‘Culling’ album review
release date: June 14, 2019
star rating: three out of five
review by Levi Yager
Trust no one – Culling has begun. Revisionist just dropped their full-length debut, and it’s a wild animal of a record. Extremely artistic and unflinchingly raw, Culling is a cryptic concept album dealing with some sort of apocalyptic rapture or – as the title says – culling. The circumstances and story of the album aren’t entirely clear, and the song lyrics don’t always seem to carry any kind of plot. Regardless, the ideas presented are fairly interesting, and Culling stacks up as a worthwhile listen – especially due to the multi-faceted precision on display from the musicians involved.
The highest points on the album are on the first half. Tracks one through three are relentless, driven by blast beats and fleshed out with intense screams. They set the general scene for the world that Culling takes place in, while at the same time establishing the overall sound of the record. There aren’t really any missteps here. Opener “Persona Non Grata” already creates one of the standout moments on the album with its atmospheric choir section in the last quarter, and the song as a whole has engaging pacing and noteworthy structure as well. “Lifer” is balls to the wall basically the whole time, and the finale in “Thought Crime” will no doubt burn itself into your brain.
“Keeper,” the fourth song, is pretty good, but it felt just a little stale after its preceding tracks. Not bad at all – but also not very inventive considering what we just heard previously. After the interlude “Transmission,” which is a voice recording/broadcast that contributes to the album’s concept, Revisionist switches things up with “Few and Far Away.” And this one’s a keeper. “Few and Far Away” is the first slower song on Culling, and it showcases the different approaches the band is capable of employing. It starts with melancholy guitar parts that totally take hold of the listener’s attention, and it features well-utilized gang vocals before its conclusion.
Unfortunately, much of the album’s second half suffers from the main problem I had with “Keeper;” there aren’t enough new elements presented to elevate the album to its greatest potential. Some cool moments surface on the later tracks, to be sure, but the songs ultimately failed to leave an impression on me like the majority of the earlier ones did. That being said, none of the songs on Culling are of low quality, but some are simply a cut above others.
Then “Witness Marks” shows up at number 10, and it definitely leaves its mark. The intro of matching vocal and guitar rhythms kicks the song off perfectly, and the composition is fantastic; you never know what to expect from verse to verse. It’s a diamond in the rough that reinvigorates the record at this point.
The title track follows and includes another broadcast segment at the end that injects some hope into the album’s loose narrative. And “Long Live” wraps things up as the last song. Sadly, neither track is on the same level as “Witness Marks,” but they still manage to bring a satisfactory ending to Culling.
A notable characteristic of this album is the fact that there’s not a single chorus to be found. On the one hand, this fact lends itself to progressive song structure, and the band wisely takes advantage of that on more than a few songs. On the other hand, it can make the album sound somewhat homogeneous at times since choruses make songs easy to distinguish from one another. Nonetheless, the lack of choruses provides that the lyrics read more like poetry, adding to Culling’s artistic attributes. Albeit confusing at times, these lyrics are well-written and fully captivating. On the musical side, one of the best qualities Revisionist brings into play on Culling is that they really know how to build into – and build off of – breakdowns. These guys aren’t messing around; the breakdowns never felt contrived, and they didn’t fizzle out. It’s a great thing to hear for many a metal head. Although, one of the album’s weaknesses is the inconsistency of the screaming. It’s not an issue most of the time, but sometimes the screams sounded frayed – like they needed to be fuller. I didn’t notice it as much on the higher screams, but it happened occasionally with ones leaning toward the lower end. Everybody’s screams are different, though, so a lot of listeners may not have a problem with it.
If you’re into heavy music, I’d say give Culling a spin or two. It’s obvious that the guys in Revisionist are crazy talented, and the amount of energy that radiates from this record makes me want to catch a live show of theirs sometime. While Culling isn’t a masterpiece, it’s a good album that sets a solid foundation for what Revisionist might do in the future. And my ears are primed and ready for that.