Progressive metal’s unsung heroes from Maine’s, Last Chance to Reason, have been making silent waves in the music scene they released their second album, Level 2, with Prosthetic Records a year ago. The album, which had a well-executed computer world concept, received several good reviews, but was mostly overlooked and left in the Prosthetic back catalog. In addition, earlier this year, The Contortionist announced Mike Lessard (the vocalist for Last Chance to Reason) as the new permanent vocalist, leaving Last Chance to Reason on the back burner for some time. With all this in mind, I can safely say this review carries quite a bittersweet feeling for me. Sure, it is a new Last Chance to Reason record, yet it holds the weight of being the last one for another couple years while The Contortionist carries on. So, with that being said, we can now continue to their next installment, Level 3.
One of the first things I noticed once I dived into the first track, “Rebirth,” was just how much the instruments evolved with the lineup change. The keyboards and random synthesized sounds – though still apparent – have taken a backseat to let the guitars and bass shine. This could definitely be said of bass player Chris Corey’s work on Level 3. His playing almost outdoes the guitar work completely on this record, both being clear in the mix and remarkably technical. Drummer Evan Sammons performs admirably once again on the record, ranging from heavy, fast-paced blasts and fills to slower, jazzier parts at times. The guitars have a clean, yet still crunchy tone to them, slightly reminiscent of Alaska-era Between the Buried and Me.
Though the instruments give this album quite the hook, it is Lessard’s vocal performance that truly seals the deal on this record. Throughout all of the tracks on Level 3, you will hear his highly improved clean vocals, as well as his earsplitting screams and low growls previous fans enjoyed on their last release, but in lesser quantity. Because of the shifted ratio towards clean vocals, the songs now have a much less “metalcore” feel to them, as it gives melody to even the heaviest of parts on the record. The particular notes that Lessard hits, especially on songs like their first single (“The Escapist”) and the album’s closer (“Transcendence”), almost feel new to the genre in the way he uses them, creating melodies that are both catchy and original in their own light.
I want to say the album does have a flaw somewhere, but I suppose that wouldn’t be the correct term to describe why it just isn’t as good as their last release. Level 3 has quite a few great spots on it, and the album overall carries quite a bit of force to it, yet at the same time, it doesn’t have as many truly spectacular points to it as Level 2 did. The hectic, almost spastic atmosphere of the virus in Level 2 was replaced by the stoic, groovy idea of transcending reality in Level 3, and the album shows it. So, in this respect, Level 3’s flaw isn’t that it really has a flaw. The problem is the consistent good, with little to be said of it that is truly incredible.
In conclusion, Last Chance to Reason has done a great job once again, pushing through the wall of Third Release Mediocrity Syndrome (or TRMS) to release quite a solid record. If you haven’t listened to this band before, Level 3 will be a great starting point, as it is rather easy to understand from the get-go. It won’t be the band's magnum opus, but it is most certainly worthy of recognition amongst this year’s greatest releases.