Genre: Death/Thrash Metal | Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Location: Bergenfield, NJ | Listen: YouTube
Formed in 1986, Revenant was a death/thrash band hailing from north New Jersey, making them one of many involved in the New York death metal scene. Revenant stood apart from their peers in the sense they didn’t subscribe to more brutal side of death metal laden with breakdowns. These guys thrashed a lot harder, and threw a lot of twists and turns into their music as well as some real finger twisting riffs. A lot of fans, including myself, discovered Revenant due to early members forming two better known bands – Incantation and Profanatica. I couldn’t have imagined what this band sounded like basing it on their alumni’s later work.
After a string of demos and an EP, Revenant finally recorded their only full length album, which was released by Nuclear Blast in 1991. “Prophecies of a Dying World” has seven songs, where as the CD has an extra two tracks, pushing its length near an hour long. Although it is a lengthy listen, it’s somewhat forgivable considering that it’s their only full length, and there’s also a commendable variety of riffs and memorable hooks that can hold one’s attention for its duration.
As mentioned, this album is much more in the thrash realm of death metal. It reminds me a lot of Incubus’ first album – it’s ripping fast, and the vocals are definitely are on the higher register of screams compared to the guttural vocals that dominate most NYDM bands. The lyrics are fairly decipherable thanks to this approach. There’s far more extravagant songwriting on here though, with several tracks going beyond 6 and even 7 minutes. In addition to Sepultura like thrash pacing and even faster blast beat sections, Revenant lets loose into some slower and mid-paced riff to help establish creepy atmospheres and build ups.
Speaking of build up, the sheer speeds that build up during “The Unearthly” kill me every time – and it starts off fast. I usually show people this song if I want to give them a quick introduction to the band. In addition to just being savagely fast, the “thoughts devour thoughts” vocal hook rules, and there’s a nice ripping guitar solo too. Tracks like “In the Dark of the Psychic Unknown” sound like a Lovecraftian Morbid Angel, further adding more variety to the pot. “Asphyxiated Time” has probably the catchiest riff on the album, and the way they arranged the song around that intro riff is phenomenal. The last track, “Degeneration,” is probably the most straight ahead and brutal song on the album. It was written by John McEntee before he formed Incantation. Again, it doesn’t sound like an Incantation song, but keep in mind who wrote it when you listen to it!
The production is a little dry, especially the guitar. The bass is fairly easily heard, but doesn’t have a lot of clanky string attack to it. The drums sound fairly typical of death metal, fairly compressed but with a nice amount of reverberation to create space. It was recorded by the same guy who did fellow New Jerseyans Ripping Corpse, who might be the closest NJ band in style to Revenant.
There’s a lot of great songs on this record, and anyone who wants a platter of different riffs will definitely find themselves listening to it again and again. Revenant had a pretty unique sound and approach that really let them stand out among their NY/NJ peers. All things considered, I think this record has aged pretty well, although it is unmistakably from the early 90’s in sound. It is a shame they only had the single record, but that gives it a little bit more uniqueness and more reason to hunt it down.