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Mullmuzzler - Keep It To Yourself  CD (album) cover

KEEP IT TO YOURSELF

Mullmuzzler

 

Progressive Metal

3.42 | 47 ratings

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The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars For anyone that knows my reviews, it shouldn't be a mystery by now the fact that I'm certainly not a detractor of James LaBrie's vocals.

So, having clarified that, let me say a few words about the Canadian master's first solo recording, Mullmuzzler's KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.

In this album, LaBrie is joined by quite a talented group of people. You can check the names above, but let's just say that the musicians playing the instruments here are some of the best, members of a band that, sadly, died long before being able to reach the zenith of their capabilities, Dali's Dilemma. The rest of the musical palette here is equally promising: Dave Townsend, Wayne Gardner, and fantastic composer Trent Gardner, among others. In the song-writing side of things, LaBrie's partners in art are musicians of the caliber of Gardner himself, plus two outstanding instrumentalists and melodic masters as Carl Cadden-James and Gary Wehrkamp, of Shadow Gallery's fame. With that kind of personnel available, it would take quite a disaster to release a bad album. Did it happen?

By now you've checked my rating and now that the answer is a tremendous, absolute NO. The album is, for me, quite a masterpiece of short, concise, melodic, emotional songs that serve as catalysts for LaBrie to be able to display his wonderful vocal abilities. What we have here is a sort of mix between heavy metal, prog-metal and plain hard-rock, with even some pop elements thrown in the mix. Most of the tracks are short, but that doesn't mean there's no room for instrumental wonders or amazing coloring works. Also, most of the songs (except those written by Trent Gardner, which comes as no surprise) are incredibly melodic, with emotional passages that wouldn't work as well if they weren't sung by the voice of Dream Theater and the voice of Progressive-Metal. LaBrie's vocals are just another instrument, the one that delivers the goods, the one that separates anger from peace, hate from love, happiness from sadness.

There's quite a big room for progressiveness, too. Not only do the short tracks have incredible melodies and great textures, but there's a couple very weird, absurd, yet very gratifying songs courtesy of that master of this-doesn't-belong-here music, Trent Gardner. So the album is a complete package, with elements that will be to the liking of everyone.

His Voice (10/10) A bubble full of musical colors and then an onslaught of energy, but not brutal, senseless energy, yet one that expresses sadness but at the same time relief, love. Things could've been better, that's what this guy is telling us. Now it's too late. The piano touches in the chorus add to the unexpected beauty in such a fast, relentless, short track. A great keyboard solo signals the entrance of the last section and the end of this fantastic opener.

Statued (9.5/10) The start announces a much heavier song that what this one turns into. The main section is so elegant, but also so nostalgic, LaBrie makes us feel WITH him, not AT him. The chorus expresses anger while the bass player amazes us in the verse with great playing. The bridge is a thing of sheer beauty, much in the vein of that decent band I happen to bear from time to time, Dream Theater. The Master conveys love, and we're convinced. But then that turns into anger, and we're convinced, too.

The Shores of Avalon (8.5/10) The main riff in this song has some oriental overtones. This track sounds a little like Shadow Gallery, no wonder seeing the credits behind it. This is not the more emotional song in the album but comes as the rights halt after all the heart that bled in the preceding ones. The chorus is emotional, though, expressing admiration mixed with doubt and desire to live in peace, a desire to BE somewhere. It's a good rocker, a compelling prog-metal track. The middle section is pure Awake-era DT.

