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King Crimson - Level Five  CD (album) cover


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3 stars "Level Five" is a concert recording made in 2001 while KC toured with Tool, and formerly only available at live shows. As with much of KC's live work, it's now available from the site.

The recording is only 45 minutes long, and consists of three tracks from the then-current "Power to Believe" album, the title track from the previous "ConstruKCtion of Light," and "The Deception of the Thrush" from the ProjeKCt recordings. The recording is quite clean, with virtually no audience noise. It's also almost all instrumental, with Belew's vocals only appearing at the second portion of "TCoL."

No, it's not for everyone, and even casual KC fans won't miss this one in their collections. However, it's a much stronger recording than many have previously reviewed. The CD opens with "Dangerous Curves," not often a show opener for Crimson, which makes me wonder if this recording doesn't begin in the middle of the show; however, being as I didn't see any of this particular tour's gigs, and they were double-billing with Tool, it's possible that this 45 minutes of music comprises the entire evening's offerings. If so, it's an odd, but overall satisfying, song selection. "Curves" is a terrific choice to open with, a slow build eventually leading to a heavy, harsh guitar-driven frenzy of rhythm and melody. The second track, "Level Five," is the showstopper, this iteration of the band's take on the "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" series of instrumentals. Previous incarnations of the band have taken off into extended improvisational stretches; this band, whether because of the different rhythm section of Gunn/Mastelotto or a different approach, weaves short bursts of improv into a much tighter song structure. "Level Five" is as close to "shredding" as KC gets, with howling dual guitars from Fripp and Belew anchored by a frenetic yet tightly structured rhythm. Belew gets a bit of room to play with his solo. "Virtuous Circle" will become "The Power to Believe II" on the album, and is much looser here than on the studio track, with a lovely Arabic-sounding percussion run opening into a melodic, almost sweet instrumental piece. "The ConstruKCtion of Light" is a holdover from the previous album, and quite nicely done, though fans who know the original won't hear a lot of differences between this and the studio track; the song is basically a series of chromatic runs playing off one another until it segues into a vocally driven midtempo song with chiming guitars underpinning Belew's near-chanted lyrics. The last song is a personal favorite. "Thrush" begins with Trey Gunn's distorted spoken vocals leading into a slow, heavy, beautiful instrumental featuring lovely interplay between Gunn and Fripp.

After the end of "Thrush," KC surprises the listener with an "additional" track that I can't identify, probably an improv. Lots of chirping synthy percussion -- a Mastelotto trademark -- underpins what sounds to me like a Gunn solo fleshed out by Frippertronic soundscapes, seguing into a harder piece featuring a typically minor-chord Fripp solo.

Except for his high-end soloing with Fripp on the last two tracks, Gunn's contributions to the music are quite restricted, providing me with the biggest disappointment of this album -- in concert, Gunn was often the highlight of the evening, leading the band out of whatever doldrums they might have found themselves in, and providing alternatively thunderous bass support and lovely, Frippish high-end solos. But that's a minor caveat. Mastelotto has no interest in taking center stage with his drum chops as Bruford did; instead, he lays down complex yet unobtrusive backbeats augmented with a variety of programmed and manually performed fills. Belew fans won't like the fact that he isn't more prominently featured on this album, either. Fripp fans should be quite happy.

Overall, this is not a groundbreaking album, but KC fans will not be disappointed. It's also a decent CD to give to someone curious about the direction the band went after Levin and Bruford departed, though I'd direct them first to "The Power to Believe." Until the band decides to get back together (2006?), this will help ease the pain of not having anything new to enjoy. Certainly a worthy, if relatively minor, addition to the KC catalog.

Report this review (#59965)
Posted Saturday, December 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is a live recording from 2001 when KING CRIMSON toured with TOOL. As the band often does they allow the audience to hear some new material that will be released on their next album ("The Power To Believe"). I would have loved to have been in the crowd for this concert. And I really feel fortunate to have this live EP, as it's getting harder to find. Like TOOL's music this is dark and very heavy.

The intro to "Dangerous Curves" is quite humerous as we can hear Adrian whispering "Can you turn the lights down please". A little while later he whispers the same line "Can you turn the lights down please".Then he says "Heck, turn them off then you can watch how really bad we play". You can then hear the band joking around and laughing.The synths-like sounds and drums are really amazing in this song. This is just an incredibly heavy track that builds. "Level Five" is another "The Power To Believe" song at at over 8 minutes in length. I've said it before but this song is a monster ! It opens with screaming guitar and check out the outbreaks of bass that comes and goes several times.The beast is crying out as we hear some absolutely blistering guitar solos as this monster is truly alive.

"Virtuous Circle" was changed a bit to become "Power To Believe II" on that record. Lots of percussion as the guitar joins in.The sound does lighten as percussion continues.The waves of synths-like sounds are majestic. "The ConstruKction Of Light" from the album of the same name is over 13 minutes long. Drums open the song as relentless angular guitar melodies play throughout. Great bass lines again and vocals 6 minutes in. "The Deception of Thrush" is taken from "The ProjeKts" compilation. A monologue with processed vocals for 2 minutes gets things started. Then a dark, heavy soundscape rises from the depths. It does lighten up as synths-like waves come in with guitar melodies.

I can't recommend this high enough.There is nothing like live KING CRIMSON. And the material chosen for this EP is right up my alley, plus the fact it's taken from the TOOL concert only adds to the legendary status that this will one day achieve. 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#125826)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Level Five is a live record which originally was only available at King Crimson's shows during their tour in 2001, in which they were featured as TOOL opening act.

According to KC spirit and way of working, live shows have always been considered as a "research moment", or to say it with Fripp's own words: an occasion to "play what we don't know".

This 45 minutes long EP shows us some classic musical statements by the Fripp-Gunn-Belew-Mastellotto line-up, offering a sort of preview for their next studio album "The Power To Believe", released in 2003, two years later, which would have featured two of these songs: "Level Five" and "Dangerous Curves".

"Virtuous Circle" is a standard KC improv., not one of their best, to be honest, while the "The Deception Of The Thrush" on this record is brilliant....more interesting than the original one, featured on the Projekct 2 album "Live Groove". In other words: this record could be considered as the definitive rehearsal for "The Power to Believe".

A negative aspect could be the choice to insert a version of "The Construkction Of Light", sadly quite boring, and for this reason, the whole project results less fluid than how it might have been without this track, which moreover doubtlessly shows KC song writing reborn after their 2000 album with the same name, one of their weakest works.

Honestly speaking: Level Five is a good live EP, but it doesn't catch the DEFINITIVE essence from a KC live, just a number of average performances.

A good live record, not their best.

Report this review (#258962)
Posted Saturday, January 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This live release from the tour King Crimson undertook with Tool - now available a bit more widely thanks to being republished on the Heaven & Earth boxed set - finds the band both salvaging material from the Construction of Light album (the original studio version of which even Robert Fripp has expressed dissatisfaction with) and giving audiences a taste of what would later come on The Power To Believe.

It also happens to delve into some of Crimson's darkest, heaviest material yet, with an oppressive atmosphere more powerful than anything since, perhaps, the absolute darkest moments of the mid-1970s lineup. Perhaps the influence of Tool is to blame; either way, it feels like Crimson here finally break their way into the alt-prog-metal seam they'd glancingly dabbled in on THRAK and had bounced off on The Construction of Light.

Report this review (#2269995)
Posted Monday, October 14, 2019 | Review Permalink

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