Future Leaders of the World – LVL IV Review

Future Leaders of the World
Epic Records

Do you ever sit back and find yourself wondering what Nirvana may have turned into had the band’s front man Kurt Cobain not passed away? Then this new album by Future Leaders of the World (FLoW) is for you.

Sure, we got a hint of that sound when South African imports Seether made a splash on the rock scene a few years ago, but this debut from FLoW really seems to encapsulate what might have been … and not entirely in a good way.

FLoW’s lead singer, Phil Taylor, has the Cobain snarl and disaffected drawl down pat. On the other hand, the band lacks the rawness that flowed through Nirvana’s releases. The rock sheen flows around Taylor’s vocals from track to track … much like you’d expect Nirvana’s music would have become more and more polished over time as the band moved away from its indie-punk/rock infused music to a more radio-friendly sonic assault (theoretically speaking of course).

But, for the sake of FLoW’s debut “LVL IV” (level four), let’s leave the Nirvana comparisons for a moment.

The band’s bio over at Epic Records Web site details Taylor’s struggles trying to make it in the music industry. He eventually scored big getting a demo to Puddle of Mudd backstage at a concert (much like Puddle of Mudd did with Limp Bizkit — and thus securing themselves a recording contract a couple of years ago). In fact, FLoW’s sound is reminiscent of stronger, edgier Puddle of Mudd tracks. But Taylor is a better, more dynamic vocalist than PoM’s Wes Scantlin. His voice oozes desperation throughout the album … almost mumbling through songs’ verses with a laid-back drawl before picking up the pace on choruses or flying through pseudo rap-like delivery on bridges.

The band is making a splash on rock radio at the moment with “Let Me Out,” a deliberate, plodding rock number, perfect for an introduction to the band (a la Creed’s 1997 debut single “My Own Prison”).

The music throughout the album is, for the most part, unimaginative rock. That’s not to say it’s bad, its just the typical down-turned guitar rock with a steady back beat. In fact, there’s nothing too pull out of the mix and point out … except for Taylor. (And here’s where Nirvana returns to the mix.)

His vocals really do evoke the spirit of the late Cobain. Whether it’s screaming through the end of “Sued,” the chorus of “Let Me Out,” or the more fast-paced (almost fun-sounding) “Killpop,” Taylor IS the reason to check out this band.

It’s not all angry rock on “LVL IV” though. The band offers up the almost-ballad “House of Chains” that almost brings about a memory of late-’80s/early-’90s rockers Faster Pussycat.

Overall, FLoW aren’t doing anything that hasn’t been done before. Far from declaring the band the second-coming of Nirvana, this is more of a spotlight for Taylor to shine vocally. The band has the opportunity to make something of itself, but only time will tell where its headed.

Jonathan Widro is the owner and founder of Inside Pulse. Over a decade ago he burst onto the scene with a pro-WCW reporting style that earned him the nickname WCWidro. Check him out on Twitter for mostly inane non sequiturs