Chapter 1, the debut album from Level 10 is the first collaboration between vocal powerhouse Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob) and bassist/producer/writer Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Voodoo Circle) Frontiers President, Serafino Perugino initiated the duo to team up for the creation of a new Metal project which could melt the more contemporary sound of Adrenaline Mob with the more traditional European Power Metal melody and aggression.
Sinner enlisted his Primal Fear/Voodoo Circle bandmates Randy Black (on drums) and Alex Beyrodt (on guitar) and Roland Grapow (ex Helloween, MasterPlan, Serious Black) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (Hardline, Voodoo Circle) to complete the lineup on lead guitar and keyboards respectively. On the songwriting side – besides the band members – the album features the songwriting talents of Magnus Karlsson, Carsten Schulz, Ralf Scheepers, Johann Fiegl, Sander Gommans and Amanda Somerville.
For those fans of Russell Allen who were expecting Symphony X, you will be slightly disappointed, aside from Allen’s trademark pipes, there is not much here resemble Symphony X’s brand of neo-classical prog metal. By the same token, those fans of Allen who fear the agro-vocals and Godsmack-esque brand of “modern heavy rock”, can breathe easy, as the music on Chapter One leans closer to Euro power metal than mainstream hard rock.
The album opener, Cry No More kicks off with a vengeance, with a guitar riff that would sound at home on one of Voodoo Circle albums. Allen’s vocals are powerful during the verses and soar on the multi-harmony chorus. Del Vecchio adds a 70’s moog synth sound on the keys and Black pounds the drums mercilessly. There is a crunchy, heavy groove on the mid-tempo Soul of the Warrior, featuring stellar vocal work on the chorus and a catchy as hell chorus. The tempo picks up with an 80’s sounding rocker with a driving beat, heavy chugging guitar rhythms, and Allen sounding aggressive while still maintaining his trademark melodic voice. The chorus features another killer multi-harmony vocal and Beyrodt and Grapow get to flex their muscles during the harmony guitar solo.
The album takes a more AOR tone on the heavy rock anthem One Way Street, which has a 70’s Bad Company meets Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood feel to it. Randy Black’s percussion skills are on center stage, showing why Black is one of the most versatile drummers in power metal today. The albums first single titled Blasphemy has the symphonic bombast of European power metal and Allen’s voice is at it’s most evil sounding during the vocals and shows off his upper register during the chorus.
Last Man On Earth is another hard rock song with a great hook and sing-a-long chorus, which does get a little repetitive after a few listens but I guess that’s what why they call it a hook! Scream And Shout is another old school power mental anthem straight out of the 80’s with it’s, for lack of a better word, *shout* a-long chorus. The guitar harmonies and shredding solo section blend in perfectly and Black’s double bass drumming drives the song once again.
Allen flexes his vocal muscles on the mid-tempo rock of Into The Wilderness, using his upper register as only he can. The song itself isn’t as memorable as some of the other material on the album save for the chorus, which has some fine harmony vocal work. The requisite piano power ballad All Is Gone is a fitting showcase for Russell Allen’s amazing vocal prowess, even though the song itself sounds like a combination of Symphony X’s When All Hope Is Lost and something off of one of the Allen/Lande albums, which is not surprising since Magnus Karlsson is one of the credited songwriters here.
The crushing riff of Demonized brings the heavy power metal with Russell at his most sinister sounding. For those fans wanting to hear something heavy, this one is for you. Chugging guitar rhythms, aggressive vocals, pounding drums, and shredding solos, this one has it all, a headbangers delight! The groove-heavy Soul Is Enternal has a mid-tempo fist pumping rhythm with Allen using a more soulful vocal approach during the verses and letting loose during the chorus.
The album closer Forevermore is a power metal classic filled with melody, a HUGE multi-vocal harmony chorus and superb vocals from Allen and guest Ralf Scheepers vocals are quite noticeable in the mix. This song is probably the closest to the sound of Primal Fear and tied with Cry No More for my favorite song on the album. In an age where so-called supergroups are becoming more prevalent, Level 10’s debut album finds itself in the upper echelon, even if its destiny is to be a one off studio project, only time will tell.