Fullforce: Next Level

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Fullforce: Next Level
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Fullforce: Next Level
Heavy Metal, Power Metal
SPV Records
November 27th, 2012
Release length: 50:50
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Sweden’s Fullforce have returned to continue spreading their positive, uplifting message. It’s been about a year since this supergroup issued their impressive debut, One, and they eye making their follow-up, Next Level, as emotionally supportive as last time. Of course, earlier in 2012, guitarist Carl-Johan Grimmark had stepped down, bring replaced with Stefan Rosqvist of Cloudscape and Dawn of Oblivion lineage, the first of which a mutual group between him and vocalist Michael Andersson, keeping the supergroup status alive. But, does this new offering have what it takes to lift your spirits, or is it generic enough to bring them crashing down around you?

The music is rather rich with a modern production quality that allows a deeper presence to come through, all to create a booming, amphitheater Rock band feel. The guitars have a solid distortion to them that is tuned a little lower, working well with the crushing bass guitar that seems just a bit too loud and burdening in the mix, though not enough to ruin the experience. The drums sound pretty good, though a bit lost given the volume of the string instruments. The crisp cymbals stand out the most, though the snares have a little echo to their tighter sound that sometimes is drowned out, and the same goes for the deeper click of the bass kicks. Despite the volume, you can still tell that kick is there, though discerning it from the snares can sometimes be rough. Of course the vocals are the loudest of the mix, and they sound great, though the chants that can erupt in the heavier or faster songs are a little too far into the background, much like some of the keyboard performances that do occur from time to time.

When it comes to the material on Next Level, there really isn’t anything that unique, but for the most part is still really enjoyable. “Broken Dreams” starts off with some deeper chugging and additional keyboards that creep in later, giving it a harder edge for most of the song. Of course, the chorus is a far more melodic experience, bringing in higher pitched vocals to the forefront, as well as in the back, that help to make it a little more memorable. The guitar solo that hits later, as well as the conclusion, are both somewhat darker compared to the rest, feeling a bit out of place, but overall still end up sounding pretty good in the long run. “Karma” is a bass-rich heavy song as well, pushing the kicks of the drum kit to the forefront during some of the most intense bridges, as well as the introduction of the song. The speed picks up in the main verses, and a good deal of energy can be felt all around, especially in the harsher vocals of the chorus that are backed by a strong, yet very subtle keyboard presence. Unfortunately, the music does slow down towards the end for a bit of an epic tone that doesn’t quite pay off.

Of all the songs, it’s “Whispers” that really stands out. The mixture of some over-the-top material with a strong focus on the bass helps to make the music a lot richer, which works great with the speed. Again, the energy really sticks out from everyone involved, though the introduction takes a little while before allowing it to show, gradually building in each coming verse as more than just powerful riffs and additional background harmonizations. “Visions” is also well worth a look. It’s a slower track that comes off more like an anthem, and the crystal-like sound of the keyboards give it an icy allure, working with the melody perfectly to create an audible atmosphere that is simply stunning from time to time. Meanwhile, the main verses and chorus can end up a bit open, giving off an astral stargazing vibe that doesn’t pack a lot of enthusiasm, but if it did simply wouldn’t be the same.

But what usually sticks out here are the lighter, traditional Heavy Metal and Hard Rock compositions. “Break It, Crack It, Destroy It” shows the Hammerfall lineage well, but ends up still being a solid offering. The mid-tempo pace allows the song to be incredibly catchy from start to finish, showing a slight Rock touch to the laid back quality. That’s present even more during “A Night to Remember,” which shows traits of a Hard Rock ballad with a powerful, heavier edge. The guitar solo really ties the emotional traits of the song and the concept of a positive memory of friendship, love, and youth. “Mysterious Ways,” however, isn’t really that great. The song tries to build an atmosphere from the slower performance and keyboard presence, and it does to a small degree. But the additional background vocals and simpler music just don’t do the trick too well. While not a boring performance, it doesn’t really lead anywhere major. Finally there’s “Strongest Thing of All,” another ballad track with more of an acoustic performance. Again, this isn’t a bad song, but it simply starts and ends a little more on the typical side of music, and even vocals. While acting as a suitable ending to the album, chances are good you’ll wish everything concluded on the upbeat and somewhat faster “Awesomeness,” ending on a fun, less cliche message instead. Sadly, these aren’t the only songs of this less-than-appealing quality floating around throughout the album.

With thirteen tracks that push past fifty minutes of Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, and Power Metal performances, you can’t help but hope for plenty of quality within it all. While Fullforce definitely has the potential, this album shows the group bringing more of their roots into the mix, making it a little less of a unique experience. The performances vary greatly from one song to the next, one minute being energetic and fun, while the next just happy and laid back, though not many really will leave you feeling empowered or pulled out or your terrible mood. If you enjoyed Fullforce‘s previous outting, One, there’s no denying you’ll find a good deal of material well worth your time on Next Level. Just be prepared for a good deal of songs that aren’t quite padding, but could have been better, even if this is your first encounter with the band.

01. Broken Dreams – 2:44
02. Break It, Crack It, Destroy It – 3:43
03. Back to Life – 3:05
04. A Night to Remember – 3:38
05. Karma – 4:42
06. Whispers – 3:12
07. Smile at the World – 3:44
08. Hate Love Drop It – 4:37
09. Visions – 5:07
10. Course of Life – 3:39
11. Awesomeness – 3:13
12. Mysterious Ways – 5:13
13. Strongest Thing of All – 4:13
Initial Pressing Score: 7/10

Fullforce (band)
Fullforce

Digital review copy of this release provided by SPV Records via Freeman Promotions.