Last Chance to Reason Create Video Game Concept Album
Last Chance to Reason succeed where many of their tech-metal peers often fail: writing memorable and compelling songs. The Maine sextet blends the choppy guitar riffs of Meshuggah with Cynic-like atmospherics and filters them through their own unique brand of melodicism. This week, Last Chance to Reason released 'Level 2,' the band's sophomore album and its first for the Prosthetic Records label.
Teaming up with producer Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me, The Human Abstract), LCTR created a concept album inspired by the great prog-rock opuses of the '70s. The music on 'Level 2' may not automatically remind you of groups like King Crimson and Yes, but its daring spirit surely will. Noisecreep recently spoke with Last Chance to Reason drummer Evan Sammons about the ground-breaking concept behind 'Level 2.'
Noisecreep: The spirit of 'Level 2' owes a lot to the progressive rock concept albums that came out in the '70s. What were some of the records that you guys looked to as touchstones while writing and recording the new album?
Evan Sammons: I have distinct memories of listening to Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' and 'Dark Side of the Moon' when I was growing up, so that probably seeped through a lot in my personal tastes. Everyone in the band is into the idea of creating an album that's a unified experience. Some of the great conceptual albums we all listen to a lot are The Mars Volta's 'De-loused in The Comatorium,' Rush's '2112,' Dream Theater's 'Scenes from a Memory,' King Crimson's 'The Power to Believe,' and Yes' 'Fragile.'
Did you have any trouble threading your storyline throughout the span of the record?
The concept for the lyrics is something that had floated around in my head for a while before I sat down to write any of the album. I tried writing short stories that were a literal take on a video game world. The challenge was always to make the lyrics connect to the human condition in some way. When we got the idea to do a video game concept album, it became clear that lyrics would be the perfect place to explore those ideas.
The typical video game scenario is a violent 'you versus the universe' scenario. In our story, the main character dying only prolongs the life of the game itself, and that game universe only ceases to exist when the player beats the game and puts it back on the shelf. It's pretty bleak, pretty metal.
The obvious comparison to the story you tell in 'Level 2' would be the film 'Tron.' Were there any other movies or books that helped inform the material?
'Tron' is a big one for sure. We like to have a visual concept in mind when we're writing. A lot of times we were thinking of movies like 'Blade Runner,' 'Alien,' 'Star Wars,' and other classic sci-fi stuff. I also think of the dystopian novels like 'Brave New World' and '1984' as prime influences for most concept albums. One running theme in our lyrics is that idea of the individual against society -- but there's a lot going on in all of those works.
You guys are also huge video game buffs.
Yeah, it's true. Chris and Mike are big Blizzard fans. 'Diablo,' 'Warcraft,' 'Starcraft' -- they jam all that stuff. I'm big into retro games, indie games and I still play modern big budget games like 'Dead Space' and 'Half-Life.' I'm really looking forward to 'The Last Guardian,' which is the new game from Ueda, the guy behind 'Shadow of the Colossus' and 'Ico.'
'Level 2' will be the first time most listeners will hear Last Chance to Reason. Do you worry that the conceptual side of the group will go over a lot of people's heads?
We might worry about some people mis-interpreting recurring musical and lyrical themes as repetition, especially since that's something few modern concept albums do. We revisit key musical and lyrical ideas by way of variation all throughout the album. I look forward to seeing other people's interpretation of the work. I think the album holds different meanings for everyone in the band, so it will be really cool to see how everyone else relates. A key part of art is our interaction with it.