Next Level is the second album by Swedish melodic heavy metal act Fullforce. Fullforce previously released their debut album One in 2011. The band is something of a supergroup, being made up of members and ex-members of artists such as Cloudscape, Hammerfall, Lost Horizon, Dream Evil and more.
I’d heard of the name Fullforce before but Next Level is the first time I’ve encountered their music. Fronting the band is the voice of melodic progressive metal act Cloudscape, Mike Andersson, who as with his other band’s recent album New Era delivers an excellent vocal that is one of the main attractions to the music. The main difference between New Era and Next Level is that Cloudscape’s album was something of a grower in my experience. Next Level on the other hand is a very immediate release that captured my interest after a single listen. There are some similarities between Andersson’s (and fellow Cloudscape member Stefan Rosqvist, who joins Fullforce for this album) two 2012 offerings; both are melodic metal releases that hop between a few genres, but where Cloudscape has a more pronounced progressive edge Fullforce focuses even on catchy and melodic song writing. There is identity between the two releases that is obvious if you’ve heard them both, although it’s difficult to explain that difference in words since both do essentially the same thing in a different way.
Onto that genre hopping aspect of the music; while most of the album can be considered melodic heavy metal there are also very clear influences from the faster power metal genre (Karma), and also hard rock music to be found (Course of Life). These three genres blend very well and indeed there is often a fine line between both heavy metal and hard rock, and again with heavy metal and power metal. This allows Next Level to flow from track to track extremely well, so much that unless you’re specifically listening for it, you may not realise just how much is actually going on here. Indeed, perhaps the most subtle of the genre hopping Fullforce does is that a little bit of Cloudscape’s progressive nature does creep in, such as in the track Hate...Love...Drop It!
But subtleties aside there is one common aspect to Next Level, and that is the melodic direction of the album which never falters between catchy track after catchy track. And while it is indeed catchy, it is not overtly poppy either, just a classic heavy metal sound done in a modern way and also done extremely well. Of course, with the calibre of band’s the members of Fullforce are known for, could one really expect otherwise? Next Level numbers among some of the year’s best traditional metal releases and an exceptional grade rating is deserved.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))