Level 10 is the result of a coming together of two titans in the progressive metal and speed/power metal genres. Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob) and Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Sinner) had discussed a collaboration a few times, and in 2014, they finally got together and recorded the first record for the Level 10 project, fittingly called Chapter One. Given the reputation and talent of both masterminds behind this effort, it promises to be good… But let’s see if the promise is worth checking the rest of the story out as it unfolds.
“Cry No More” opens the album with a big pickslide into a powerful speed metal styled onslaught. Right away, it’s hard not to think Primal Fear, but given Sinner’s presence, this is the type of stuff he is known for writing and performing and it does work well. Allen’s vocals are powerful, just as expected and the song is quite fast paced. It’s got quite a hook in the chorus and the lead work is spot on, mixing the technicality of the prog metal styles with the blistering pace of speed and thrash metal whilst retaining that powerful feel. “Soul of a Warrior” follows up with a synth heavy intro and a slow, crushing powerful groove laden riff laced with harmonics. The synth and bass focused first verse compliments Allen’s vocals well and when the heavy guitars follow, it just compounds the heaviness which remains throughout the song. It’s got a slow, well placed solo near the end of the track which has a slight blues vibe to it, complete with Hammond organ style synth backing which just tops it off nicely.
“No Turning Back” brings back the speed metal feel with a very Judas priest feel to it, sadly it lacks the cutting falsetto’s of Halford, but the raw vocals of Allen more than make up for it. Rhythm wise, this track is solid with the drums shining through, keeping everything locked in place and when the chugging rhythm kicks in right before the solo it all comes together. The harmony section just after the solo sits nicely and sets up the end of the track well too. “One Way Street” is more synth and sample focused in the intro but when the band kicks in, it’s got more of a chugging feel to it. Vocally, it’s strong and Allen’s ability to tell a story through his vocals is spot on here. The heavy chug feel of the song works brilliantly, keeping it simple and to the point without going too fast or complicated. “Blasphemy” has a more grandiose feel to it from the intro, courtesy of the lead guitar and dramatic build up from the drums and synths and the murky sounding verses with Allen’s scathingly delivered lyrics just give it a darker edge which helps live up to the mood which the intro set. It speeds up as the song goes on, the riffs retain their dark feel and swift leads are littered round the track whilst the chorus is slowed down, keeping with the epic feel. It’s one of the best tracks on the album and really highlights what this project can do.
“Last Man on Earth” has more of a traditional metal feel to it with plenty of gallop/chug moments, powerful vocals and its solid rhythm. It stays steady till the 2 minute mark where a drum and vocal spot builds it up right before a short solo before kicking right into the main sound of the song again. Whilst its simple and to the point, it does feel like this song may have just been thrown in to fill space. “Scream and Shout” on the other hand does not feel that way. It’s fast paced, melodic power metal feel with impressive drum work and solid riffs just grabs you by the neck and doesn’t let go. It has that catchy chorus feel which would work well in the live setting with a call and response interaction with the crowd and it would be one to get everyone moving. “Voice of the Wilderness” has a bit of an overloaded intro, there is a bit too much going on when it first starts, but the verse cuts all that out and just goes into a steady, solid sounding series of riffs. Allen’s vocals shine through on this one yet again, and there are some big moments where his impressive range shows. The lead in this track is solid and flows quite well, complimenting the feel of the track.
“All Hope is Gone” starts off with the piano style sound and it has a moody feel to it from the get go. The sense of ‘BALLAD!!’ is ripe on this one and as the song continues, you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s an emotion filled number and Allen’s vocals are the stand out feature of this track and probably the best performance from him on the whole album. Just give it a listen and enjoy it for what it is! “Demonized” brings back the full metal assault with a scathing thrash feel to it, acting as a wakeup call after the previous track. With a powerful feel and some serious bite to it, the track serves as a reminder that sometimes all you need is some venom in your sound and a good dose of attitude to deliver a great metal song… And a killer harmony section after the solo too, every great metal song needs one of them! “The Soul is Eternal” slows the pace down again but keeps the solid sound which has been consistent through the album. Its steady, simple riffs keep the track ticking over, but apart from the lead section, it’s a bit bland compared to some of the previous tracks. Closing the album is “Forevermore”. Opening up with an atmosphere building melody and dramatic synths, the band kicks in to a full power metal onslaught full of big riffs and precise playing. It’s got a real headbanging feel to it, but as a closing track, it’s like the previous track, a little bland apart from some great leadwork which just seems like they ran out of steam at the end.
“Chapter One” on the whole is great. It’s got three or four tracks which don’t seem to stand out, but the rest of it is a solid offering from two very respected musicians who seem to have clicked quite well. It’s well worth a listen and I will be waiting for the next chapter in this band’s story.