Level 10 – Chapter 1 (Frontiers Records)Thursday, 29th January 2015
Given drive plus desire to see where professional musicians and songwriting can go, the possibilities are limitless thanks to modern technology for new projects to hit the streets. Take one proven vocalist in Symphony X’s Russell Allen, add in the production/bassist/writing skills of Primal Fear’s Mat Sinner – assemble the right musicians in all other places (Roland Grapow, Alex Beyrodt, Alessandro Del Vecchio, Randy Black) and you have the Trans-Atlantic Metallic alliance known as Level 10. Although the initial idea of conception to final product took years to come to fruition, the results are ideal for those who love European power metal meshing with American contemporary emotions and heaviness.
What this means for the listener is a hefty serving of finesse oriented guitars, locked and loaded hooks and tempos, plus the soulful, multi-octave melodic mastery that allows Russell to lift material to even loftier planes. Alternating between Euro-oriented offerings that have a lot of guitar hero spirit a la Firewind in opener “Cry No More” and “No Turning Back” and then heavier material that gains a lot of 70’s organ accents on early highlight “One Way Street”, Level 10 understands the need for spacious dynamics even within the constructs of a melodic power metal-oriented record.
There are certainly some classic Dio comparisons that come up for “Last Man on Earth”, while a tip of the cap to “Future World” – period Helloween musically on some of the Grapow/Beyrodt licks and lead break work for the call and response oriented “Scream and Shout”. Only downer on an otherwise killer record would be the sappy power ballad “All Hope Is Gone” – riddled with clichéd lyrics (‘Here I am getting drunk again/Yeah I rolled the dice/so I’ll pay the price’) and expected power chord bursts for the tear jerking chorus. But those who love the steady Primal Fear-like riff juggernaut can skip to track ten “Demonized” and all will be rectified in Level 10 world.
While most await the next Symphony X record (according to social media reports, Russell’s vocals are all done), Chapter 1 should remind most of his natural metal register, and easily find a home in many Euro-centric collections.