Last Chance To Reason
posted on 1/2008 By:
Let's see... What have we here? Semi-clever song titles that include pop-culture-literate references to Steve Irwin and Joe Dirt… awesome. A band with a list of influences that spans from jazz to grindcore... brilliant. Oh, wait! There's a keyboard player... man, this just gets better and better.
This record sat unclaimed in the Metal Review queue for quite awhile before I decided to pick it up and give it a listen. As you can see from the thought process detailed above, my initial response to Lvl. 1 was a feeling of something considerably less than excitement, but the more I sat and thought about it, the more I felt that, my own weary indifference towards angsty spazz-metal notwithstanding, perhaps Last Chance To Reason deserved a bit more fairness than what I was giving them. So I sat down, put myself in the mindset of someone who equates technical proficiency with quality musicianship, started up the disc, closed my eyes, and proceeded to remind myself why I wasn't excited.
So what’s the word after a few listens? It's spazz-core tech-metal a la Beneath The Massacre or Ion Dissonance with some off-kilter jazz-fusion and Tangerine Dream ambient spaciness thrown in. Top that off with a touch of unfunny snide "humor" (I refuse to use the word "irony" here because it's not ironic) and whaddaya got? A bit of a metalcore mess. If you're one of those people who loves arpeggiated guitar riffs and songs devoid of structure, plus you're really into whatever makes song titles like "She's My Bloody Pie" and "Owned By A Stingray Barb" amusing, then, by the eyes of Jehovah, this one's for you.
Production-wise, Lvl. 1 sounds decent, yet it's lifeless. Vocalist Bob Delaney screams and rages, only occasionally employing a clean voice, and guitarist AJ Harvey is all over his fretboard. The guitars are sharp, if not particularly biting; the drums are solid and punchy; the keyboards are well, they're keys, alternating between the jazz-fusion runs and the Eno-esque sci-fi noise. Harvey and keyboardist Brian Palmer occasionally double their parts, noodling up and down in the fluid runs that define the style. As unorthodox as the full-time presence of keys may be, it still doesn't make Lvl. 1 anything more than a curiosity. What I mean by that is this: when you first hear it, you think, "Is that a keyboard?" So it piques your interest somewhat because it's a little unexpected. And then after the first ten seconds of the first sci-fi-soundtrack synth doodle, you're thinking, "Yep. That's a keyboard. Cool. I wonder if Law & Order is on..." (The answer is yes: it's been scientifically proven that, no matter where you are and what time it may be, Law & Order is on.) The guitar riffs are recycled chaos, with chugging and skronks and endless wheedling, and yes, yes, there are breakdowns. Get your moshing shoes on, you kids in the pit.
So why am I so down on this? I'm usually a more tolerant listener. Well, mostly, it's because, having grown up in the 80s, I got over how well someone can play many moons ago. I am now more interesting in what they're playing. Some bands can balance both, but many bands seem to sacrifice the latter for the former, as we all know. Last Chance To Reason is one of those bands. None of these songs are interesting in the least, aside from maybe a few moments that inevitably get lost in the inherent incoherence of the style. To put it differently, nothing has a chance to develop because it's just an endless series of notes. If something even starts to grab your attention, it changes immediately, before you knew what it was. I know that's sort of how it goes with this stuff, but dammit, throw me a bone here. Give me something to grab on to.
Final judgment: I'm unimpressed by spastic wankery. Let's get back to songwriting, kids, and by that I mean "the process of creating a piece of music that evokes a mood or a feeling that isn't motion sickness." If you can play a million notes, awesome, I'm happy for you, as long as you do what I just said. Admittedly, I don't even particularly love Ion Dissonance, a math-metalcore band much better than this one, so maybe I'm just not the target market. Either way, Last Chance To Reason is a latecomer to a party that I wasn't really enjoying in the first place, and they didn't bring beer, so I am out of here.
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