‘Level 8’ album review
By Duncan Fingarson, Senior Columnist
At the tail end of 2017—after the Other Press went on break for the holidays—an event came around that I look forward to every year. Not Christmas, no, but close to it: Gavin Dunne released his latest album. Dunne is more commonly known as Miracle of Sound, an Irish indie musician who releases quality music based on pop culture.
Level 8, the latest release, is different in a few ways from its predecessors—it’s one of the shortest of the Level albums, topping Level 6‘s 15 tracks by 1, a remastered version of Mother Earth from the metal album. It also has quite a few guest vocalists, and more songs based on movies and TV shows.
The album opens with “The Great Unknown,” the track for Mass Effect: Andromeda. The song is a good opener, laden with both traditional instruments and electronic sound reminiscent of previous Mass Effect songs. “The Moment” is a rock song about seizing the day, intended as a tribute to Wonder Woman. Both are good, but not exactly standout tracks.
In my opinion, the first big hit of the album is “Upside Down,” the Stranger Things song. It’s the ’80s incarnate, full of backing synth and echoing vocals. There’s an undercurrent of menace very appropriate for the atmosphere of the show, and the song does an excellent job evoking the feel of its source material.
Following on prior Game of Thrones songs for characters such as Tyrion and Daenerys, Level 8 has two tracks dedicated to the popular HBO show. Jon Snow and Arya Stark both get the Miracle of Sound treatment. Jon’s track features some heavy guitar and powerful vocals, with very few moments of calm. Arya’s is almost the opposite, with rhythmic drums, floating strings and melodic vocal work provided by guest singer Karliene. It’s a more relaxed song than Jon’s, but still very much a fitting tribute to the character.
“Force of Nature” is another standout song. It’s technically a duet, but the focus is very much on the female vocalist. The song is deep and complex, featuring multiple layers of instrumentals. It follows on the heels of “Into the Wild,” the best word for which is “soaring.” These two are among the best songs on the album… but not quite the top. For me, that place goes to “Replica.”
“Replica” is a bit of a strange choice for number one, I’ll be first to admit. 2017’s Prey was largely an overlooked game, and when I first heard this song I hadn’t yet played it. Consequently, I didn’t like it as much as I do now. It’s one of very few songs where I do recommend checking out the source material first, as a complete run-through of Prey will greatly enhance your experience of this song. On its own it’s still good, but in this case, a little bit of context can go a long way.
Overall, Level 8 is a solid entry in Miracle of Sound’s discography. It doesn’t have any tracks that quite live up to the standard set by songs like “Hard Cash” and “Lady of Worlds,” but all of the songs are consistently good, and there are no major flops.