Levels is the debut album from Fame on Fire and I don’t like it one goddamn bit. At it’s best, Levels is a mediocre hard rock/metalcore release but the band’s attempts to branch out to different genres feel clumsy and disingenuous. There’s a handful of catchy choruses throughout the album’s thirteen tracks, but the shining moments are few and far between.
Levels kicks off with the intro tune “Cover Band.” Musically, this is just your standard chugga chugga tune. Conceptually, however, this song is just cringeworthy. Fame on Fire seem to be very sensitive in regards to being labeled a cover band, as emphasized with the sole lyric in this opening song and the declaration “Fame on Fire is not a cover band” plastered across the band’s bio. Just below that bio, however, are links to the band’s, hold on, let me do a quick recount, 35 Punk Goes…Whatever-style covers. It’s all good if you’re making your nut off of insecure teenagers who won’t admit to liking a Post Malone song because there’s no breakdown, but know your place, dude.
I wish I could say we’re ready to move beyond the cringe, but now we’re getting into the album proper. Fame on Fire describe themselves as genre-defying and, to their credit, they do dabble in hip hop, hard rock, pop, and metalcore on this release. Most often, however, this is just in the form of brief sprinklings of electronic music in run-of-the-mill hard rock tunes like “It’s Okay” or “SOS.” There are a few exceptions where the band attempts to jump full bore into a different genre, but Fame on Fire’s execution doesn’t do anything for me. The worst offender is “Crazy for Your Crazy,” a botched attempt at a pop-rap/metal hybrid. Between the already out-of-date slang, the cheeseball chorus, and the dull guitarwork, this mid-album song was enough to stop my first two attempts to listen through this thing.
Levels is a surface level (get it?) album posturing as some sort of deep musical and lyrical exploration. I think Fame on Fire are an okay hard rock band and nothing more. The band’s light dabbling in different genres feel incredibly forced and their headfirst dives into hip hop and pop result in a belly flop each time.
Written by Justin Bruce
*Edited by Dominic Abate