Revocation Headlines "Metalympics" At Silk City in Florence, Massachusetts
Band Photo: Revocation (?)
Western Massachusetts is home to one of the most loyal and fanatical local metal scenes I only vaguely knew existed. National exports such as Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage aside, all my years of visiting family in the area hadn’t yet tapped me into the region’s pulsing, simmering underground until Saturday, November 12th.
Still sore from the merciless thrashing I’d received at the hands of Anthrax the evening prior in Worcester, I dragged my exhausted body and scrambled mind out to the main event of “Metalympics.” A regional battle of the bands devoted to guess-what-genre, Metalympics is a beloved grassroots institution. While shows are ordinarily held at Easy Street Nightclub up the road in Greenfield, tonight’s event had been moved to Silk City Taproom in the snug hamlet of Florence – after the regular venue temporarily closed its doors.
The initial draw for me was tonight’s celebrated headliner, Revocation. Fresh off a national tour with Chimaira, the Bostonian extreme trio-turned-quartet had begun a smattering of bar gigs throughout the holiday season before their upcoming run with Finland’s Children Of Bodom in the new year. I arrived at Silk City well after 8pm as the band were loading in, and managed to survey the scene before me. After some introductions and chatting, it seemed as though half the patrons were either in a local band playing tonight, in a local band NOT playing tonight, or a girlfriend of either (or both) of the above. With the enthusiastic support of their coed metal brethren (the other half), this scene resembles a large, close-knit extended family.
After a lively interview on the second-floor terrace with Revocation guitarist/vocalist Dave Davidson, drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne, and guitarist Dan Gargiulo, I ventured back downstairs to catch the evening’s local talent. First up was this year’s Metalympics silver medal winner, Holyoke’s The Black Heart Epidemic. They played an inventive, hammering blend of melodic hardcore and doom metal, laced with the mournful strains of an onstage cellist. But Korpiklaani, this band is not – the strings provide a melancholic atmosphere and depth, and the imposing, wild-eyed Moses Whitlock is a frontman not to be messed with. Sweet as can be offstage, but Derrick Green’s incarcerated felon cousin while performing. Intense stuff.
Then came Metalympics’ gold medalists, the cleverly named Western Massacre. Based right in Florence, these guys have a rabid local following, which became obvious the second they launched their vengeful “death groove” attack, led by frontgrowler Matt Lentner and shredder Kyle Leary. The small, cozy dance floor was transformed into a rugby field right before my eyes, the moshing spurred on by that evening’s intoxicated “team captains” – one of them a short girl about the size of a toothpick with oiled arm joints and unforgiving knuckles. My face learned this the hard way.
As Western Massacre’s set drew to a close, the moshing continued. Like the warm-down period after a treadmill session, the accumulated energy on the floor took a couple minutes to fully bleed off. I again discovered this when I attempted to carry two full pint glasses of Sam Adams across the floor. Miraculously, one of them survived the daunting trip still full.
As Revocation geared up for their set, the dissipated energy began to build back again. There’s a special vibe about this type of show that owes itself to the tiny size of the venue. Silk City’s floor-level stage is about the size of a postage stamp, and you can forget backstage doors, pre-show concealment, or grand entrances. All the trappings of rock stardom were off the table, and in their place, an intimacy between performer and audience that obliterates all barriers. Frontman Dave Davidson made this plain as he tuned his guitar, busting out the opening riffs of Megadeth’s “Tornado Of Souls.”
A tornado of souls Silk City did become, too, when Revocation finally threw the switch. The title of their new album, “Chaos Of Forms,” echoes Shakespeare’s oxymoronic musing from “Romeo And Juliet,” “misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms.” What an apt description of Revocation’s music, where extreme metal subgenres meet and have raging sex. Thrash, death, speed, and groove collided and clashed in a technical and progressive whirlwind of precision. If the floor resembled a rugby field before, it was a concentrated killing zone now.
As headliners, the band had the chance to offer a healthy selection of cuts from their three-album career to date, including the rocking At The Gates-esque instrumental “Across Forests And Fjords” from their 2009 release “Existence Is Futile” (Prior to this song, Davidson instructed the crowd to “RAISE YOUR GLASS OF MEAD HIGH!”).
But the biggest reactions of the evening, by far, were to the new songs. With the recent addition of Dan Gargiulo on second guitar, the band is in top, tight form as a quartet – which is most apparent on the “Chaos Of Forms” material. “Cretin” and “Cradle Robber” made early appearances, while Davidson saved his silliest onstage banter for the midpoint performance of “Conjuring The Cataclysm.”
In a comedic black metal-ish rasp, he informed us, “THIS SONG IS ABOUT SUMMONING ANCIENT DEMONS! AND THE HOT CHICK DEMON JERKS YOU OFF… AND FINGERS YOUR PEE-HOLE WHILE SHE DOES IT… AND IT FEELS WEIRD! Uh, yeah, this song’s about that.” As he began the song’s peaceful, laid-back opening guitar licks, he improvised a single accompanying lyric: “PEE-HOLE!” Draw your own conclusions.
Revocation wrapped up their set with the thrashing video single “No Funeral,” around which time the guitar picks started to fly. At show’s end, the aforementioned nonexistent barriers stayed that way. The band casually proceeded to pack up their gear and mind their miniature merch booth in the corner, all while mixing and mingling with Silk City’s patrons. There was no mob-like crush of fans wanting a piece of their favorite artists; the prevailing vibe was very much that of a neighborhood basement show. For the time being, Revocation is experiencing the best of both worlds – headlining gigs like this, and opening slots on major tours – all the better to share their face-melting music in every way, shape, and chaotic form.
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