I don't even know where to begin with this one. In a good way.
Last Chance to Reason was a band I first saw when I was fifteen, possibly sixteen years old. Since they're from Maine, I've seen them more times than I can count over the course of primarily three different line ups. It's also because of this that I became friends with the guys in the band and have followed their journey from playing local shows to being signed to Prosthetic Records to touring with such bands as Atheist. Although I may be biased in my liking of the band to a certain extent, that is not the justification for this review. All friendships and history aside, this album is fucking amazing.
Inspired by videogames and the progressive rock artists of yesteryear, Level 2 is a concept album that has been over three years in the making. The story follows a person trapped in a digital world that they must battle their way through. The overall "electronic" (not techno or electronic dance music) sound of this album is solid through out, whether it be in the more mellow sections or during the parts where your face is being shredded off. This sound is a refreshing change from the typical distortion based music of so many other bands.
Playing a big role in the album's overall sound is keyboardist/synth player Brian Palmer. Keyboards and synth aren't the rarest instruments in the world of metal but they also aren't the most common. What some bands use sparingly or as a novelty, Last Chance to Reason makes an integral part of their sound. Brian's mastery of the keyboard is made known whether he is adding subtle background passages or blazing away on a key-based shred. Guitar duties are split between AJ Harvey and newest member Tom Waterhouse. Both Tom and AJ showcase their abilities not only through odd time signatures and phrasings, but also with expert soloing. It's not all technical showmanship either because throughout the album these two will have you banging your head to their solid riffing. Chris Corey provides the low end of LCTR's sound and isn't overpowered as so many bassists are in metal. If he's giving depth to a riff or pulling off a solo (yes, there is actually a bass solo on this album), Chris makes his prowess known. Evan Sammon's drumming on Level 2 is top notch. Blast beats, double bass, jazzy fills, and rhythms I couldn't tap out with five extra hands are just the beginning of what Sammons does behind the kit. Mike Lessard shows true ability as a vocal artist on this album. From deep growls to high pitched banshee screams, he does it all. What is really impressive about the vocals on this album is how well Lessard's clean, melodic singing works during its respective passages. In the world of metal, where clean vocals are more often considered a detriment than not, Mike makes them work and makes them work well.
With the narrative of the album and the "electronic" sound, doesn't it sounds like this could be the soundtrack to a videogame? Well, it just so happened to be that these metal maestros are developing a videogame with indie game developer Tom Vine to coincide with the album . A PC-only demo is available for download here and the full game will be released at a later date.
It's hard to pick out specific tracks to comment on because there is so much to each individual song. Each song is its own digital universe with endless things to pick up on and look out for. I'm on my fourth time through the album (not counting the amount of times I've seen their new material live) since picking it up three hours ago and I'm noticing more and more nuances each time through. However, I would have to say my favorite track on the album is "The Prototype." It's more slow, plodding, and melodic than most of the other tracks on the album, but the technical and professional musicianship that is Last Chance to Reason is still there in full force. A more uptempo song that I really enjoy is "Coded to Fail." Although it clocks in at just 2:57 (making it the third shortest track on the album), "Coded to Fail" drives forward in all of its technical proginess, truly making you want to go out and beat the shit out of some spacemutant robot.
I've tried my best to give a review of this album but this is one of those times when words just can't do it justice. Level 2 needs to be experienced, not read about. So get your copy on Amazon, at the iTunes store, the Prosthetic Records store, or their Benchmark merch shop. Add them on Facebook to stay update on all of their news and tour dates and go see them at the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival 13 on April 16th, 2011, along side such acts as Between the Buried and Me, Dying Fetus, Revocation, The Ocean, Hatebreed, and more.