Levels – Exist

Self-released. 7 May 2016.

Reading this band’s press release, an unfamiliar phrase caught my eye; ‘progressive metalcore’. Another silly term to use when pigeonholing bands? Or an accurate description? Well after a listen to their debut EP Exist, ‘progressive metalcore’ does seem quite fitting. A real mish-mash of styles come together in this record by this Arkansas group, and considering they only formed in late 2015, they already have a confident sound.

New single Slip is definitely more on the metalcore side of things, fans of ARCHITECTS and DEVIL WEARS PRADA would approve, but there are hints of other elements starting to emerge. Opening with a devastating riff, Jakes Sanders’ vocals soon blast in with brutal aplomb. As expected, clean vocals kick in for the chorus, but all the vocals on this EP are delivered with such heart and rawness it’s hard not to be drawn into the world of LEVELS. A djent breakdown doesn’t go unnoticed and it is here you start to get a taste of the more progressive components the band are teasing to offer.

American Dream is a bit of a groovy, technical affair then clears into a bluesy interlude which shouldn’t really fit into a song like this, but somehow LEVELS make a seamless transition and demonstrates the band are open to experiment with styles. Contaminate also shows its metalcore and progressive influences on its sleeve. Sounding a cross between DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL and COUNTING DAYS, it is a brutal assault on the senses with the EP’s most crushing riffs.

A calm riff entices you into Manifest, but the aggression quickly storms in and takes over. The technicality and vocals enter SIKTH territory in places, making this tune one of the more progressively chaotic of the record, but one of the most memorable. The Lender seems to mix hardcore and djent which is normally a bit of a risky combination but one which LEVELS executes so well. Bands such as THROWDOWN and A LIFE ONCE LOST spring to mind while listening to this song, bringing an old school sound kicking and screaming into this decade.

Last track Exist is a bit of a darker beast. Probably the most ‘djent’ of all the songs, it has more of an atmospheric vibe happening too. It collapses into a devastating breakdown a band like OCEANO would be proud of. A worthy finale for the EP, the title track definitely has the most happening. Bringing the EP to a crashing close, LEVELS have proven they have what it takes to make an impact on both the metalcore and progressive scenes. Considering how early the band is in its career, the potential here is astounding. Roll on the debut album!