(Rata Mutante 2017)
It seems particularly challenging for South American bands to make an impression in the global heavy metal underground. There are language barriers, geographic distances, distribution limitations, and cultural differences that all seem to play into the equation. A regrettable byproduct of this state of affairs is that certain really strong South American acts are denied the international recognition they deserve. Case in point: Colombia’s Revenge, who have been slugging it out below the radar (albeit just above the equator) for a decade and a half, during which time they have released seven full-length albums and a fistful of EPs and splits. It’s expensive and time-consuming to purchase their albums from Colombia, but Revenge are so good that I’ve been doing so for some time now. The rest of you are in luck, because Revenge’s latest album, appropriately entitled Spitting Fire, will be getting a broad physical release in Europe next month via Iron Shield Records, to be distributed via Pure Steel Records. Assuming there are no material differences between the Colombian pressing (which I have) and the forthcoming Iron Shield version, here’s what you have to look forward to.
The basic recipe of Revenge’s sound is straightforward: Dark, speedy, traditional metal with somewhat primitive production and arrangements. Early Running Wild (think Branded and Exiled) is an obvious reference point, not only in the Kasparek-inspired riffs but also sometimes even in the vocals of Esteban “Hellfire” Mejia (see “Thy Axes Scream” for a good example). But we’re not talking about a Running Wild clone a la Blazon Stone or even Lonewolf. Revenge aren’t singing about pirates, they press hard on the gas pedal, and there’s a pervasive malevolent raw energy to the whole endeavor that contrasts with the upbeat campiness of Rock’n’Rolf’s troops from time to time. Also, Hellfire’s vocal style varies from song to song, and in certain tracks takes on a higher-pitched, cleaner character that bears no resemblance to Running Wild. What you’re left with is ripping speedy riffs, energetic songwriting, and an unsophisticated, straightahead honesty to the presentation that is both refreshing and endearing. By that, I mean there’s no pretentiousness to Revenge’s one-dimensional sonic attack. They plug in, turn up, and go straight for the jugular. And it sounds cool as hell.
Spitting Fire clocks in at a lean eight songs and 32 minutes, including a remake of a track called “Infernal Angels” that first saw the light of day on Revenge’s 2003 demo of the same name. Interestingly, “Infernal Angels” is one of the more nuanced tracks on display, kicking off with gently strummed clean guitars before adding cascading power chords and settling into a midtempo stomp with screeching vocals, then finally kicking into high gear three minutes in. Elsewhere, songs like “Heavy Metal Friends,” “Rise of the Braves” (not about a certain suburban Atlanta baseball club) and “Wild Till Death” are just full-on speed metal celebrations. Ordinarily, I might be one to complain that an album of this duration is a bit skimpy on content, but honestly Spitting Fire feels like just the right length. There’s not a lot of diversity on display here, so it’s more effective for Revenge to show up, hit you as hard as they can, then vanish in the night before you ever know what hit you, rather than overstaying their welcome.
I salute the Colombian warriors in Revenge for creating yet another killer album in Spitting Fire, one that stays true to their artistic vision and packs quite a wallop. If you’ve not had the pleasure of making Revenge’s acquaintance, the impending Iron Shield release of Spitting Fire in the new year gives you the perfect platform to do so. No-frills, hammer-down speed metal is the name of the game, and Revenge play for keeps. Check ‘em out.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~