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James LaBrie - Static Impulse CD (album) cover


James LaBrie


Progressive Metal

3.53 | 97 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Even though I usually spent a lot of time on the computer, I seem to have run out of things to do on here lately, for I actually managed to get all of my day's homework without actually touching my computer or the desk it's sitting on.

No applause, please, just some nice feel good music.

Obviously this record won't be the first on everyone's mind, but in reality, this record reminds me of BMW's X6; it shouldn't work. The car itself is a frankenstein, a sporty SUV trying to look like a coupe. In fact, Mike Portnoy even stated in a "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" interview that he wanted a death metal-esque growl on "A Nightmare To Remember". While I would've loved that instead of Portnoy's "roooaaar"-ing sound, the other members didn't think it worked. I'm guessing the blastbeat at the end (first and only time Portnoy ever did that on a DT recording) was compensation.

Judging from that interview, you'd think LaBrie of all members (maybe Rudess) would be anti-metal. Yet, what do you get once you start up "One More Time"? Screaming, bone- crushing riffs, and a blastbeat at the end (sort of, although it's definitely more pronounced on "Mislead". "Jekyll And Hyde" starts off in similar fashion, almost sounding like a dark power metal group. Yet, even with this sharp change of direction in sound, it, well, sounds...normal. Actually, though. Maybe I'm just used to screaming and death metal growls (not the genre in general), but it kinda makes sense.

Maybe this was just further development in that dark ominous, heavy sound DT had developed since "Train Of Thought" and continued with "Systematic Chaos" and BC&SL. In fact, there are many elements from LaBrie's debut solo record (3rd if you're counting the Mullmuzzler albums) that foreshadow a heavier approach, especially "Crucify" (containing one of the most epic guitar solos ever).

"Mislead" almost definitely sounds like something Divinefire would create. It's fast in that power metal aspect, yet it contains that dark, ominous, symphonic element that provides depth and atmosphere to an otherwise heavy and brutal (somewhat) track, yet LaBrie sounds at home here (although I think the screaming here is overdone), which is quite unusual since LaBrie is really one of the more anti-metal vocalists you'll ever see. I always considered him as the "Geddy Lee" of prog metal, simply because he's infamous for his falsetto and an amazing voice (at least for prog metal, because he really doesn't pull off most cover songs well at all).

Even though you don't hear it immediately, Marco Sfogli is really good. You can definitely hear on "Crucify", but he continues to make an impact on this album (is it me, or does LaBrie really like to work with guitar masterminds?). Sfogli managed to make enough noise working on LaBrie's solo work that he even had enough momentum to release a solo record of his own (and a pretty damn good one at that).

Then I get to Euphoric. This seems completely foreign to me, as LaBrie goes for an alternative metal approach right from the start. No long intro, no complex rhythms or time signatures, really nothing of interest for a prog metal fan. Yet, it still seems to work, but why? Well, LaBrie isn't unknown to this genre as he has recorded similar songs (most recently "Wither" on "Black Clouds & Silver Linings". The heavy approach is there, but Matt Guillory saves the day with his keys, which almost remind me of Kevin Moore's playing style (which fits for this song, as it's a light string midi sound, quiet, almost haunting throughout the entire track). What in most cases would turn into a disaster has managed to be diverted by LaBrie himself, which is why he's one of my favorite prog vocalists of all time.

"Over The Edge" is another sharp blade of metallic force that once again comes equipped with clever and fantastic lyrical performances by LaBrie. It's another heavy song that, while it is short like just about all his other stuff, imstrumental performances are still abound, highlighted by Sfogli once again. Same can be said for "I Need You" which once again starts out in a modern power metal fashion, this time resembling more like Masterplan, it just seems like old hat this time around, so it's really not a favorite of mine, especially the sporadic screaming and stop-and-start drum patterns (although the chorus is fabulous as always).

"Who You Think I Am" is a quite heavier track than normal, not necessarily more metal. It really sounds like it should be on "Elements Of Persuasion", as that record is more of that heavier, ominous sounding metal, while this record is straight up metalcore, alternative, catchy lyrics, catchy choruses and, in my opinion, more accessible. Even though both records are similar, Sfogli seems to have more showtime on "Elements" even though he still shines on here. Peter Wildoer actually gets some action on "Who You Think I Am", a little breakdown of complex rhythms and spastic punk, although I prefered Mike Mangini who lit up on "Elements" (which could make perfect sense on why he replaced Mike Portnoy for DT's drummer. Or, maybe the band just likes drummers named "Mike".)

Guess I'll never get an opportunity to audition for Dream Theater now. :(

Now, even though LaBrie will forever be known as a progressive metal singer, "Static Impulse" broadens the genre, whereas "Elements" still maintained a significant element of prog metal in there. Here, the fiercesome fury of metalcore is unleashed on "This Is Was" (with another blastbeat by Wildoer) and "Superstar", while LaBrie's softer side comes out on "Coming Home" and "Just Watch Me", while a third side, evidence of alternative metal, is creeping in on songs like "I Tried".

All in all, though, LaBrie hasn't lost a beat in almost twenty years, and the high notes he hits on "This Is War" is almost positive evidence that's still healthy enough to make more music, and easily explains why he, like the rest of Dream Theater (except Portnoy), wanted to continue making music and head to the studio again. Now, while this record is not exactly "Six Degrees Of Separation", this record defines LaBrie as one of the best singers in the music business today.

Move over, Kesha. Disco balls and cocaine can't kill a psychotic madman like James LaBrie.

Wicket | 3/5 |


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