Last Chance To Reason
02. Adrift I: A Vision Begins
03. Cosmos: The Pattern Forms
04. A Glimpse Of Omniscience
05. Adrift II: A Vision Ends
06. The Escapist
07. The Dictator
08. The Artist
Fans of Last Chance To Reason took a bit of a blow this year when it was announced that the up-and-coming prog group would shift its focus, becoming a non-touring studio project and losing both guitarists AJ Harvey and Mike Abdow. Frontman Michael Lessard also joined The Contortionist as their full-time vocalist, somewhat demoting Last Chance To Reason as a side-project. With the future of Last Chance To Reason being somewhat uncertain, there’s at least a bittersweet edge in that the group’s latest output Level 3 is the group’s most mature effort yet.
Even if the group were to never create another album, a swansong more fitting would be hard to come by. Level 3 acts as a direct sequel to Level 2‘s conceptual universe, and as such, makes a palpable shift in tone to give the album a dark subtlety. The lyrics in the opening track ‘Rebirth‘ set the stage:
Reforming… I’m awake.
No longer bound by the second dimension.
What is this form, this body?
Feel the anguish of life course through me.
Unfamiliar these senses,
this third dimension.
And so it begins…
As our protagonist goes from a two-dimensional being to third dimensional, the album too gains depth. Level 3 feels much more pensive and melancholic, being less in-your-face prog and at times taking on post-metal atmospherics, as best displayed in the climactic ending of ‘A Glimpse of Omniscience.’ While the group never really goes full-out Isis, ambiance plays a major role in Level 3, even though it may not be immediately noticeable.
The concept is aided by frontman Michael Lessard’s ability to capture a somewhat “robotic” vocal quality in tone while giving the character humanity with his soulful and expressive singing. Lessard continues to show that he is one of the greatest vocalists in the genre on Level 3 by tipping the scales in favor of clean singing. The album is littered with hooks that are quick to grow on listeners, and even though Level 3 has its moments of complexity, his ability to weave in haunting melodies makes Level 3 a massive earworm.
During the touring cycle for Level 2, former keyboard player Brian Palmer left the group, and with no one to fill the position, it remained to be seen whether or not the group would continue the keyboard leads that helped establish the group’s videogame-like atmosphere. Thankfully, the keyboards have made a return on Level 3, albeit with a somewhat diminished emphasis. Atmospheric pads are nearly omnipresent, along with piano popping up throughout the record. The synth work is most notable in making ‘The Dictator’ feel like an epic symphonic metal track, for instance.
The group has simply evolved as a unit all around. Perhaps thanks to the addition of guitarist Mike Abdow for this album, the amount of over-the-top shred across Level 3 has increased. ‘A Glimpse Of Omniscience’ has a solo section that sounds like it would feel at home on a Steve Vai record. More of the band’s Cynic influence is played up as well, especially heard in the introduction of ‘Adrift II: A Vision Ends‘ that channels ‘Evolutionary Sleeper’ and the bass-driven grooves of ‘Cosmos: A Pattern Forms.’
It’s hard to find faults in an album of this caliber, but the weaker points of Level 3 lie in production. Helmed by Eyal Levi and Jason Suecof of Audiohammer Studios, Level 3 could have been pristine. However, Lessard’s vocals are often lower in the mix than need be, and guitars seem overly loud in comparison at times. Audiohammer does contribute to the album’s wondrous prog stylings though, with a neat panning trick ‘A Glimpse of Omniscience‘ that makes the track stand out much more.
It’s difficult to say whether or not Level 3 is “better” than Level 2, but the band certainly doesn’t disappoint. In fact, Level 3 has potential to be the best progressive metal album released this year. Hopefully they manage to overcome their lineup troubles and craft equally mesmerizing records in the future. Don’t call it quits just yet, guys. You’re on to something!
Last Chance To Reason – Level 3 gets…