A reasonably recent image of Revenge, who do not appear to care much about promo photos
  • Courtesy the artist
  • A reasonably recent image of Revenge, who do not appear to care much about promo photos

It’s hard to explain why I’m looking forward to Revenge, since I’ve never seen them before—the closest they’ve come to playing Chicago since forming 15 years ago was a gig in Aurora in 2003. But my most devoted metal-nerd friends—folks who’ve forgotten more about kvlt bands than I’ll ever know—all but hyperventilate with excitement at the prospect of a Revenge show. And afterward, they might post stuff on Twitter along the lines of “Revenge just flattened Webster Hall. I can’t imagine any band following them with any luck.”

That was “Grim” Kim Kelly last weekend, and Revenge were opening for Mayhem, the godfathers of second-wave Norwegian black metal—just as they will on Friday at Bottom Lounge.

Drummer and vocalist James Read founded Revenge in Edmonton, Alberta, in 2000, after the breakup of his band Conqueror (of War Cult Supremacy fame). These days he records with a guitarist and bassist who calls himself Vermin; the live lineup consists of Read on drums, Vermin on guitar and vocals, and an alleged Haasiophis on bass and vocals.

What makes Revenge special? Certainly not sophistication, virtuosity, or anything you could call production values—this stuff is crude and ugly by design, and in keeping with that aesthetic, most of the band’s recordings are hot garbage. I think what I respond to is the feeling that the violence in the songs seems so unhinged and intense that it might spill off the stage or out of the speakers. I’m not even talking about the people listening to it getting stirred up and rowdy—I mean that this music in and of itself feels like the manifestation of a disembodied malevolence that’s hell-bent on fucking your shit up.

Over spattery, hammering drumming and a constant taut churn of riffs that never reaches any sort of cathartic harmonic resolution, Read’s vocals leapfrog among several distinct varieties of incoherent fury, often employing two at once via the magic of overdubbing—there’s not only genre-appropriate growling and shrieking, but also disturbingly guttural chthonic gurgling and something so demented and blown-out it sounds like he just took a belt sander to a live microphone. The overall impression is of a creature with six arms and at least three throats trying to beat down a door you’re fighting to hold shut.

Today’s 12 O’Clock Track is “Scorned Detractor (Trust No One),” a frenzy of hateful filth from Revenge’s fourth and most recent full-length, Scum.Collapse.Eradication, released by Nuclear War Now! in 2012. I picked it because Read’s vocals at the beginning make him sound like the Tasmanian Devil, and I am easily amused.

The Facebook page that the Season of Mist label maintains for Revenge promises that the band’s 40-minute set will include material from all their past albums and at least one new song—”Desolation Insignia,” from a full-length to be released by Season of Mist this year.

Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.