Saturday, September 7, 2013

James LaBrie - Impermanent Resonance (Limited Edition)

James LaBrie
Impermanent Resonance (Limited Edition)
Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

When you look at James LaBrie’s solo output (Including Mullmuzzler) outside of his main gig singing for Dream Theater, it’s safe to say that his work is still firmly rooted within the progressive rock genre. That was true up until LaBrie released ‘Static Impulse’ in 2010. Obviously keen to reinvent himself, LaBrie took a step outside of his comfort zone and made an album that not only took on a far heavier sound, but also a modern sound that brought out a slightly melodic death metal sound – albeit with strong melodic grooves in the vein of Darkane/Soilwork. While some found the Canadian vocalist’s album a little too left of centre compared to what he released in the past, most found the album was a successful experiment with a completely different sound.
Obviously adopting to the formula that’s worked exceedingly well for Alice Cooper for the last forty years (Find something you like and do it, and then do it once again), LaBrie reunited with the same team he worked with three years ago (Long running guitar/song writing partner Marco Sfogli, ex-Rob Halford bassist Ray Riendeau, song writing partner/keyboardist/backing vocalist Matt Guillory (ex-Dali’s Dilemma/Zero Hour) and Darkane drummer/growling vocalist Peter Wildoer), and returns with his new album ‘Impermanent Resonance’. And essentially, LaBrie’s latest effort is essentially an extension of his last release, with only some minor tweaks made to the formula.
Those familiar with LaBrie’s last solo album will no doubt be familiar with what’s on offer on his latest album, and the opening track ‘Agony’ (Or how it’s named in the booklet – ‘Agony (Earnxaio)’) doesn’t disappoint. Starting out with a fast tempo, and featuring the combined duality of LaBrie and Wildoer on lead vocals, ‘Agony’ is an energetic modern sounding track that has plenty of aggression and melody in equal balance, and showcases how the group gels in giving listeners a touch of everything in the one track.
The follow-up track ‘Undertow’ is another strong track with LaBrie providing the memorable melodic elements alongside Wildoer’s occasional scream, while ‘Slight Of Hand’ boasts some impressive drum work from Wildoer alongside Sfogli’s powerful riffing to create a moody modern rocker that’s a real stand out on the album.
‘Back On The Ground’ is LaBrie’s first foray into ballad-like territory on the album, and while the song is catchy, it’s a little disappointing on the lyrical front with its repetitive lines and melodies. But that’s not to say that all of LaBrie’s attempts at ballads on the album don’t work. On the contrary, ‘Say You’re Still Mine’ is a real gem of a track, and the only track that replaces Wildoer’s screamed efforts with some cleaner backing vocals. The backing vocal effect is something a little different from what as expected, and is only there for the briefest of moments, but it’s an experiment that definitely works well.
Meanwhile, the slower paced ‘Holding On’, ‘Destined To Burn’ and the mid-paced ‘Lost In The Fire’ seems to be missing that something special to lift them above the ordinary. The songs themselves are O.K., but when stacked up against the really strong cuts on the album, they tend to sound a little on the weak side of the song writing scale.
‘I Got You’ gets the album back on track with its huge open production sound, heavy mix guitars and drums, keyboard backing and big choruses, while tracks such as ‘Letting Go’, the groove based ‘Amnesia’ and the heavy blast of the closer ‘I Will Not Break’ (Which is every bit as blasting as the opening track on the album) are the stand out’s on the tail end of the album.
The limited edition of ‘Impermanent Resonance’ comes with an additional two tracks. The first track ‘Unraveling’, which is a little different with its greater use of acoustic guitars and clean backup vocals. Despite its ballad-like premise, the song is one of the stronger efforts, and should have in my opinion replaced one of the above mentioned weaker tracks.
The final bonus track is ‘Why’, which is another high octane rock in the vein of ‘Agony’ and ‘I Will Not Break’. Why this track wasn’t included on the album is a real mystery to me, as this is easily another stand out track.
In a lot of ways, ‘Impermanent Resonance’ is cut from the same cloth as ‘Static Impulse’. Wildoer’s vocals aren’t as prevalent on the album, and guitar solos are limited to just some tracks. But overall, LaBrie’s latest effort is simply a continuation from where he last left listeners some three years ago.
Sure, ‘Impermanent Resonance’ doesn’t see LaBrie breaking any new ground, and I don’t think the album quite matches the brilliance of ‘Static Impulse’. But despite this, ‘Impermanent Resonance’ comes highly recommended for fans of LaBrie’s more recent solo efforts.

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© Justin Donnelly

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