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The latest from Level-Plane is a six-track, 32-minute split bearing three tracks apiece from Phoenix, AZ's Landmine Marathon and California's Scarecrow. Landmine Marathon's up first, and I had somehow forgotten just how vicious their brand of totally Bolt Thrower-esque death/grind truly is, with its churning midpaced rhythms, dense melodies, and of course the absolutely seething vocals topping it all off. They tend to keep things fairly consistent from track to track, which suits me just fine, and for the most part their writing tactics really do strike me as classic Bolt Thrower with a hint more speed here and there (and of course a different and more diverse vocal approach), but they do what they do incredibly well, and I need to go pull out "Wounded" again and revisit that shit sometime soon! Scarecrow then follows, and though their lineup features members who've also worked with Exhumed, Dekapitator, Repulsion, Noothgrush, Vicious Rumors, and Cut-Throats 9, among others (many of which can be attributed to guitarist/vocalist extraordinaire Matt Harvey, who proves increasingly diverse in his talents here), don't expect a super extreme, grinding counterpart to either Landmine Marathon or some of the members' other acts. Instead you'll get three surprisingly long tracks (all running from five to 7+ minutes) of thrashy old school metal that's rife with galloping picking patterns, guitar harmonies, and slick lead breaks – all fronted by straightforward vocals that are kind of like a strained yell with vague hints of singing going on. It's an interesting mix of influences, because on the one hand a lot of the stuff does sound a lot like classic Bay Area thrash from a riffing/songwriting standpoint, but then at the same time there are a lot of melodies and dual guitar harmonies that have more of that NWOBHM kind of thing going on, and that kind of shifts the vibe a little bit. The recording sounded too thin to me at first, but as my ears adjusted to it I actually started to like the production. It does still kind of feel like a little something's missing, but the guitar tone's got a nice crunch to it, there's a lot of clarity, and even though the mix is a little on the thin side, you can hear the basslines and everything feels pretty damn balanced, so… maybe just giving the percussion a little more oomph and cleaning things up around the edges just a little would help out? I don't know. I'm intrigued by this band, though, because the songs are really cool, and it's just kind of unexpected overall, so it feels like there's a lot of potential here.

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