15 March 2015
T.H.L. - THIRTEENTH HELL LEVEL
So this is the third album that I have been asked to review from Italian promotion agency - Atomic Stuff. This album is by a band called T.H.L. who were formed in 2010 in Brescia, Italy with the aim of composing their own material. According to the press releases there has been some personnel over the years, been on Italian TV for various shows and have been signed to Sound Management Corporation since 2014. Now, this is the first of the releases which does not mention influences or what style of music that they produce (in fact the only things they do mention is that the sound goes from clear to distortion, strong riffs as well as arpeggios); so I am really not sure before I start this review what the band or aiming for apart from their desire to make their own sound - the fact they mention that the two songs they have covered on here are both rearranged gives me a feeling of curiosity mixed with dread. But until the album is heard, assumptions cannot be made, so let us see what this band are all about.....
Starting off the album is "Master Dominio" which starts off with a nice little riff, the singing is well performed for what it is and it goes along at a jaded pace. However, the song is a fight between many different styles, when it should continue it takes a pause, when it should riff, it goes reggae, the vocals could whisper, but they feel too strong in the mix. The best thing about the song is the solo, which is very well performed. I do not want to seem like I am picking a fight already, but this is not a promising start. After this we have the rearrangement of the Steppenwolf classic "Born To Be Wild", this sounds exactly the original apart from a slight change in vocal direction - it is a decent enough cover but it does not bring much to the table. "Really Cruel" is the third song here which starts off really well, it has a nice strong beginning and the band sound good; however that chorus arrangement just sounds sloppy compared to the rest of the number and crashed the song into the ground. The middle acoustic bridge does a lot to try and save the number, but at that point the battle has been finished, a lost opportunity maybe. The fourth track is the next rearrangement for the album of the Rolling Stone's "Honky Tonk Woman", now this is the first song on the album that keeps everything tight and together; it does not change the song and take it in a new direction, but it does at least keep it together and is well performed by everyone in the band. Fifth track "Erythroxylum" which is a song about drugs (as mentioned in the press release) and it is another solid number, it is just straight forward and give the band a good showing here. The solos are once again on top form (they are the highlight of this band so far) and there is obviously a lot of passion for this number which comes across in the recording. First original track that works for me and I am impressed on this number.
After this is the seven minute plus "Longway To Redemption" which is a slow brooding piece that focuses on that inevitable part of life which is death; it is a long song which does actually keep the attention of the listener, it reminds me a bit of the English outfit The Room and it is also another track that improves with repeat listens. It has a few moments which could have been stripped off, but it still sounds beautiful - once again, the solos are divine. After this we have "War", it is not a gripping as the last two songs if I am honest, but it still keeps it together and the arrangement does not fall apart as it did with a few of the early numbers; another decent effort. "Somewhere" is the ballad number of the album, it is something that has been done a thousand times before and T.H.L. do not mess up the formula here; in fact it is incredibly well done and once more it shows what the band are capable of when everything works in their favour and they keep to their strengths - it also knocks all the other tracks out of the park, even if it does go on a few moments too far. The penultimate track is "Forget" which goes back to that sound which the band started on "Really Cruel" and the stop starting/chopped up vocals just come across as if they have not been mastered properly in the studio; it is a step backwards again and does not do them any favours. Ending the album is "Sociopathic" which changes moods quite a lot during the song; it is to the determent of the number, but considering the attack on modern society that the song is meant to be it makes sense what they are trying to achieve here. It does not quite get there, but it is still better that a few of the other tracks on here.
I am not going to lie here, this album is not my type of thing and in places it really does fail in places. "Really Cruel", "Forget" and opening track "Master Dominio" are all examples of a band stretching themselves and not knowing how to make it work; however, in fairness "Somewhere", "Erythroxylum" and "Longway to Redemption" are examples of where T.H.L.'s strengths truly lie. If this band just went for the full prog route, I have a feeling that they would actually make a decent album and it would work to what they are good at. At the moment, they are not really doing themselves (and the guitar players who have delivered some of the best solos I have heard in a long time) any favours at all. Two of these points are for the solos alone, tread with care.
5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better
Top track - Somewhere
You can purchase the digital version of this album from Amazon here
You can follow the T.H.L. activity via Facebook here
You can also follow them on Reverbnation here
You can stream the album on Spotify here
For our Deezer users, here is a link for you
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