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James LaBrie - Elements Of Persuasion CD (album) cover


James LaBrie


Progressive Metal

3.53 | 145 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars DREAM THEATER vocalist JAMES LaBRIE's solo album is certainly a very interesting departure from his work with the band, and as such, will probably appeal to a select group of listeners rather than the prog world as a whole. This is not prog-metal by any stretch of the imagination--rather, it is a mainstream metal album, and that is why I took away the first star. Aside from LaBRIE's experimentation with his voice outside the realm of DREAM THEATER, there is nothing I'd consider progressive or experimental about Elements of Persuasion. If you are a fan of metal outside of the prog world, or a highly dedicated fan of LaBRIE, you'll want to add this to your collection as a sort of companion album to DT's Train of Thought. If not, then you should probably skip on to the next review.

The best way to describe the overall feel of the music is mainstream metal with some stronger soft ballads, with a techno-like influence from keyboardist MATT GUILLORY, who brings in patches and acoustic piano work that for some reason give me a "New York" vibe. GUILLORY is also responsible for the awesome production of the album--those who were irritated with the mixing troubles on Octavarium will give a sigh of relief on hearing the immersive, crystal-clear production of Elements of Persuasion. (Credit also belongs to RICHARD CHYCKI, who did the mixing.) In fact, this is part of what gives the album a solid three stars; even with the parts of it that get on my nerves, never once can I fault the actual sound of the music.

By far, Elements of Persuasion is strongest in its softest moments. "Smashed", which I have heard may be about the war in the former Yugoslavia (not 9-11 as some believed--that was LaBRIE's "Sacrificed Sons" on Octavarium) is touching to hear with its delicate piano and incredibly soft, gentle vocals that with the mixing on this album almost feel as if they're sung within five feet of you or less. "Lost" is another ballad, which is quite beautiful with its bass work. "Slightly Out of Reach" is the last entirely soft song, and is the other real standout track. Other tracks, during their soft sections, stand out like the middle section of "Alone" with its strangely soothing humming, and the end of "In Too Deep". OK...maybe I'm a complete sap, but LaBRIE does do quite the impression of trying to fight back tears.

Certainly some of the harder moments, like "Freak" and the closing track, "Drained", are enjoyable, as well as some of the others--from a musical standpoint, including the sound of the vocals. LaBRIE experiments with some vocal effects that I can't recall hearing on any DREAM THEATER albums, and as always, even when the material he's working with may be on the weak side, his voice is not the weak link. However...this album does have one very big weak link--it's the lyrics. I've seen LaBRIE do better, more effective work, such as Octavarium's "Sacrificed Sons". Aside from "Smashed", however, I find myself unmoved by the lyrics of Elements of Persuasion and tune them out. They're for the most part angry, depressing, and just not that well written--and that's the reason the album loses another half-star. The other loss comes from a particular, personal objection to one of the lyrics. I recognize others may not feel this way...but I am not going to lie about my feelings, because they may be relevant to some.

While some more familiar with LaBRIE and his work have tried to assure me that he harbors no hatred against Christians or the religious...I can't help but feel that "Pretender" sabotages any efforts he may make to maintain that image. "Undecided" goes into similar territory, though nowhere near as nasty. Even if it's just extremists he wanted to target, the lyrics to that song come off as so vindictive and hateful against all who believe that I simply cannot stand to hear them, and I would advise those listeners who care about that to research the lyrics beforehand and make a decision on what they do and don't want to hear. Some may not mind, others may want to just skip the song as I do (I have never actually listened to it--I didn't want to once I got a look at the lyrics booklet), and some may want to skip the album as a result. I want to make it clear--this is not a personal attack against LaBRIE. I think he's probably not the nasty sort of person this set of lyrics makes him seem to be...most likely he's just so ill-equipped to express himself lyrically on this subject that he comes off more extreme than he is. Still-- NOT my cup of tea and I think Christians (or other sincerely religious) ought to take heed.

I have tried to be as fair to this album as I can in light of the above paragraph, and I still think it merits three stars: good for certain audiences...but certainly not for all.

FloydWright | 3/5 |


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