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Long-running Maryland Doom band Revelation had a complicated history during their 28-year career. Comarde Aleks looks back on it, with the assistance of Bert Hall Jr.

Interview with Revelation (USA).
"Revelation is one of the oldest US Doom Metal bands. It was formed in 1985 under the name Panic, but one year after that they changed their name to Revelation inspired by Trouble's song 'Revelation (Life or Death)'. The original line-up consisted of John Brenner (guitars, lyrics, vocals), Andy Kremer (bass) and Steve Branagan (drums), but Andy soon left the band and, after two demo records, new bass player Bert Hall Jr. joined them. This trio recorded the debut full-length 'Salvation's Answer' in 1991: it was one of the first releases for Rise Above Records… Revelation disbanded in 2013 after 27 years of existence and 7 full-length albums (though Against Nature, the side-project of its members, recorded 17(!!!) albums and 2 EPs in nine years). I got in touch with Bert to clarify the details of the band's past and invite you to take a glimpse back at the American Doom story."

Revelation: Bert Hall Jr. (bass), Steve Branagan (drums), John Brenner (guitar, vocals) .

Bert, you started in Revelation in 1988: how was it, back then, playing Doom? What kind of obstacles did you meet on your way?

When I joined the band, a few people knew about us, mainly because they were aware of John from his short time in Have Mercy and the Metal Massacre compilation but it didn't seem like a lot. Shows weren't often full of people. A lot of people were into thrash and were just figuring out doom. Revelation actually had some thrashier music in the beginning, too. Back then, I don't think we all were as aware that people heard and appreciated the music. I'm grateful to have talked to folks that followed what we were doing years later. Sometimes, in some of the situations I've been in, the biggest obstacles were ourselves. We're doing our best to stay out of our own way and get on with making music.

What was your environment like in Baltimore in the late '80s? How would you describe the scene as it was?

I don't know that there was a scene like there is now. It was about a year before we played a gig where we began to meet people like the original lineups of Internal Void and Iron Man. Now everyone is aware of most everybody else.

Your first full-length album recorded with Revelation was the band's debut 'Salvation's Answer', what do you remember about that recording session? What was on your mind when you entered Alternative studios in Pittsburgh?

Going into that studio was only my second time IN a studio and I was still very inexperienced. I remember that we had to rerecord all of my bass because I was using an 8 string Rickenbacker and it was hell to keep it in tune! LOL We used a studio that the original lineup of Penance recommended. They are actually picture somewhere that show that they went to the studio with us and hang out while we recorded. My first show with them we played with Penance when they were still calling themselves Dream Death and we were very close friends with them in those days.

Revelation - 'Salvation's Answer':

How did it happen that you left the band in 1991, and then returned after ten years of absence? I see that you spent this period in at least two different bands.

At the end of 1991, our album had been completed and unreleased for over a year. Other things, at the time, made me feel like I needed a change. I played in five bands during those years (1992-2004). Revelation drifted back together, as Against Nature, when one member that simply stopped playing music, rediscovered his passion for it and approached us to start up again.

Against Nature is something incredible! Together you released 17 full-length records between 2005 and 2012! How did you manage to do it?

Originally Against Nature played mostly doomy music. As time went on, John became interested in doing different things and changed the tone of the music. Towards the end, we would mostly doing 70's blues based hard rock, but we had experimented with quite a few other things before we got to that point

How did you compile Against Nature live sets with such a large amount of songs to choose from?

A lot of the time, we played from albums that were the most recent two or three that we had done. It was very unusual for us to play something that we had done more than a year earlier. At this point, we were doing about three albums a year, starting a brand-new went just as we finished the last one. Thinking about it now, I don't really believe that John had a lot of interest in looking back on what we had done and being bound to continue repeating those things.

Against Nature - 'Descend':

So you left Revelation in the early '90s and returned 16 years later. How did you see the changes which happened with the band?

I think we had a better idea of what we wanted to do by the time we restarted Revelation. I was surprised to see it happen, actually. There was a desire to leave those songs in the past and move forward when we began Against Nature. We'd also had a few years of working together by 2007 that helped us zoom in on what Revelation, involving the three of us, should sound like at that point and I believe that made it easier to decide to move ahead. I loved what Steve Branagan, Dennis Cornelius and Jim Hunter did on "Yet So far"! I enjoyed Frozen Masque, also! Great songs!! "Finished with you" was amazing! "Eternal Search" and "Morning sun" from "Yet so far" were absolutely brilliant, IMO!

After your return Revelation worked on the fourth full-length album, 'Release'. Did you discuss where to turn with the new material or did you just spend time jamming in the studio?

Nine times out of 10 John would have all of the riffs plotted out and would either give us a recording of the ribs without any other instruments to listen to or he would simply bring them up in rehearsal. Steve and I would work on all of the music and add our instrumental slant on them and they would take shape this way. After we had played these songs for a period of time and were comfortable with them, we would record without vocals. Sometime later, John would write the lyrics and record the vocals and we would only hear it once he was finished doing that. When we are recording the songs, we could not really tell if something was a verse or chorus or if something was a bridge, or even if he intended to solo over it. He would do the vocals and the guitar solos after we had recorded all the music and then we would hear the song from a completely new perspective.

How do you see the features of Revelation? What did you put into the albums - 'Release', 'Revelation', 'For The Sake Of No One' and 'Inner Harbor'?

Steve and I reacted to the sketches that were brought in and added our touches to them. I had a pretty free reign to come up with whatever I heard on those songs for the bass, for the most part. The lyrics were written last or, perhaps we heard them last, after the recording was complete. We rehearsed the music instrumentally and never heard the vocals for the songs until completion. By the last album, I ended up collaborating on one set of lyrics and providing the riffs that ended two songs. Aside from working out my bass parts, I typically had little to do with the writing. We had material that I was excited about playing and that I'm still very proud to have been a part of!

Revelation - 'For The Sake Of No One':

Revelation is tagged as a Doom Metal/Progressive band. What can you tell us about its prog side?

The three of us really liked bands like RUSH and others Who explored everything you could do with the music you had to work with. In some cases we liked synthesizer and in others we like just jamming to music out and extending things away a lot of the music that we really liked did in the 70s.

The band's latest album, 'Inner Harbour', was edited down from 60 to 35 minutes: how was that possible?

We started recording the album at least twice maybe three times before finally getting all the way through. I believe, looking back, that the whole thing was running out of gas, for some of us. I know that I would have preferred to be doing heavier music similar to what we did in the first two years of Against Nature and during the original Revelation albums before we reformed.

Revelation - 'Inner Harbour':

Why did the band stop its activity in 2013? What was the main catalyst?

Without going into too much detail, because I don't want to get into personal reasons, at least one person simply didn't want to do it anymore. I spent the next several months thinking and hoping that they would change their mind. In the end, they decided to do other things. It was that person's decision and the best we can do is respect that.

Revelation had its 30th birthday in 2016: did you discuss the chance to gather and play a few gigs to remind people about it?

To my knowledge, it was never discussed unless it was discussed without involving me. At least one other band member had other considerations going on in their life and would be less likely to resume the pace that we once kept. The other band member, I seriously doubt would be interested unless there were some major change involved in the nature of the band. To be completely candid, since I have gone on record talking about the fact that the band doesn't exist anymore, it is unlikely that the person who made that decision will resume communicating to initiate anything involving getting together that would involve me. They simply wished to walk away quietly, unannounced.

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Visit the Revelation (USA) bandpage.

Interviewed on 2017-04-04 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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