Beelzebubba (8.5/10) A weird, unusual but very interesting song that comes from the mind of Trent Gardner. The bass line at the beginning seems like a joke, and the song never quite gets serious. Even LaBrie sings with less caution here, though the pre- chorus section is very melodic and almost pastoral in its peace (?!). The sound of the trombone played by Gardner is another signal as to the sarcasm of this pretty good song, which talks about, well, Slick Willy, the President that loved interns. Guardian Angel (10/10) As the lyrics say, we're in the first hours of a misty morning, opening our eyes, and it's there; when everything goes down, it's there; when loneliness strikes, it's there. What is it? Well, whatever the idea of a Guardian Angel means to you. Knowing the love for, well, love, that Gary Wehrkamp and all of Shadow Gallery have, it's not difficult to understand (and agree) as to the meaning of the song. A true anthem for two, the guardian and his angel, the guardian angel of an angel. Omnipresent, it will overcome anything. And musically the song works perfectly, with one of those choruses that makes you want to go and declare yourself to somebody, tell her that whatever happens, you'll be there, that whatever your faults may be, in the end you're going to be there. Excellent. This is not cheese, this is not saccharine, this is prog-metal that simply talks about the emotion that really changes everybody's life, for good or worse. In the end the riff and tone of the song gets menacing, heavier, denser. Is it the fatalism of love? The pessimism of impossibility? I don't know. Maybe I'm reading too hard on a simple metal track, but what can I do. I have ears, and a weak heart. It doesn't hurt the fact that the Master sings the words in the chorus so peacefully, so reassuringly. There can't be any doubt after that. We're protected.

Sacrifice (8.5/10) So mellow a track is just difficult to imagine. In the beginning we really are walking over flowers and cushions of the brightest colors, while the sun doesn't burn us, just illuminates us. LaBrie exaggerates the mellowness here (see? I CAN criticize the guy!), he sings just too.cutely? The chorus is slightly darker, but the mood of the song altogether is one of complete infatuation, love becoming stupidity. Great song for people like me that like stupidity. But I'd understand if many find it too sweet, bordering on cheesiness. What can I do. I'm weak.

Lace (8/10) Keyboards straight from Manifesto for Futurism (Dali's Dilemma's only album) mark the start of this heavier, more obscure song. The verse is full of shadows and ghosts, spirits of the worst kind. The pre-chorus has a decent groove to it, and the chorus itself is very good, specially for the powerful, crashing piano chords. LaBrie's voice here suffers for the first and only time in the album, but mostly because the chorus asks for more of a screamer, a yeller, than a singer, as it's out of the reach of the Canadian's voice range. A good song, not brilliant as it contains the only weak moment of LaBrie in the disc, but the music is very compelling.

Slow Burn (8.5/10) Another incredibly melodic start. Some guitar notes straight out of a 80's power ballad with piano over them, making the music sound much superior. LaBrie pays his dues after the last song with a fantastic performance, one of those he's capable of. The track is very gentle, quiet, couldn't kill a fly. Near the end it gets more energetic, with a good guitar solo in pure 80's metal flavor. Good song.

As A Man Thinks (9/10) Trent Gardner has come back to out-weird anybody. A polyphonic a capella start signals that what's to come would, at least, be very progressive. Then the second section is so lovely and melodic, seems straight out of Gardner's masterpiece LEONARDO THE ABSOLUTE MAN, a brilliant example of his abilities, mixing utter chaos with beauty, always with verse and word structures that seem a little out of place. The middle section it's not as good, and the song continues to get more absurd, if only on the surface, for it's really a simple rock track with various sections and abundant stops. The most progressive track is not the best but is right there near the top.

All in all, not an album for the hard-hearted (I don't know if such an expression exists. Too much Trent Gardner I guess.) But I can't let this album go. It was one of my first non-Dream Theater progressive rock albums, and I just love it. With absolute objectivity, the rating would be a 4. My heart tells me give it a 5. Let's make an average and rate it with a 4.5 over 5.

Wait. There's no such option in the Archives. I'll have to round the rating up, as the norm calls for, and give it a 5. Sorry.

Not recommended for: People that can't stand LaBrie, of course. People that don't like mellow, melodic, soft metal. People that reject the idea of soft feelings getting into their prog.

Recommended for: Fans of James LaBrie. Fans of Dream Theater, if not those that only like their metallic, ultra-progressive side. Fans of melodic metal. But most of all, the weak of heart.

.you won't inherit the earth. But you can buy this album.

The T | 5/5 |

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