Local Metalcore Group Leveler Is Set to Unleash New Record | Westword

Local Metalcore Group Leveler Is Set to Unleash New Record

“You can expect originality while still getting that nostalgic feel of that metalcore that you grew up with."
Denver's Leveler makes pissed-off modern metalcore.
Denver's Leveler makes pissed-off modern metalcore. Courtesy Leveler
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Starting a band is like forming a musical family, complete with unique personalities and individuals who might not always agree on everything. But similar to differences among blood relatives, most disagreements aren’t detrimental, and all members are open to a good ribbing.

So when Leveler drummer Kyle Burklow starts talking about his approach to the band’s brand of metalcore and what he typically listens to, he expects to catch some heat.

“They always make fun of me for my music choices, but I listen to a lot of hardcore, beatdown, slam stuff,” he says with a smile.

That’s when guitarist Kyle Augustin chimes in with a loud “Lame!”

Everyone laughs before Augustin notes that Leveler’s newest upcoming album, By the Scythe (out on August 25), showcases all five bandmates' influence, including Burklow’s brutal breakdowns. Hardcore does make up half of the metalcore mix, after all.

“This album, in particular, everyone came into their own. There was nothing on the album that was about showing off,” Augustin adds. “It was really about what’s best for this song, not who’s going to look the coolest doing it.”

Augustin and guitarist Emanuel Pilas are the tried-and-true metalheads of the group, with their affinity for such bands as In Flames, As I Lay Dying and Unearth. Burklow, who is into deathcore bands like As Blood Runs Black and Through the Eyes of the Dead, doesn’t bust their balls about it, but gives them credit for the killer guitar work they conjure as a result.

“Kyle and Manny are really good at writing really melodic, heavy riffs,” Burklow says. “But usually when it comes to the breakdowns, Manny and Kyle can come to me for that. That’s my bread and butter. I feel like they’re writing a lot of the meat and potatoes and a lot of the cool solos and riffs, and I’m the one behind the rhythms of our slow, downtempo stuff.”

After five years together, the Leveler dudes have found their stride, whether their record collections jibe or not.

“I feel like the music is starting to finally come into its own maturity, where we’re writing for the overall of an album or a track, compared to what’s the craziest, heaviest thing we could do here,” Burklow says. “We want to write something that’s more cohesive.”

Augustin nods in agreement and points to everyone’s willingness to collaborate and compromise when necessary. “It’s been really refreshing to have people with input,” he adds. “Everyone’s just so open to ideas, and no one gets hurt. If a riff sucks that I wrote and the guys are like, ‘Kyle, that riff sucks,’ I’m like, ‘Cool, I’ll write a different riff.’ No one gets upset about it. Everyone understands it’s constructive criticism.”

Leveler, which includes bassist Nathan Leuholtz, welcomed vocalist Abel Alvarado into the fold a little over a year ago, not long before heading to the Blasting Room in Fort Collins to record By the Scythe, which will be the band's third album. “A big idea of doing the album is we wanted to get something out with Abel on it,” Augustin says. “His range is ridiculous. From stupid lows to stupid highs to pitch screaming.”

Recently released single “Winterborn” is the first glimpse of what the band sounds like with Alvarado, but you don’t have to wait for the album to come out next month to hear more. Leveler is playing the Marquis Theater on Friday, July 14, for the Suicide Cages' album-release show for Cascading Failure. Dirty/Heavy, Harbor and Dead Gods are also opening.

The five musicians decided to stay at the Blasting Room during the eight days it took to record, immersing themselves in the entire process. It helped that the legendary recording studio offers all the amenities necessary for such a getaway, including rooms, a kitchen and a gym.

“You’re so in the moment the whole time that there’s just no distractions and nothing to take you out of the fact that we’re here, we’re focused and we’re pumped,” Augustin says, adding the band lived off a diet of pizza and coffee. “You’re really just hyped the entire time. You’re just hanging out with your best friends.”

After spending some time tracking vocals with Augustin and Pilas beforehand, Alvarado, who previously fronted local djent band Thoughtpilot, felt more than prepared before stepping into the booth. The result, however, surprised everyone in the room, including himself.

“We went in there with a whole mess of ideas and still didn’t do exactly what we wanted, but in a good way. We did a lot more different screams we really didn’t talk about,” he explains, adding that he’s an “open book” when it comes to trying different vocal techniques. “I didn’t go in there and growl too much or scream too high. … I was honestly super surprised on some of the stuff I was able to do vocally, especially the pitch screams.”

Leveler’s modern take on old-school metalcore is surprising, too, especially since such a well-defined genre can come off sounding stale and generic after so long. But the Denver group keeps it fresh by incorporating other elements, such as Burklow’s hardcore leanings or Alvarado’s djent background, which makes it original and nostalgic at the same time.

“You can expect originality," Augustin says, "while still getting that nostalgic feel of that metalcore that you grew up with."

Leveler, 7 p.m. Friday, July 14, Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer Street. Tickets are $15-$23.
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