01. Upload Complete
02. Coded To Fail
03. Taking Control
04. Temp Files
05. Programmed For Battle
07. The Parabolic
08. The Linear
09. The Prototype
Level 2 has been a long time coming. Okay maybe not comparatively if you’re a Necrophagist or Wintersun fan, but I first heard about this album in June of last year (thanks to fellow writer Uncle Muscles) and I was blown away by how awesome this stuff sounded. Thus began the slow, painful descent into musical depravity. We had phenomenal releases last year, but always in the back of my mind the itch to hear this futuristic prog metal grew more irresistible. But I made it! The trek through months of starvation is finally over and I give my condolences to those who had to wait longer than I. Whether you’ve been waiting a month or a year, it all comes down to the million dollar question: was it worth the wait?
If Last Chance To Reason is unfamiliar to you, think of it like Between the Buried and Me and Cynic having a baby in a futuristic video game world. The concept of the album revolves around a protagonist in a video game world where the world he is in only ceases to exist by completing it. Tron immediately comes to mind. While the actual lyrics themselves may come across as repetitive (you will hear the word ‘digital’ and ‘code’ many times as well as some recurring lines), the genius behind the delivery is what truly counts. Mike Lessard is an absolute vocal god, delivering an astonishing amount of catchy clean lines and earth-erupting growls. His low vocals could bring forth Judgment Day (“The Parabolic”) then repair everything and send us all on our merry way up Jacob’s Ladder to heaven with his singing (“Portal”, “Apotheosis”). The natural talent is above and beyond many vocalists in metal today, but what really elevates him to another level is his vocal stacking technique. He will stack layers of multi-ranged singing that has an end result similar to a vocoder (“Temp Files”). It’s a downright mesmerizing and hypnotic effect that pushes the album’s well-established digital theme deeper into the realm of authenticity.
Unlike many other artists, Last Chance To Reason’s crux is not the vocalist. In fact, there is none, as the men behind the vocals are equally talented. It’s hard to decide what I like most about the instrumentation. Evan Sammons is a MONSTER on the drums with his diversified style, switching between mind-boggling polyrhythms, blast beats and simple jazz grooves frequently. All of this combines with the phenomenally dizzying guitar work. Powerful and emotional leads or monolithic and aphotic riffs; the variety is a sure treat for any fan of musicians who use more than the 6th string. The icing on the cake is the prevalence of the instruments that rarely steal the spotlight: the bass and keys. They take the spotlight from time to time here (end of “Portal”, blast beat sections of “Programmed For Battle” respectively) and when they’re not, they’re still very much audible and effectively add to the sound. I am surprised how much I enjoyed the synths on this album as they usually detract from the experience. Ultimately, it’s the coming together of these musicians and the consistency of it all that makes Level 2 so fucking good. Everything truly feels mathematical and calculated. Nothing ever feels bizarrely out of place or abrasive in this 43 minute adventure. There is no weak track here and while picking favorites results in indecisiveness, I’d have to give the deciding vote to the 3 song span of “Portal“, “The Parabolic” and “The Linear.” It’s when the album goes from amazing to fucking amazing. But then I’d be forgetting the beautiful conclusion “Apotheosis.” Fuck!
To put it simply, there is cohesiveness that is not seen much today. You can have all the mechanical talent in the world, but it doesn’t mean jack if you can’t put it to good use. They all had the same idea when they wrote the music. It’s almost like they’re a single entity with one purpose: to make the most awesome prog metal album of 2011. And up to this point, they certainly have.
Sonically, it’s fantastic. Jamie King did yet another phenomenal job making sure you get a great, rich experience. My only complaint is sometimes the drums get buried underneath all the chaos, mainly seen in “Programmed For Battle.” Yet at the same time the drums are powerful as fuck. I cannot even begin to fathom how many times I’ve burst into a torrent of air drumming. I’m a proud sucker for drumming, but god damn does Evan’s playing and Jaime King’s production bring out the kneejerk pseudo playing. Hell, I can’t even make it through a single song without the urge to bust out my complete lack of musical skill, whether it be the epic basslines or angular guitar riffs.
Level 2 is beyond remarkable. It is an album that dares to go where other efforts have not. I dare you to find me an album that sounds anything like this. Even if the music is not your cup of tea (totally understandable – the abundance of synths, odd time signatures and sporadic songwriting might turn off a fair chunk), the creativity is laudable and unprecedented. You have to at least give them the respect for not being metal act #6324. Last Chance To Reason are innovators, not imitators, and you will see this audacious statement holds water once you immerse yourself in this thematically-driven excellence.
Level 2 is without a doubt the album of the year so far, beating my previous favorite, Assimilate Regenerate, and the highly anticipated and well-received BTBAM EP, The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues. The bar has been set. Take notes, other bands, as mediocrity will no longer be acceptable. Only time will tell if the bar is even reachable by more than a handful.
Last Chance To Reason – Level 2 gets…