Level The City – From Birth EP (2012)

Blending genres is a tricky business–often times, one genre’s influence steals the show while the other is around barely long enough to see the light of day. It gets even more tedious when a third genre is tossed into the mix, resulting in bands which sound purely schizophrenic or, again, contrived and “progressive.” Milwaukee-based proto-deathcore act Level the City, however, are a different story altogether. Carefully adding slamming death metal to already punctually lacerating bone-busting deathcore and topping it off with touches of post-hardcore influenced crooning, From Birth is an EP which not only towers above it’s peers, but shows enormous promise for a young, frenetic band.

Instrumentally, Level the City combine the most immersive, slamming elements of death metal with a penchant for the drop-of-a-dime breakdown and skin-rending blast beats that are the staples of deathcore. On top of all of those elements, Level the City add vicious, catchy grooves over clever bass riffing and speedy, perfunctory drumming–as seen from the very onset of “The Final Bound.” These hard hitting grooves, contrasted with the neck-snapping blast beats and pulverizing slams make for a diverse instrumental experience which is progressive in a refreshing, roundabout manner that doesn’t seem boisterous or arrogant. Furthermore, while each of the instruments is not only played stunningly, the resulting tone is marvelous. The guitars are muddy and dissonant when they need to be, and clear and melodic otherwise. Likewise, the drumming and bass are both low and booming, giving a solid, heavy end to the otherwise ethereal moments found on From Birth.

From Birth’s heaviest aspect, however, is neither the pounding, earth-shaking drumming nor the sludgy, dissonant grooves to be found in the guitar. It’s the flesh-mangling, visceral nature of the harsh vocals scattered throughout the album. While “The Final Bound” kick-starts the EP with a vocal intro that indicates that Level the City pack some serious vocal punch, it’s sections like the climactic breakdown in “New Day” which showcase break-neck high screeches ripping alongside deep, guttural lows. While the non-stop slam-groove dialectic plays beneath them, the vocals take center stage, and are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Just as the listener becomes accustomed to the incessant battering of the harsh vocals, however, they are gone, and the song moves along without skipping a beat or stumbling in the slightest. This remarkable ability to transition smoothly ultimately sets Level the City above their peers who would otherwise fumble with such intricately-written songs.

Between the incredible musicianship and the remarkable screams, Level the City sprinkle in one last detail to complete their already sturdy dynamic: clean vocals. If you’re anything like me, the first time one of the crooned, softly-sung interludes pours into your ears, you’ll have to check to make sure your iPod didn’t skip to a different artist. Akin to Dance Gavin Dance or AKissForJersey, the cleanly sung segments in a majority of the EP’s tracks is a refreshing escape from the suffocating heaviness present in the other tracks. While at first, the singing might seem out of place, after repeated listens, the listener ultimately realizes that the clean transitions into and out of these segments, along with the wonderful manners in which they are executed create a wonderfully diverse dynamic in each track which makes each song a miniature aural ecosystem–with the efficacy of the melodically played interludes fueling and feeding the bitter, hate-filled heaviness which surrounds it.

If you like your deathcore heavy, your death metal slamming and your post-hardcore crooned and melodic, then look no further than Level the City’s debut EP From Birth. Each song is a stunning blend of bone-breaking, jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring which will keep you coming back for more, and finding something new to love about the band with each listen.

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By Connor Welsh ~ Me Gusta Reviews