I'm sure one hint of the word "gospel" conjures up all sorts of religious imagery, from stained glass windows to epic cathedrals, holy wars to pictures of ancient Israel. There's always that religious connotation that comes with the word, and though that's sure to scare some potential listeners into thinking this is choir music, I assure you that Level Plane has not completely jumped the proverbial ship. What they have done, however, is sign a very innovative and very solid unit straight from New York City.
Equal parts white hot energy, droning guitars, and analog synths, Gospel rage through all eight songs on The Moon Is A Dead World with an intensity and sense of cohesion never seen on any altar that I've been close to. It's hard to pin down just what makes this band tick, as mixing analog synths, an organ, and a keybord with harsh screamo vocals and epic guitar sounds like an awful melting pot, but the mood created by the various styles is oddly compelling. "And Redemption Fills The Emptiest Of Hearts" shows how the band can switch between its sometimes harsh screamo sound, to eerie synth-aided instrumental passages, to tech-metal wizardry. I should however stress that Gospel sounds nothing whatsoever like Horse The Band; the synths are not a guiding force in the music, but instead a solid inclusion.
Most of these songs are instrumental, be that synth or guitar dominated, but when Adam Dooling's screams are welcomed to the fold, it's evident to everyone he's there and in full effect. The Helen Of Troy veteran perfectly molds his high intensity vocals into whatever section of rhythms that he needs to. While it seems that a lot of the instrumentation can roam or meander, it's Dooling's screams that always bring everything back into focus for the band, never allowing the other members to lose site of what they're trying to create, which seems to be an epic story full of ups and downs, lefts and rights.
On that epic tangent, the nine plus-minute "Golden Dawn" stretches the imagination and limitations of that word, with its jaunty delivery and style subversions between creative guitar riffs and synth droning. Towards the end, the synths starts kicking into a higher gear, and the screaming comes back in before things fade into a wave of reverb. Don't get too settled, however, as "Paper Tigon" lulls you in with some relatively melodic guitar, until the frenzied screaming starts to come back in and out on an irregular pattern, with guitars blazing below and those synths appearing faintly in the background amongst the madness of Dooling's passionate vocal assault. The screaming takes a back seat on the rest of this album, as the instrumentation rises into the driver's seat, never really sure of the direction that it wants to take. It seems to plod along pretty effortlessly, but makes a few stops in limbo as well. In those moments that feel like they could be accented by some vocals, there's just not that extra kick to keep things going at a solid place. The album never goes so far as to lose its overall direction, but there are a few unnecessary stops along the way.
Not until the final rasp of the high hats subside does this abnormal journey take its leave of absence. There's some terrific moments in this album's tangled web, but it's that same web that ever truly allows the vocals to blossom into the force this band needs them to be. When they're around, they're a force to be reckoned with, but that time is simply less than it needs to be for this band's potential to take full effect. A very good initial offering from Gospel, one that could be a prelude to great things on the horizon, but they need to make some tweaks before this band makes me happier than the prize in the bottom of a box of Christ Chex.