Revelation is a band many have acclaimed as providing the seeds and spark for progressive doom metal and over the years since forming in the mid-eighties, the Baltimore band has richly earned and garnered the respect of fans and bands alike for their doom clothed progressive imagination. Admittedly it is a band which has eluded our focus at The RR more often than not over that time, though occasionally we have dipped into their melancholic familiar yet distinct sound without finding the spark to spending an intensive time with them. The release of new album Inner Harbor via Shadow Kingdom, with a vinyl version through Pariah Child, has changed that. The enthralling six track release is not destined to worry end of year best of selections nor send us diving into their back catalogue more intensively but it has a charm and intrigue which makes it hard to leave it alone.
The trio of guitarist/vocalist John Brenner, bassist Bert Hall Jr., and drummer Steve Branagan, have stepped forth with a new, for arguments sake direction for their songwriting and aural presence, Inner Harbor a mellower and warmer seductive persuasion compared to their expected heavier stance. It still carries heavy enveloping shadows and crawling alluring atmospheres rife with intensity but there is an air of light and playful energy which arguably has not featured in their creativity before. It is a relaxed and laid-back encounter with weaves and calming washes of progressive temptation taking the lead before their darker absorbing doom intent. The presence of seventies Italian progressive rock as an influence to the release has been cited and certainly across the tracks thoughts of Goblin were playing upon the surface of thoughts, but the release has many textures and flavours at work and is wonderfully hard to pin down. It is also a little inconsistent and even after multiple intensive plays the final opinion of it is undecided. It is definitely an enjoyable and as mentioned wholly intriguing album which refuses to let go but it never really lights any fires within for a long enough or truly lasting impact but there is still something which calls one back.
The album opens with the fiery breath of the title track, its stoner blues introduction a cautious but inviting welcome especially with the flame of sonic fire from the guitar. As the vocals join the song drops into a reserved stance and loses that initially grip, though the track still holds a healthy attention. The vocals are fine without inspiring any real reaction, their expressionless style lacking against the sounds and almost pulling them into a similarly less than dynamic voice, and in many ways the track epitomises the album. It does not leave flushes of thrills but there is something to it which magnetises and persistently invites an inquisitive appetite. The climax of the song with its teasing groove and lead laden prowl leaves thoughts in question and emotions feeling equally short-changed but equally hungry for more.
The following Terribilita with its abrasive tone and sonic blaze of craft and invention again opens up a depth of interest like the first and with the following sway of the keys instantly offers something new and compelling. Also like its predecessor the song almost taunts and teases the passions into life but lacks the weaponry to seal the deal, the melodic caresses and vocal arms around the shoulder mellowness verging on soporific. It is a deceptive lure though as again the band save the best moments of the track for its electrifying conclusion, the charged groove and elevated pace still veined by the electro brilliance, a rousing crescendo.
Rebecca at the Well opens with an excellent almost vintage punk groove and intensity, the guitars and bass holding a snarl to their intent which is lacking in the previous songs. The heavily gaited breath of the sound has a L7/Damned like spice whilst the drop into the dark slowly consuming bowels of the track for a moment is a predatory menace soon dispelled by the bright hypnotic groove and mutually lit synths which ushers it away. With more than a post punk whisper to it the track is an enticing piece of invention and the highlight of the album though soon challenged by Eve Separated and the outstanding Jones Falls. The first of the pair offers its own addictive hook and groove combination whilst the vocals again without taking a firm grip bring a strong and eager melodic embrace, especially in the adjoining harmonies. Though finding the same problem as the earlier songs in that it has moments where it brings real excitement in between others which only leave a respectful satisfaction, the track undoubtedly beckons with enough to want to share its presence again. The second of the pair starts off with a feel of The Stranglers soon merging with Sabbath like imposing riffs and a sonic growl. Into its stride the track unveils eighties electro shimmering, its acidic touch an unexpected and exciting contagious co-conspirator with the best vocal performance on the album. The song is a bewitching journey through a landscape of ideas and colourful aural scenery, bright yet as across the album not quite finding the clarity to explosively dazzle. It is a great track though and adds to the allure of Inner Harbor even if not able to force a full adoration for the whole release.
Ending with An Allegory Of Want, an enveloping heady want of oppressive air and lumbering emotive, Inner Harbor is a release that will possibly open up a wider presence for Revelation. It does not leave a burning hunger in its wake but plants seeds of that irresistible intrigue which makes persistent entry into its almost puzzling realm a given.
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