Level 10 - Chapter 1 (Frontiers Records)

A fine meeting of metal minds...
Release Date: 
22 Jan 2015 - 11:30pm

Another day, another Frontiers Records’ hatched supergroup. This time the Italian label has asked Primal Fear/Sinner bassist Mat Sinner and Symphony X/Adrenaline Mob throatsmith Russell Allen to throw some mud at the heavy metal wall, and ya know what? Quite a lot of it sticks.

Sinner, you’ll remember, also has a finger in the Voodoo Circle pie, a band whose at times slavish dedication to Whitesnake’s 1987 album can seem a bit laughable, so it’s no surprise that opener Cry No More has a distinct whiff of Lord Coverdale and company’s glorious middle period; that said, Allen’s classic metal aggression does give the track a nice edge to it, and it’s not a bad opening statement of intent.

Next up is the stately Soul of a Warrior, wherein Level 10 recreate the ‘glory’ days of Black Sabbath as fronted by Tony Martin; this isn’t as bad as you might think, and the performances of all involved (and remember as well as the main protagonists you’ve got high calibre sidemen like Roland Grapow and Alex Beyrodt on twin axes here) manage to lift what might have been a mundane piece of metal into the ‘really rather good’ folder.

Third track No Turning Back is so good as to render my chortling rather redundant; a thunderous, high octane rocker in the vein of Judas Priest at their most melodic, Allen puts in a sumptuous performance almost worth the price of admission on it’s own. Is it derivative? Yes. Is it a monstrously good track? You bet. 

This pattern basically repeats itself throughout the rest of the album, as Allen and Sinner combine to recall some of melodic metal and hard rock’s best moments of the last four decades; The groovy One Way Street references the Zeppelin-loving tendencies of a lot of the heavier hair metal acts of the late eighties, whilst the histrionic Blasphemy finds Allen slightly closer to home, spitting out a bileful vocal over some pleasingly heavy progressive metal that might easily have found it’s way on to one of the later Symphony X releases.

After that comparatively excellent opening salvo, Last Man on Earth isn’t quite so effective, with it’s chorus not quite hitting the heights of the previous five tracks. It’s hook just isn’t strong enough, and the song shuffles off apologetically after three and three quarter minutes of loud posturing.

Still one duff track out of six ain’t a bad start – and the polite power metal of Scream and Shout goes a fair way to restoring quality levels. As it’s simplistic title suggests, it’s a stomping rager, kinda Dio by way of Helloween, and it ticks all the boxes if it’s stripped back headbanging nirvana you’re after.

Voice of the Wilderness has more of that monumental Headless Cross vibe thanks to its multi vocalled chorus , adamantine riffage and Randy Black’s titanic drumming, To my ears it’s the best track on the album, though you’re sure to disagree and pick one of the other tracks. Suffice to say fans of traditional metal won’t be able to resist this song – strap one of your acquaintance into a chair (with their permission of course) and then defy them not to rock out to this track, having first had a little wager on the affair. You’ll clean up, I promise.

The balladic All Hope is Gone doesn’t allow momentum to drop, with Allen wrenching an impressive amount of emotion out of the rather prosaic lyrics, providing the albums’ first and only lighters-in-the-air moment. I’m a sucker for a well-executed power ballad, and this is, I’m glad to report, just such a thing.

After that brief dip into tear jerking wimpery normal service is resumed with the thunderous Demonized which, as it’s Priestesque title might suggest, brings to mind the Metal God at his most vehement. It’s a tribute to Russell Allen’s vocal prowess that, despite the many comparisons available to reviewers of this album between him and the other singers bought to mind by Sinner’s songwriting, the man is bested by none. Truly he is one of the great modern heavy metal vocalists.

Penultimate track The Soul Eternal features more anthemic late eighties styling; Allen throws in his loosest performance here, less bellow and more emotion, and it works nicely, leaving closing track Forevermore to round things out in suitably heavy metal fashion.

Here at Metal as Fuck we’ve been more than a little dubious at the amount of these ‘supergroups’ thrown up by Frontiers Records over the past few years. Often they smack of moneymaking cynicism, but Level 10 transcend any such doubts creating a living, breathing slice of classic metal that sounds at all times vital and, more importantly, the work of a ‘real’ band. Let’s hope that’s the case and they make it to album number two, because Chapter 1 makes me want to here what else this band can come up with.