Released: 2013, Prosthetic Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Portland, Maine’s, Last Chance To Reason return with the third installment of their videogame inspired prog/death metal while in a state of real-world flux. Frontman Michael Lessard has signed on as the full-time singer with Indiana's The Contortionist and Last Chance’s main lineup is now just the founding rhythm section of bassist Chris Corey and drummer Evan Sammons. Guitarists AJ Harvey and Mike Abdow left after the album was completed and have apparently been replaced on the road by Robby Baca, who’s full-time gig, oddly enough, is with The Contortionist.
So while a Level 4 might seem in doubt, as least Last Chance got Level 3 out the door before things got too squirrely. And while there apparently is no videogame to accompany this album, a la 2011’s Level 2 - which took the concept album, umm, concept to a whole other level with the interactive game of the same name - Level 3 continues with the predecessor’s thematic sense and technical histrionics. A little something extra, here, however, probably wouldn't have been a bad idea.
Level 3 is a maddening exercise in contrast that is not nearly as adventurous as the gamesmanship that inspired it. Dreamy synths and piano, Lessard's pensive, consistently clean voice and tepid, jazzy instrumental forays are played against Abdow and Harvey's jagged, djenty riffs at every turn. It's an odd strategy to employ over almost the entirety of the album, like two soccer teams playing for a nil-nil draw. A more ethereal, Cynic-like approach probably would have been pretty boring, but it would have been nice if Last Chance took more advantage of their now former guitar tandem's rather imposing performances here – which may have something to do with them now being former members.
Instead, the band opt to ease the throttle back when things start getting good and heavy, favoring atmosphere and flow over oomph, which is a shame. Lessard barely breaks a sweat as his vocals border on somnambulism at times. Only on “The Dictator” do Last Chance just let rip, delivering easily the most brutal and exhilarating 2:50 on the album, as the beats blast, the riffs rage and Lessard, finally, roars like a lion.
But by then, it's too little too late and the brief burst of excitement isn't enough to counter the frustration built up waiting for it. That it never returns is even more disappointing.