Melodic Metal

Review: Level 10 – Chapter One

Location: International (United States/Germany)
Genre: Heavy/Melodic metal, hard rock
Released: January 27, 2015
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

Remember when Russell Allen was universally respected as the lead singer of Symphony X, a band that is capable of writing 23-minute songs about The Odyssey and an entire album about the perils of our society being overly dependent on technology? Let’s just say his reputation has taken a bit of a hit recently.

When he’s not putting together solid-to-amazing bandmates, he can be seen collaborating with the masturbatory Jorn in the soulless Allen-Lande project. There’s also the disaster that is Adrenaline Mob, a band that was terrible to begin with and has only gotten worse with each release.

The 2015 version of mediocre Allen comes in the form of Level 10, a collaboration between Allen and Mat Sinner, as well as various members of the German power metal band Primal Fear. And when I say this is mediocre, I am not exaggerating. This is run-of-the-mill heavy metal with some decent vocals behind it, but it often teeters on the edge of excessive cheese. “All Hope Is Gone,” for example, is a Sonata Arctica ballad in disguise.

The only songs that stood out in a positive way for me were “Demonized” and “When the Nighttime Comes,” both for various riffs that had potential but weren’t explored upon further. “Voice of the Wilderness” has some interesting vocal parts from what might be an outside choir that warrant several more listens. Everything else about this is completely forgettable.

Please, for the love of Krishna, get back to Symphony X.

Overall: This is what I think of when I picture music that I could listen to in the car if the only other option was listening to 107.5 or 106.7. Not familiar with Columbus radio stations? Don’t look them up. 

Rating: 1.0*

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Review: Dawn Of Solace – The Darkness

Location: Lahti, Finland
Genre: Melodic Doom/Death Metal
Released: May 26, 2006
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Diving For Treasure

By: Kris Kotlarik

The genre tag is a little misleading, in my opinion; there’s not much of a death metal vibe from Dawn Of Solace’s only album, but the melodic doom metal part definitely makes sense. The band makes solid use of acoustic instruments and clean vocals in addition to fairly standard doom metal lyricism and instrumentation. The problem is that most of the songs don’t go anywhere.

By my count, there are two stellar songs; “Dead Air” has the best example of the aforementioned clean vocals that occurs throughout the track, and the ending is especially heavy The Darkness‘s standards. “Wrath Of Gods Amongst Us” has shades of prog and has a particularly impressive section of dual growling vocals.

The intro, “Dying Daylight,” as well as “Winter Song” and closer “Avalanche,” are all space fillers with some combination of ambient noise, acoustic guitars and repetitive patterns that don’t progress. Out of the other three tracks, which I consider to be alright but not spectacular, “I Am Chaos, I Am Destruction” comes closest to being a top song but doesn’t quite get there; it starts building up midway through and really brings it home towards the end, but the first half is forgettable. “Wings Of Darkness” and “I Was Never There” both drag on for too long and would have been better served with a couple minutes chopped off.

Overall: Not a bad album by any means, but there isn’t much to make me want to come back for more.

Rating: 2.5*

Review: Insomnium – Shadows of the Dying Sun

Location: Joensuu, Finland
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Released: April 25, 2014
Format reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

Anyone who has talked to me for five minutes probably knows that Finland is my home away from home. I love it there; it’s a place where education actually makes sense, and it’s possible to get highs in the 60’s in the summer. Add Finland’s love of heavy metal (particularly its folk metal bands) to the mix, and it makes me wonder why I haven’t simply just moved there already.

During the summer of 2012, following my semester in Tampere, I went to Tuska in Helsinki. Insomnium played the smaller tent stage to a packed house and had a great set. While their newest release, Shadows of the Dying Sun, brought back some of those moments, many parts of Shadows didn’t resonate with me as much as I would’ve liked. The parts that did resonate with me, however, represent a big step forward for the band.

The bottom line is that this album sounds a little bit too much like a less anarchic/angry version of Arch Enemy. Depending on how you feel about Arch Enemy, this might be a good thing.

The main offenders are the ballad tracks and occasionally repetitive lyrics. Take these lyrics from “While We Sleep,” for example:

“When your heart gives out and your love collapses
When the hand that never lets go is there no more
When you reap and sow only throe and resentment
When there’s no one else but you to blame it for

When all you ever wish for is to go back once more
When all you ever wish for is to change it all
When all you feel is remorse, pain and regret
When you dwell in the past unable to move on”

The lyrics are relatable, but they don’t really go anywhere. With that said, there is a lovely guitar break towards the end that I’ll probably revisit several times.

“Lose To Night” and “The Promethean Song” are two balladesque tracks that feature minimal progression lyrically and are the two most skippable songs on this album. “Ephemeral” is rather poppy in its structure, which I can somewhat understand given the chorus:

“Dying doesn’t make this world dead to us
Breathing doesn’t keep the flame alive in us
Dreaming doesn’t make time less real for us
One life
One chance
All ephemeral”

Ephemeral means “lasting for a very short time.” Given the sound, I interpret the lyrics as making the most of what little relative time we have, which again comes across as very poppy. That’s not inherently a bad thing; it just doesn’t feel right in this song.

My favorite songs on Shadows are “Revelation,” “Black Heart Rebellion,” and “The River.” The latter two tracks sound like they could have been paired with Die Apokalylptischen Reiter’s “Auferstehen Soll In Herrlichkeit” from Licht. Both tracks contain some pummeling blast beats, and “The River” in particular has a fantastic layered vocal bridge.

“Revelation” is another uptempo song to a lesser extent that features some of the best all-around drumming on Shadows and also features some fantastic use of vocal dynamics. Other strong moments include a nice guitar melody in the back half of “Primeval Dark,” and the title track is a solid ending to this record.

The production here is well done and in addition to the multiple examples of vocal dynamics, the musicianship is also excellent and is surprisingly diverse as far as melodic death metal albums are concerned.

Overall: Although large chunks of this album are at least somewhat forgettable, “Black Heart Rebellion” and “The River” are more than enough to salvage it. “Revelation” and the title track further bolster Insomnium’s sixth album. 

Rating: 3.0*