REVIEW: Royal/Revise – Advent [EP/2014]


Artist: Royal/Revise

Album: Advent – EP


Let’s talk stereotypes—specifically, let’s talk about genre stereotypes. I’m going to guess that at least part of you cringes at the term “metalcore,” as thoughts of copy-paste clean-vocal choruses and same-sounding stutter-stop “brutal” breakdowns flood your mind. In reality, the popularized metalcore bands seem almost as if they’ve become self-satirical, exacerbating the same boring gimmicks and overdone song dynamics with each release. Enter Royal/Revise—a band that brings more than an unusual name to the kingdom of metalcore. Rather, the band’s sound is just as enigmatic as their name, as Advent is truly the dawning of a figurative new day for fans of metalcore. Advent is a combination of serene, ambient interludes that link together moments of bouncy, riff-driven and thrash-influenced intensity. Rather than chug-driven heaviness or bore-you-to-tears breakdowns, Royal/Revise utilize jarring, jagged riffs, punchy percussion and raw, emotional vocals to create an experience that hits the listener like a wrecking ball, caving in their chest and kicking the air out of their lungs.

Rather than rely on traditional song structure and tried-and-true instrumentals, Royal/Revise utilize brilliant, angular and sharp riffs overtop of punchy, bright percussion to completely dazzle the listener. If Advent were a body, it would be that of a Greek God—and percussionist Dan Eisenman would be it’s proudly thumping heart. Eisenman provides a vivid, intense firmament for each track, attacking the listener’s senses with bright, splashy cymbals that contrast beautifully with thunderous, pounding toms and deep, rib-shaking kick drum. Even during the jazzy, ambient interlude at the beginning of “Dark Passenger,” Eisenman’s thudding kick and snappy snare soar beautifully alongside Alex Skraba’s writhing, slinky bass tone to create a smooth, subtle atmosphere that gives the listener the rest they need after the shotgun-to-the-chest kick-start that “Your Shadow” provides.  In fact, the entirety of Advent is fertile ground for brilliant instrumental interplay between Eisenman and Skraba. “Still Breathing” is home to an exotic style of catchy, creative percussion that lends frantic energy to Skraba’s otherwise sturdy, stalwart bass guitar. Likewise, even during the most stagnant and sludgy moments of the EP, Skraba’s bass can always be heard plunk-ing along beneath every other instrumental layer; as if it was a river, moving even the heaviest chunks of debris along. However, the most brilliant aspect of the “Skraba-Eisenman dynamic” is the canvas it creates for the glorious guitar playing from Hunter Sheatz. In a word, Sheatz’ fretwork is heartfelt. Every chord, riff, chug and pluck feels as if it’s aimed right at the listener’s heartstrings—from the driving, jarring fury that defines “Your Shadow,” through “Dark Passenger” and it’s atmospheric introduction, all the way through the echoing conclusion of “Ego,” Sheatz is absolutely relentless in delivering a diverse array of impeccable instrumentation that is neither repetitive or tediously over-technical. Sheatz—along with all of Royal/Revise’s instrumentation—comes directly from the heart. Nothing more, nothing less.

Royal/Revise aren’t satisfied to stop there, however. In making one of the most immersive and emotionally engaging soundscapes since Hundredth’s Let Go, they also follow through with a comprehensive vocal approach that keeps the listener on their seat’s edge. Vocalist LJ Fickenworth might not have the most immense range the genre has ever seen, nor will he be awarded for any Pulitzer prizes for life-changing lyrics alone (although he comes close), but what he lacks in cheap thrills for the listener, he makes up for in compassion, energy and emotion. Fickenworth convincingly screams and shouts every syllable to every heart-wrenching line on Advent in such a way that it nearly brings the listener to tears. The conclusion to the bombastic, boisterous “Your Shadow” may be one of the most moving parts of the EP—much in part to Fickenworth’s flustered, fantastic and visceral vocal performance. Just as Royal/Revise’s instrumental elements spared no expense to enthrall the listener with an emotionally relevant element, Fickenworth’s vocals follow suit.

While passion and emotion are two of the bastions by which Advent stands tall, it remains a daunting testament to raunchy, heavy and groove-friendly metalcore that fans of aggressive music know and love. “Your Shadow,” for all it’s heart-rending compassion, is still a riff-driven shred-machine. Similarly, while “Ego” may begin modestly enough, it certainly speeds up without much in the way of warning, creatively weaving its way into the listener’s head and staying stuck there for days.  However, when it comes to raw fury and fast, loose heaviness, the listener should look no further than the EP’s title track. “Advent” is a testament to the band’s diversity in the truest sense of the word. Not only does it draw from all of the band’s broad influences, but it is also both convincingly emotional and completely crushing—as climactic, pummeling breakdowns are connected by moments of serenity and surreal, poetic lyricism that manages to both soothe the listener’s heart while boiling their blood. While it’s hard to say there is really one track that brings together everything that Royal/Revise have to offer, the listener would be hard pressed to find a better example than “Advent.”

Is it the band’s ability to create simultaneously emotional and energetic music—alive with both the fires of fury and feeling? Or maybe it’s the immense array of influences that inspire them? No matter what it is, there’s something different about Royal/Revise that make their brand of metalcore magnificent. Indeed, Advent is a unique take on heavy and inspiring music that will surely stand as a beacon and inspiration for the releases of Royal/Revise’s peers to come.


For Fans Of: Hundredth, Erra, Liferuiner, One Last Night, Harp & Lyre

By: Connor Welsh