The Rendered Self: A Conversation With Evan Sammons of LAST CHANCE TO REASON

Diving into ten years of Level 2 with the Maine man behind the kit.

Photograph by Jeremy Saffer

Words by Jake Sanders (@themetalscholar):

The surge to create and transform the sound of classic heavy metal into technical, deliberate, multiphasic compositions took flight in the late 2000's with several groups leading the progressive charge into bold, hardly familiar territories of genre fusion, and collaboration. All of a sudden, the genre came to embrace the electronic, the ambient, the odd. The result was a post-millennium renaissance of technical core metal that exploded into a staple of the genre that has bred new festivals, sound signatures, and entirely new methods of playing.

Combining the lore of classic science-fiction with a soundscape of asymmetrical, thoroughly written, purposeful chapters, Last Chance To Reason's Level 2 (2011) features many of the traits of a progressive masterpiece that people have come to desire. Continual time signature changes, multiple instrumental solos singled out to expose the musicianship behind each individual, chant-worthy lyrics that are crowd pleasing, fan-teasing anthems of delivery and declaration, all in a tidy package of just below forty-four minutes. A sound cascade that builds and recedes like the ebbing tides, drum fills that are condensed into impossibly tight spaces, and an organic sound that is augmented by synthetic poly-rhythms, many of which take on a life of their own. It's a tale of life and death told through the eyes of a nameless protagonist. His fight for survival in a machine whose fate is bound to his own takes center-stage, as he risks life and limb to scale through a digital hell, fighting against the corruption that threatens to rot it from the inside.

This year, Level 2 celebrates ten years of existence. In a world that celebrates such titanic progressive releases such as The Great Misdirect (2009), Nothing (2002), and Miss Machine (2004) — Last Chance To Reason is the diamond in the rough that has put out three monumental albums in a notably short timespan. Once featuring a full team of six, the group consisted of AJ Harvey, Brian Palmer, Chris Corey, Evan Haines, Evan Sammons, and Michael Lessard, a troupe from Maine who more recently have shared an overlap with the group, The Contortionist. Taking a break from his time behind the console, Evan Sammons sat down with me to talk lore, life, and the genre limitations that LCTR broke through to produce their technical metal masterpiece:

[Foreword, and interview dedicated to Gabe Verjano.]

Jake: Let's go ahead and get this started here!

Right off the bat, the pandemic is winding down, it's obvious that the past year has not really been easy for touring musicians, and the reality is that a lot of those projects, and tours, the ambitions people had for 2019 into 2020 came to a crashing halt for nearly fifteen months. But for people who are typically involved in the studio process — it was harvest season. How did the pandemic affect you, and your bandmates, personally?

Evan: Obviously Mike and The Contortionist, they've been touring almost nonstop for almost five or six years — I guess even more than that now... seven or eight! *laugh* — So from what I heard from him and the other guys, they were happy to have a year off from that. They did all right, and they put a lot of work into those livestream events that they recently had. One of 'em, they even did a lot of EXOPLANET stuff, which I'm sure some people were pumped about.
As for me and the other guys, honestly, I know that if people have still following us closely, we kind of only took a couple of years off from writing music at all, and we've still continued to write music, but at a snail's pace. We continued to work on that.

J: I ge