Review Summary: Good headbanging brutal death metal, but hardly essential
I honestly don't know how to review a genre like slam/brutal metal (and yeah, I know Ingested has whiffs of -core about them but shut up). It's not because I don't know much about the music, it's probably my most frequently listened to genre as my Last.FM profile will attest to. It's more that the style is one of those where pretty much every review could be distilled down to just saying if it's a good or bad slice of the genre and leave it at that. If you, as in you right now reading this review, have even a passing familiarity with the sound, you already know if you like it or not. Bands in this style don't try to reach out, it's more about pushing inward and making as good an example of it as they can, with zero regard for winning over skeptics.
So here's that sentence: The Level Above Human is a pretty good brutal/slam metal.
Like I said above, Ingested often get slapped around with the "deathcore" label. It's understandable, especially in the case of The Surreption, but I think a bit unfair. Sure, there are elements that we associate with deathcore, but that seems more incidental than anything. The songs are built like your standard BDM fare, breakdowns are chunky and chromatic, the blasts are furious, and nothing about them seems an attempt to court Rather than the Matti Way style gutturals, Ingested throws slightly more barking lows in with occasional highs and (oh my lawdy) even a gang chant or two. Just accept that this guy doesn't sound like a sewer gained sentience and focus on the music.
Since brutal/slam is generally pretty damn similar, production is a huge part of the equation, and TLAH does it in a cleaner fashion than some might like, but it fits the composition well. Everything is thick and meaty, but the drums do have that plastic clicky sound that will turn some off. I know from old YouTube videos that their drummer doesn't (or at least didn't) use a physical kick drum to record in favor of a simple Roland pad, because it would be triggered anyway, but it does mean that the triggers here may not be augmenting an acoustic kit, but rather simply replacing it wholesale. Still, the sound is appropriately thick but still clear. As Ingested aren't the most technical band in the world, they also avoid the tech-death trap of being too metronome-perfect.
The riffs are meat and potatoes down the line, but each one is still enjoyable. You're not gonna come out of this one arguing with your friends about which song was the best because aside from Last Rites they're all built on the same template, but it's a case where execution is good so that doesn't matter. Maybe the songs all do sound alike, but they're different enough that it doesn't sound like one on repeat while simultaneously being in a nice headbanging groove that it maintains for the 44 minute runtime. Yeah, it's short, but it's as long as it needs to be. Ten songs, done. No long intros, no samples, just each song popping in, doing its business, then getting out.
Each member does a good job in their role. The drummer adds enough little tastes to avoid sounding like a blast-beat recording on a push-button, and the guitarists manage to throw in enough tricks, like the occasional guitar solo and one or two melodic licks, to keep things interesting, and even if the riffs aren't exactly memorable, none of them sound directionless or completely throwaway either. In themselves, each song is coherent and damn heavy. I'm pretty sure there's a bassist, but honestly I have no idea what he's doing. The music isn't bass-light, but I genuinely could never hear a bass separating itself from the riffs. So... I guess kudos to that guy for not messing the music up?
Although I do enjoy TLAH, Ingested does seem to be getting "cleaner" over time, to the band's detriment. Going back to their debut, you can see a drastic change in song titles, as the band appears to be drifting away from the blood-and-guts depths of slam into a more "mainstream" style of brutal death metal, as strange as that may sound, and I think that's part of where the -core complaints come from. Surpassing the Boundaries of Human Suffering was disgusting, vicious, and a lovely kind of album you would be embarrassed to have someone look over your shoulder and see the titles scrolling on your phone. Where they used to worship Devourment, Ingested have changed to the Suffocation model, and while Suffocation sure as hell is a great band to want to follow after, that shift in soul has made their somewhat bland songwriting more apparent, since that vile aesthetic is gone that buoys most slam bands.
Think of Ingested like a film studio known for gore porn horror making one that's focused a bit more on ghost hauntings, but still goes through all the same rhythms as before. The same directorial style, the same cuts, the same acting. It's still good, and the parts that stick to the roots are as fun as ever, but the tonal shift robs it of being something better. If you like brutal/slam metal, check it out, I'm sure you'll like it, but I doubt many will come back to it.