's a primal sound that taps into humanity's latent urge to mosh, but by the end of the album the formula feels repetitive. It's partly due to the shortage of noise elements in the equation. The sounds integral to Revenge are there, like the sharp pick slides and guttural vocals, but it doesn't have the arsenal that made their more underground, kvlt-sounding records particularly afflicting. Those nightmarish slapback echo vocals do make a brief appearance in the psychotic "Death Hand (Strike Dehumanization)", and more tracks like that would have helped elevate this album.
While Strike.Smother.Dehumanize is a bit on the repetitive side, it doesn't mean it's worth overlooking. It's that AC/DC conundrum, everything sounds kind of the same, but it's all pretty good so it doesn't really matter. It's Revenge doing what they do best, like a predatory species that existed in the same form a million years, and will exist for a million more. (Season of Mist)